Date: Wed, 16 Mar 1994 14:54:13 CST From: Dennis Baron Subject: la belle France Funny how my request for information triggered an outpouring of good/ bad French stories, all of which point to the cultural power France still holds in our own, poor, colonial estimation. My own experience in France was mixed. I was last there on a Fulbright in 78-79, in Poitiers. Michelin gives Poitiers 2 hours. I was there for 10 months. Get it? I've always read French well, never spoke it too well, and that was never much of a problem. But I clearly resented French when I first got there. In a fog of jet lag and culture shock for a month, aided by the doldrums of a university strike that delayed the start of the school year for a few weeks, I finally had a nightmare in which I was speaking perfect French -- and couldn't understand a thing I was saying. I had a little trouble with weights and measures. Intent on fixing spinach salad for the three of us, my first experience at the open air marche was a disaster. After a struggle to get a clerk's attention I hastily ordered a kilo of spinach and got enough greens to stuff a good-sized pillow. Not wanting to give up the clerk's attention while I recalibrated, I downsized my mushroom order and asked for `un quart de champignons,' unaware that while spinach went by the kilo, mushrooms were sold by the pound. My three ounces of mushrooms were a sorry sight next to all that spinach. That night we ate out. I never did understand the meteo, the weather report. I had converted fahrenheit to centigrade often enough in physics class in high school, but I spent the year never knowing the ambient temperature, and dressing my daughter for school by sticking my head out the window. Speaking of school, my daughter attended sixth grade in Poitiers (there are no English schools there). There she got in trouble when she told the teacher there were 7 continents (the French count only 5). She took English as her foreign language, and got into trouble there because her teacher, who had little English herself, insisted that the English for numero de telephone was number phone. When Cordelia told her the proper phrase was phone number, the teacher got mad. She told my daughter that it might be phone number in the US, but in her class they spoke British English, and in British English the expression was certainly number phone. Some things are not worth fighting your child's teacher for. Bonne chance, mecs. denis -- debaron[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] (\ 217-333-2392 \'\ fax: 217-333-4321 Dennis Baron \'\ ____________ Department of English / '| ()___________) University of Illinois \ '/ \ ~~~~~~~~~ \ 608 South Wright St. \ \ ~~~~~~~~~ \ Urbana, IL 61801 ==). \ __________\ (__) ()___________)