30 March 2010

L'accent français de mon père (Jeemy Apple Henry)

We've got French in our heads here.  We have read Léo le Chat a number of times and graduated to "Boucle d'Or et les Trois Ours" (Goldilocks and the Three Bears) which we read at least once a day, first in English and then in French.  It's mainly for me.  I've been sad to see 97% of my highschool French lost from my sieve-like intellect, and it's been great re-learning vocabulary and verb conjugations.

(Did I just use the word "great"?  I wonder why I did that.)

Jessie has been learning a few (a very few) words and phrases.  However she shows little to no comprehension, pulling out her stock phrase from Léo le Chat: "un peu" (a little) whenever she wants to say anything in French.  Which would be good if I'd only asked the correct question in the first place, correct questions like:

Me: Jessie, did you eat ANY of that food?
Jessie: Un peu.

Me: Do you think you could manage some time today without asking me questions?
Jessie: Un peu.

Me: Is your nappy dirty?
Jessie: Un peu.

See?  All it takes is to ask the right question, and she really has a very good grasp ... of the phrase "un peu."

Both Buzz and Jessie are learning the Goldilocks formula: Three Things - one big, one medium-sized and one small.  They were highly amused when I noted that we had "trois kids" (we haven't come across the word "enfants" yet so I just used "kids" for comprehension purposes.  I hope you'll forgive me.)  "Un, deux, trois.  Un grand kid, un kid de taille moyenne et un petit kid."

Jessie really loves the exclamation Goldilocks gives having broken the small chair: "Stupide Chaise!"

All this French reminded me this morning of how my father shared a staffroom with my highschool French teacher and how he loved to frustrate her with his deliberately awful French pronunciation.  He would read it as if it was English, and put a very obvious broad Australian accent on it.

As I stood at the kitchen sink this morning, I remembered how in my first year of highschool, I was learning very basic French and Dad had been reading some of my homework exercises.  His eye fell on some fictitious character introducing himself as Henry.  "Je m'appelle Henri," my book read.

"Jeemy apple, Henry," Dad said.  I knew he was being funny, so I just smirked and left it at that.  But my French teacher thought he was serious.  She was aghast when he announced he'd been "helping me" with my pronunciation, and then demonstrated with "Jeemy apple, Henry."

One day outside the staffroom, my French teacher, my Dad and I were discussing a French poem I was learning in order to enter into a recitation competition.  When Dad suggested he might give me some coaching to help with my accent, my poor teacher tripped over herself to strongly dissuade me from taking his advice without insulting him right there.

And this morning, standing at my kitchen sink, I smiled with the memory.  "Jeemy apple, Henry," I said out loud.

"What?" asked Buzz.  "What does that mean?  Did you say Jeevy Apple Hemrick?  What is a Jeevy Apple Hemrick?"

I sighed and attempted to unravel the long train of thought that began with reading library books and ended up with me murmuring the phrase "Jeemy apple Henry" at my kitchen sink.  Buzz seemed to understand a little bit, and then I took him off to school, with him repeating "Jeemy apple Henry" as he went.

People must think we're mad.


veiledturnip said...

Hope Jessie doesn't start repeating "Stupide Chaise!" around the house all the time!
People may think you're mad, but they're probably just jealous!

Tracy P. said...

That's so funny! "Stupide chaise!" is the part that got me giggling too. Gotta love your dad, and your teacher falling for his silliness.

Hippomanic Jen said...

Ummm. I don't think muttering "Jeemy apple Henry" is going to change my opinion of your sanity at all.

Givinya De Elba said...

Great. I knew you always thought I was mad.