We have arrived in… Michigan. Not exactly a straight line from New York to Toulouse. There was a gap between the end of our lease in NYC and our date of embarkation. So we find ourselves in limbo and in my sister’s basement. My dear wife remains a good sport while being tortured by visits to my past.
We visit the past through a car window at a slow-roll, reluctant to linger too long in any one place. I worry if we stay still long enough the past might pull me in and, like Dorothy, I’ll wake up and discover my amazing life was just a dream. So we keep rolling.
During our time in limbo it is also becoming clear how difficult it is to fit two lives into four suitcases. We imagine transfers from boat to bus and taxi to train and fewer and fewer things look like absolute necessities. There is also time to study French. We seem to have lost our ardor for the task but we haven’t forgotten the importance of it. We have scheduled several language exchanges via Skype, painful reminders of how little we have learned.
We’ve found language exchange partners on several sites. The following have been most helpful. Italki has been great for posting questions whenever they arise. Answers seem thoughtful and come almost immediately.
Language exchange via Skype has been interesting. We’ve met some really great people and even garnered some invitations to dinner. We’re also learning just how important french pronunciation is. No matter how large your vocabulary, if you don’t pronounce a word correctly you’re just going to get confused looks in return. No doubt the french people I speak with know the word “ACCUEILLIR”, they just don’t know it when I say it.
This works both ways of course, the subtleties of the English word “squirrel” can be particularly challenging and amusing when the Germans say it.
Diane and I thought we would try our hand at a few of the more challenging french words we “know”. Here is a video of us trying to pronounce French words that can give English speakers as much trouble as the humble squirrel gives the Germans:
Compare those examples of linguistic mastery to the natives below:
MILLE-FEUILLE – A FRENCH PASTRY
HEUREUSE – HAPPY
ECUREUIL – SQUIRREL
ACCUEILLIR – WELCOME
DESSUS ET DESSOUS – ABOVE AND BELOW