Saturday, January 30, 2016

Going to Paris - Partie la Premiere

I began taking in French in Grade 5.  Our teacher was the formidable Mme Foreman.  I can't recall if she was from Paris or elsewhere in France, but she married and emigrated to North America.  If there was a better French teacher for elementary level, I can't imagine it.  Even students who did not like nor did well learning French, liked her.  Most of us loved her.

For several years we did not see a printed word of French.  This is the way we learn language in infancy -- duh.  We were privileged to be in a laboratory school run by the local university.  It was very progressive and allowed for experimentation of curriculum and methods.

I can't say that everything that the school attempted worked, but the method of foreign language instruction was an unqualified success.  One of our classmates struggled with pronunciation - you could see his brain churning as he struggled to translate and speak.  Yet he ended up living in Belgium, becoming fluent and accomplishing a stellar career in marketing management for major corporations involved in both consumer and commercial marine operations -- en deux langues. Or more.

Another classmate, whom I knew from birth and thus is my "oldest" (she will hate that designation!) friend on this earth became a French teacher.  With undergraduate and graduate level studies at two universities in France, including La Sorbonne, she retired after 33 wonderful years of teaching high school French.  She is a true successor to Mme Foreman, ushering a huge number of students not only into the joy of learning a new language, but of being open to a cultural world holding wonder and fascination.  (She travels back to Paris at least annually, so I may have a travel guide ...)

At the end of high school I was nearly fluent.  I remember walking a path along the St. Lawrence, chatting with an innkeeper in Cap Madeleine, Quebec, and being nearly giddy that we could converse without any trouble on my part either to understand or speak.  Our conversation flowed easily; it was heavenly.  I managed to keep my giddiness concealed.

Fast forward a few decades and I am no longer fluent.  Or even close.  I can shift into gear, but the right vocabulary, the correct grammar is locked a few levels lower, encased in cobwebs.  It comes slowly.  Sometimes Google or an app are required.

But my children.  Oh my children ...

My daughter achieved her Masters at University of Toronto and has embarked on a career teaching in a French immersion school in Toronto (Scarborough) ... and my son gained Bachelors, Masters and PhD diplomas in linguistics, with heavy computer science qualifications.

My son now works in cognitive linguistics and computation in ... Paris.  He lucked into a wonderful apartment in le troisieme (le Marais) so it seems eminently logical that should Dad choose to visit, free lodging would be available.  And it is.

Next up ... why the wait?

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