If you’ve spent a good day or two in my company, you might notice a habit of mine that I imagine must be unbearably irritating (no, not my need to always to right. And no, not me singing every other sentence): when I’m exhausted and about to give up on consciousness, when I want to make myself laugh, or whenever I’m just in the mood, I revert to complaining and expressing my thoughts in French. “J’ai fatiguée!” I’ll sigh. “J’ai besoin du café,” @whimack will tweet. “Bonjour l’hiver!” I’ll warble. I go on and on and if I were the one hearing/reading with these crude translations, I’d roll my eyes and unfollow @whimack or smack Whitney in the face.
But I’m not trying to be –or successfully come off as— pretentious. I just find French amusing and comforting and, frankly, hilarious. Maybe it’s a regression technique. I was ushered into French immersion two or three months into my grade one year by my normal ol’ English class teacher (okay this is me being pretentious. I was once labelled as “smart”, so let me brag about what a genius six-year-old Whitney was). Just imagine a group of nose-picking, butt-scratching six-year-olds trying to sound out weird words that they’re trying to learn, while simultaneous attempting to grasp their native tongue. I just grew up speaking French, and while I have lost my touch since entering an English high school, I still really enjoy the language. Yeah, I like how it sounds and how it looks written out, but what I like most is how it feels.
It feels like finding out that the French word for “lion” is spelt the exact same way as in English. It feels like performing the Little Red Hen from our French readers in front of my second grade class. It feels like trying to hold awkward conversations with my Quebec exchange partner, small talk that interrupts playing Roller Coaster Tycoon in French (the only interest we had in common). It feels like stumbling through my final concours d’art oratoire, rambling on with no real point, musing about whether ghosts are real or not (I have no recollection of what “facts” or speculations I might have made, but I do remember using a badass font for my printed copy). It feels like delivering a kickass grade seven valedictorian speech on behalf of my class, the longest one out of our three grade seven classes, the only one spoken in French and therefore the one that the majority of the audience – mainly English-speaking students and faculty as well as our parents – could unabashedly admit to not listening to.
It takes me back to a time of innocence. I mean, okay, it’s not like the second I stepped into high school all of my innocence and naivety shed right off of me. I’d argue that I clutched that coat tight around me – much longer than I should have. And maybe that’s part of my problem: I try desperately to enclose the waters of innocence in my cupped hands, feeling it leak through the cracks in my fingers and knowing that one day I’ll be left with only the few drops I’ve managed to trap in the creases of my wrinkly hands.
Of course, I’m just distracting myself from writing an English assignment and job applications, so it’s entirely possible that I’m presently tuned to looking for a deeper meaning in something (and myself) than is actually there.
Vive le français!