24 01 2012

The French have a lot of little sayings using ‘bon’ or ‘bonne,’ both of which mean good.

Bon arrivé (welcoming after travel)

Bon voyage (have a safe/good trip)

Bonjour (hello)

Bon courage (hang in there)

Bon chance (good luck)

Bonne journée (have a good day)

Bon après-midi (have a good afternoon)

Bonne nuit (good night)

Bonsoir (good evening)

Bonne soirée (have a good evening)

There are others too.  I used to think it was a bit excessive.  It seemed like every time I did something, someone was wishing a ‘Bon’ this and a “Bonne” that, however now I catch myself wishing I could use them in English.  They’re so short and convenient and when I try to use the English equivalent it just doesn’t seem to translate or fit the situation as well.  Funny how that happens.  I guess it’s a sign that I’m becoming more and more accustomed to speaking mostly in French.


French Kissing

13 01 2011

The French kiss a lot… like you see in the movies, 2 kisses, one on each cheek.  They take this very seriously.  It doesn’t matter if there are 20 people at a table, a new person enters and circles the table doing the cheek kiss to every single person at the table.  Women to women, women to men, men to women, kids and adults and occasionally men to men (although I’m told that is reserved for close friends and not acquaintances.)  It all seems a little ridiculous and time consuming, but it’s what they do.

I have become accustomed to this as each time I get together with the ladies, one must kiss everyone.  So I’ve had some practise.  Joe on the other hand still struggles.  He finds it uncomfortable and awkward and it rarely goes smoothly.  I wish I could describe the look on his face when someone makes ‘the approach’ as it almost makes me laugh aloud every time.  The other day we ran into Joe’s boss and his family at the beach and of course, kisses all around.  The boss’ wife came to greet us and when she approached Joe he hesitated and never actually cheek-touched.  This resulted in in confusion and a small awkward moment following the act.  As we continued our walk down the beach, Joe asked if we could maybe practice at home sometime so that he could at least get a grasp on the act.

From what I gather out of my own personal experiences here is that one must follow a certain etiquette when doing the French kisses.  First of all, it does not matter if you have never previously met the person.  If you are being introduced on a social level, you will be required to kiss; There is no 3rd date rule here.  It seems customary that the men greet the women first and then acknowledge each other.  It technically isn’t actually a kiss as your lips don’t really touch the persons cheek.  It is more of a cheek touch while making a kiss noise.  And, the most important thing to always remember, go to the left first or at the very least, follow the other person’s lead and NEVER change your mind part way through as this can result in a very awkward moment!

Parlez-vous français?

1 12 2010

Gabon is a French speaking country (I guess that is what happens when you are colonized by France.)  Most people do not speak English and by that, I mean they don’t know a single word in English.  Sometimes they’ll tell you they do or even reply with a “I speak small-small English,” but small-small is practically nothing.  When I had to get blood taken here I asked the nurse if she spoke English and she replied yes.  I proceeded to tell her that sometimes I faint after I give blood (yes, I know I’m a wimp) and she nodded along.  Well let me tell you, she certainly didn’t understand me when I was beginning to black out and asking for water and something cold for my neck (I’m a pro at this) as she is wondering why I’m telling her my neck is cold.

I took a lot of French in school.  I followed it all the way through high school and continued in University where I know that my knowledge of the language was at it’s peak.  I took my last French class in the second semester of my third year and resumed using the language after I was hired as a French as a Second Language teacher.  After 3 years of teaching ER verbs in the present tense, the alphabet, numbers, and various units on random vocabulary, I needed a break and when I moved to Grande Prairie, French dropped completely off my radar for the next 2 years.

When we learnt that we were coming here I thought it would be a great opportunity to return to the language.  Apparently, my hiatus from the language in Grande Prairie and 3 years of teaching ABC’s before that had a terrible effect on my language retention.  When we first arrived I felt like I knew nothing at all.  I was stumbling over the simplest of things and struggling to find words that I had once known.  Silly me never even brought a French-English dictionary and without access to the internet for a few months, it made it really difficult.  Even now, 4 months later, I am still struggling with different verb tenses and remembering which are used with avoir and which with être.  I even find myself wishing I had packed all of my old French notebooks just to give myself a little refresher course.

At the beginning, we had Cardin at our disposal for most things and although his English wasn’t great, we could often get across what we needed to him and he’d do all the talking.  Both Joe and I, moreso me, pretended we knew nearly no French.  As time went on, I got a little more confident and as Cardin began working more and more for other people, I was left to my own devices.  Sometimes I surprise myself and the language just flows out of me while other times I’m not so eloquent.  Joe keeps telling me he is going to resume his studies (Rosetta Stone) but he hasn’t yet.  He does understand some of the conversations but he often relies on me to speak or translate.

There are times where we both just wish we were French as it would be so much easier like when you are really angry at someone for not doing what they’re supposed to, or when there’s a problem and you need to phone someone because understanding French over the phone is a whole different story, and especially, when someone is trying to bullshit you and you know they are but just don’t have the words to argue about it.  It’s coming back, slowly but surely and my confidence increases everyday but I won’t lie, I am so looking forward to returning to Canada for a couple of weeks just so I can give my brain a break from perpetual translation.