A Francophile is Born

Bonjour! This is my 30th post!

To celebrate reaching this mini-goal that I set for myself when I started this blog about eight months ago (January 2018), I thought I’d be a good idea to go to the very beginning and share my story about how I became a fan of all things French!

my constant companion in college

The year was 1985. I was at SFO waiting for a relative’s flight to arrive. To pass the time, I went to one of the many airport shops with the sole intent to buy some Flicks, those chocolate candy disks sold in cardboard tubes.

Photo: All About the 1970s (at) blogspot

While in the store, I flipped through some magazines and perused the paperbacks. Then a French-English phrasebook caught my eye. I looked through it and I was entranced.

  • It seemed like many of the letters were not pronounced; lots of silent h’s and t’s
  • Some words had interesting accent marks, like hats over vowels (ô) or a squiggle under the letter c (ç)
  • Many words had the letters q, x, and z in them, which is rare in English
  • And did I mention those fascinating accent marks?

I was hooked. This new language was like a puzzle I wanted to put together. It was a code I wanted to crack.

Around the same time, I discovered the music of Corey Hart, one of my all-time favorite singer/songwriters. Although his hits like, Sunglasses At Night and Never Surrender are in English, he was quoted in a teen magazine saying that he was bilingual in English and French since he’s from Montréal, a city in the French-speaking region of Québec, Canada.

Soon after that, I started watching a new program on PBS, called French In Action. In each episode of the instructional series, characters named Mireille, Marie-Laure, and Robert would act out the grammar lessons in the Capretz Method. It was fun to see all the Parisian sights featured in the episodes, too.

Photos from IMDb

It seemed to me that all of these signs were leading me somewhere…I wanted to know more. A Francophile is born! But it wasn’t enough. I decided I wanted to learn how to speak French, too!

I took my first French class as a freshman in high school. Madame P. had each of us pick a French name, which would be our name while in French class. I picked Catherine (pronounced kat-treen!)

Several years later, on my first trip to France, imagine my delight as I met my seat neighbor and learned her name was Catherine! She had been working as an au pair and she was returning to Bordeaux. We became fast friends and talked during the entire flight.

Back to Mme P. … I absolutely adored her: she was an energetic, patient, and kind teacher. As I was preparing to graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree in international relations and French (double-major), I sent Mme P. a note (in English) to thank her for inspiring me to continue my French studies. A few days later, I could not contain my tears when I received a note back from her written entirely in French!

These days, I continue my study of French in less formal ways. For instance, I listen to French pop music, watch French movies with English subtitles, and read French novels and magazines.

In addition, I have visited a few Francophone places, where I continue to learn stuff they don’t teach you in school. In Montréal, Québec, for example, they use religious symbols as curse words! Who knew a communion wafer could be a profanity! I didn’t know that. Not at all. (Pas du tout. Or should I say, Pantoute!)

I also feel my Francophilia is spreading to a new generation! When my older daughter was younger, we would have French Fridays and I would teach her basic words and phrases. Today, she is taking advanced French classes in high school and she’s teaching me new vocabulary!

I also taught my younger daughter some French phrases. If she asked for something without saying please, for instance, I’d gently ask her what the magic word was and she’d reply « s’il vous plaît »! So cute!

Believe it or not, I am not forcing either of them to learn French. But let’s just say that if they wanted to pursue it, I wouldn’t exactly discourage them either!

In the same manner that food has the ability to gather people together, I believe language opens the door to a deeper understanding of another culture.

There is so much to learn, so I am careful not to generalize or believe stereotypes about French people and culture. I feel fortunate that I’ve had opportunities to visit big cities in France, like Paris and Toulouse, as well as her small villages in the countryside. Those unforgettable experiences have helped reinforce my French studies from all those years ago. Without a doubt, those experiences have also piqued my curiosity and appreciation even more.

I could have studied any other language, but I chose French. Or did it choose me?

Perhaps it is a mutual affinity, who knows! What I know for sure is that it’s an enduring relationship that began more than three decades ago.

Thanks for reading my story. Are you a Francophile? Tell me your story! Who/what inspired you to become a Francophile?

For more information:

  • Corey Hart – Never Surrender (link)
  • Corey Hart – Sunglasses At Night (link) 🕶
  • French In Action series (link)
  • Québécois expressions (link)

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