The Infinitive – and beyond!

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Part 1 – Baz’s route to French

‘Daddy’s behaving suspiciously.’

I looked out and saw him crouched down among the chickens at the back of the garden, apparently gazing into his phone. Given that we have virtually no signal in the front garden, I thought this was indeed suspicious but perhaps it was better not to ask…

That evening Baz told me that he had been secretly learning some French vocabulary using the Linkword app on his phone, following the suggestion of the serveuse on a visit to France in August that he and C should not rely on me so much (and perhaps more so because he had been frustrated that he could only say “bonjour” to the lovely elderly lady who stopped them in the street to chat one morning)

I was hugely impressed that he was doing this, but slightly worried that random words like hedgehog and wasp etc might not help him much with everyday conversational French, so I dug out the dust-covered and previously unused Michel Thomas CD set which a friend had recently recommended. I bought it over ten years ago, but the desire to learn back then just hadn’t been strong enough to persuade either of us to put up with the really irritating female pupil on the CD

Baz’s wish to learn has clearly increased since then. And this course focuses on the similarities of the language with English, of which there are many, rather than the differences. Why didn’t our French teachers at school do this, instead of scaring us with their ‘you’ll never understand any of it’ attitude? I left school with no confidence and no expectation that I would ever learn French, and the strong belief that only certain people had the sort of brains required to process a second language

Just a few weeks on, he has been listening to the course in the car, there is no written work, and he already has a very good grasp of the mechanics of spoken and written French, referring to me for vocabulary from time to time. He has become fairly competitive (it’s a man thing), seemingly driven by the desire to be better at it than me. In twenty years I had no idea he had any aptitude for languages, so his improvement is remarkable!

My French is fairly rusty and I harbour no such ambitions, though I really should improve and would definitely benefit from listening to the course properly. I have stuck it on my iPod and will try to cover some of it while I sweep and mop this week, in preparation for meeting the builder on Tuesday