Useless French


When I was in fifth grade my teacher, Mrs. Baldwin, started a French club and asked a select group of us if we wanted to be in the recess time club. I felt very honored to be asked, but I have no idea what her criteria was to join. Most likely it was not the smartest people, but the ones who failed at play ground dodge ball, and no they were not the same group.
I can remember taking a 1950’s French beginners book out of the library. The first lesson I learned was the oh so important phrase, “ouvre la fenêtre”, which means “open the window.” I don’t know how often I say that in English let alone in French, but it has stuck with me for the last 44 years. I think I was most interested in French because the cutest boy in my fourth grade class had moved to Paris. He spoke perfect English so why would I need to learn French?
Over the years I have used my French a little hear and there. Like when I went to school in France the summer between Freshman and Sophomore year in college. I really was just trying to get my language credit out of the way and I hardly spoke at all out in the French public because I either had my fluent friends Wendy Yazuzian or Marty Dluzansky to speak for me. In Marty’s case I could read menu’s and he had his father’s American Express card, so it was a good match.
As life has gone on I have found myself often wishing I could speak Spanish since I encounter people daily for whom it is their first language and I must say never do I meet anyone around hear where French is the case. When Carter was able to chose a language at school I encouraged her to take Spanish for this very reason. She seems to enjoy it.
One of the requirements of her class this year is to go out to places where Spanish is the main language being spoken. It is a fairly easy task. So today she and I went to Raleigh to La Fiesta Del Pueblo. Thank goodness she does not have to go find a festival for French.
I ate lunch before we went because I was sure that I did not want to be tempted by the food. It was a good plan. Carter asked me what was for lunch at home and I told her to get something at the festival and she was happy. Ordering from the vendor in Spanish was no issue, speaking menu is an important skill I instilled in her in many languages. The neon orange soda she got was not something I craved, but her asada quesadilla looked mighty fine. Carter tortured me by oohing and aahing all about it.
After the food portion we walked Fayetteville street looking at the various tents with Latin radio stations giving away cups and pencils, immigrant service providers offering advice and the strangest group of republican presidential candidates tents with voter registration. We watched dancers from Honduras and Chile and heard proclamations made declaring it Latin Month from September 15- Oct. 15. I found that an odd range, since months usually indicate one actual calendar month and not a 30 period that spans two months.  
The good part of the festival was that Carter was able to translate everything for me. I knew she was right when she was telling what the proclamation said when they announced it first in Spanish and then it was read in English. It just would not be done that way in French. If there was a Franophile festival they would read the proclamation in French and leave it at that, if you did not understand then , “ffff” the sound of disdain coming for the Frenchman.
The only thing about a Francophile festival is the food would be great. I can just imagine the crepe stands or the escargot vendors. I can still speak that language and now I don’t even need Marty since I have my own American Express card, but it would be fun to show Carter.

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