2007-11-09

I English. I Not French.

Dave writing again. I spent all of last week in the US, first to visit my brother, and (later) to get some stuff in Phoenix that Stasha had to have from the US, like syrup. I’m back now. I looked pretty cool checking in for my return flight with two 49-pound bags filled with syrup, diapers and tampons. At least tampons aren’t heavy. Wish I could say the same thing about syrup. If you want to lose weight you should eschew syrup and just eat tampons. The pounds will just melt away.

But this isn’t why I’m writing. I was in Phoenix for three days and I stayed at my house. I observed three primary things:

  1. French people don’t use air conditioning. At least not at my house, where the average daytime temperature in the house was between 86 and 88 degrees. Hotter on the 2nd floor, since heat rises.
  2. The house is so clean it’s like no one lives there. Perhaps stuff gets left out but it just disintegrates in the heat. Because there was nothing out of place.
  3. The Ginefri kids can speak English.

I want to focus on this last point. 2+ months ago when we spent an evening with the Ginefris in Dijon it was impossible to communicate with the children. I spoke a little French (and by "little" I mean "basically none") but I couldn’t understand them when they spoke, and they didn’t speak any English. That was on August 20th. Literally not one word. OK perhaps they could count to 20 but it was a joke. They spoke English like macaws.

Fast forward to November 2nd. I arrived last Thursday night and all the children were asleep. On Friday morning I went downstairs to where they were eating their breakfast, which consisted of Dig ‘em Smacks and toast dipped in milk for so long that it disintegrated when pulled from the bowl. Mmmmmm.

I looked at Max (4 ½ years old), ready to test him. “How are you Max?” I said in English. He didn’t really look up from slurping his cereal. “Good”, he said. “How are you?”

“What are you doing?” I asked. The response was slightly delayed and without total confidence, but he said it: “I’m eat breakfast”. And a minute later, with milk pouring out of his mouth: “I like cereal.” The pronunciation was perfect. He looked like an American. And a minute later: “You eat breakfast?”

Virginie was standing next to me. “It’s incredible”, I said to her in French. “A French child learning English in two months. How is this even possible?”

Max looked at me. “I English”, he said in English. “I not French. You’re French!” Then he laughed.

It was like that all weekend. He understood everything I said and – most of the time – could respond. The sentence structure was a bit lacking but I’m not sure what one can expect after 75 days. Certainly not what I witnessed. Clearly it really will all come in time.

Max’s 6-year old sister Margaux spoke a lot less, but she still understood me. I heard her translate my sentences to her father a few times. It was so incredible that I would never have believed it if I hadn’t personally witnessed it. I hope my kids can do the same. We are getting there.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Mom said...

Wow! I'm very impressed with the Ginefris childrens ability to speak English in such a short time. I can't wait to hear the next report on how the Ashton children are doing with French.

10.11.07  
Blogger Shanel said...

Kids can pick things up so fast. Especially when they watch cartoons everyday ;)

12.11.07  

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