Vocabulary

by Dani

Growing up with a parent who is ESL (English as a second language) has great potential for a lot of kids. Dad’s first language is French. But not the pretty French you learn in school or in Paris. The down and dirty French you learn in a farming village in Quebec as one of sixteen children. It’s just enough French to give you the distinction of having a “foreign” father, yet not quite enough to get you past “donne mois l’argent” in Miss Bombaci’s French class (with a name like Danielle Aline Soucisse I believe she expected greatness).

I never knew my dad couldn’t read or write in French. I knew enough to know he just got by in English but thought he at least had the back end covered. So in retrospect, he wasn’t my best choice for tutor. If I was smarter or didn’t hold him so high on the pedestal I may have discovered this earlier. Mom likely shed the light on this lack of education as she was the dropper of all bombshells (There is no Santa, There is no Easter Bunny, oh and while we’re at it -the Tooth Fairy? he’s a farce too).

Back to my French. It stinks. I know lots of words but could never quite discern one from the other while eavesdropping on his conversations. I can figure out if he’s talking about building a house (maison) but that’s about it. I thought the language was impossible because all the words slurred together. Apparently is more of a result of drinking. Who knew?

Today my kids have incorporated about just as much of the language into their vocabularies as my sister and I did. On her way out the door to camp my daughter will shout, “Papa? where is my chapeau?”

To the neighbor over the fence she must sound very chic.

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