Thankfully school students still draw in pencil on desks, so it’s easy to remove the typical choice of doodle that’s staring me right in the face and, quite frankly, offending me. You’d think they would get a little more creative in the 21rst century, but no. I open my coursebook to Lesson One and join the rest of the class in repeating the bonjours, bonsoirs, je m’appelles and et tois.
The good news is, French is so widespread nowadays, especially in a city as international as Hamburg and with travel in Europe being what it is, that the material is by no means unfamiliar. It’s simply been a very long time since I’ve learned and pursued. Practiced conversations are quite short and ever so slightly stilted, as we tentatively feel our way around words and sentence structures, not yet being advanced in verbs beyond the present tense. Que fais-tu? Moi, je suis danseuse classique, so there! Actually, I made myself a ballet dancer, but the teacher frenchified it a little more so that the translation wouldn’t be too close to Deutsch and we would learn new additional words. We were encouraged to make up professions today and the result was a long list of diverse occupations that we practiced talking about. Que fais un footballeur?
A French colleague told me ils and elles were used to talk about groups doing something, yes, “but the French language is a bit macho”, so even if there was just one man present in the group I’m talking about, the correct pronoun to use is ils. Mais oui, bien sûr.