January 20, 2008

Madame McBain

Madame McBain, as she is known here, has transformed herself into an ESL ambassador!

Oscar’s school finally took Pat up on her offer to volunteer at the school and asked her to do more than accompany the kids to the gym. This is her second year as one of two English teachers. She has two classes, 2nd and 3rd graders, and once a week she tries to cajole them into learning the names of fruits, the numbers, how to say hello and a few other English survival skills (“take me to your leader” and “keep your hands off my cheese”). She is enjoying the opportunity, perhaps more for the window into little French minds, than for the professorial calling. Not to mention the view into Oscar’s daily life outside our stone walls.

But the more interesting facet of Madame McBain is the continuing education. She has a following! There are 5 different students she is tutoring. From a 12 year old girl who reads English quite well but won’t speak in English class (Pat is working hard to make her less timid) a 40 year old stone mason, a local walnut farmer with global aspirations, a music producer representing Keren Ann and others, a real estate agent trying to expand her client base, and the occasional drop by student looking for practice. It’s impressive!

Pat has comfortably grown into her French language skills. She continues to study regularly, and has a habit of speaking French and English at the same time. At first I would point this out and remind her that she needed to speak French as she was speaking to a French person. But I have realized how well this roasted blend works; most French people have had something like 12 years of English instruction and understand the language very well. To the point where speaking English correctly communicates the point better than speaking French incorrectly, even if it is blended between the two, chances are they know the word. I am trying to emulate her franglish ways, it’s better than remaining silent all the time out of fear of French skills.

It’s fear that forms here, fear of misspeaking. Fear of telling a joke and having the punch line make no sense whatsoever. So, naturally I save my bad jokes for an English speaking audience or Pat, but she’s perhaps tiring of them and I need for that reason alone to continue to work on my French. It’s the fear that motivates the varied friends to drop in for their English classes as well. They can for the most part speak well enough, but afraid of embarrassing themselves they let us stumble along in French, embarrassing ourselves! We can speak French, and our friends can speak French to us , but they know that sometimes they have clients that will only speak English, so they come to gain confidence, to chat in English about recording contracts, or real estate transactions, or walnut sales….

At least Pat is doing our part to give back!

We have nothing to fear but fear itself…..right?
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

that photo looks shockingly like Mme McBain...