In high school and college, my language electives were always French. I'd convinced myself it was a good fir. I didn't smoke as an educational establishment prisoner, but I tended toward mumbling, speaking with one eye closed, bread of the longish variety, red wine, philosophizing (of the teenage variety), and threats of the romantic kind. Learning French was a painful experience for me. A gift for language was never found under my Christmas tree; both the written and the spoken foreign sentence were difficult for me and, even more so, difficult for the recepient of my communication.
When I was younger, my forays into Francaise were received with a laugh and the kindness usually extended to someone trying a new trick or task. Older now, but none the better in formulating and mouthing words in French, my attempts at speaking are now met with sad shakes of the head. My awe-inspriring daughter, as talented in French as I am not, stares at me, wondering if this is what dementia looks like.
I'm not sure why I persisted. Aside from the obvious lack of connection between ear, brain, & mouth, French was physically a difficult language for me. Even when I was in mate-finding shape, speaking in French was exhausting. Italians seem to be instructing planes how to land on aircraft carriers when they're speaking. Americans seem to be perpetually hammering their words onto a plank when they are droning on. The French? They are unburdening themselves. Perpetually. It's a shoulder language. All that shrugging, that sagging, that pulling back of the shoulder blades. My upper body just was not in shape to speak French. But I love seeing it spoken. Correctly. With full shoulder action.
A film aside here: (Bertrand Blier's unconventional, sophisticated French comedy follows two men -- Raoul (Gerard Depardieu) and Stephane (Patrick Dewaere) -- who try everything to make the insatiable Solange (Carole Laure) happy. But their efforts fail when they lose her to a precocious 13-year-old boy. Winner of the 1979 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.)
This movie is one of my all-time favorites. Depardieu is his usual rambunctious physical self. His partnership with Dewaere is an underappreciated gem. Laure, a French-Canadian, offers her own dialect of French along with a childlike earthiness that has me blushing each time I see this film. Blier caused quite a stir with this movie due to the story line. The first 20 minutes are especially strong. The only shame is that the sub-titles are merely adequate; I'm hoping my French hearing skills have not totally deteriorated. Although with Depardieu, I would listen to him reading the Paris phone book and enjoy it.
I'll be Ben-Gaying my shoulders in preparation; perhaps I'll buy a pack of Galloises to place next to my bottle of wine.
(Via Verging on Pertinence)