Wednesday, September 09, 2009

lovely l'lliance

Good lord.

What a win. I walk into the Alliance Francais, and it’s literally like I’m in Fwonce.

People are sitting around looking all French and mildly petulant, on tables dotted about the place.

Va va voom. My kind of place. No one addresses you in English, and we’re standing in Parkview. How fucking cool is that?

In fact, while registering, even when I was sorting out invoices and sundry, the dude was speaking French.

Ooh and I got me a student card – oh yes, it’s been a long time since I had one of those bad boys.

He was asking me with a straight face which module I was doing, and frankly I know neither the words ‘module’ or ‘facilitation of oral conjugationary dialect,’ in French.

Or whatever he was asking.

‘Mister. Monsieur. I’m here to learn French again. That’s why I am here. Because I cannot understand what you’re saying.’

‘Pardon?’ he says, still straight faced, ‘Tu faux parler le francais.’ Sweet baby Jesus, I’m in Paris.

Everyone who walked past smiled and mouthed a cheery ‘Bonjour!’, and there’s this whole café culture thing going on right in the entrance. Where you can drink coffee, smoke a cigarette and not feel like a pariah [It was the French who really taught me to smoke, it must be said], and eat saucisson.

But you have to order this stuff in French, there's an unwritten code of conduct. English simply isn’t spoken.

We even had to stroll around the gallery section giving symbolistic interpretations of this artist from the Cote d’Ivoire. Seriously.

Luckily I got to drink a vin rouge during the lesson. Nice touch, and frankly, I’m a fan. The Alliance is officially my new hang out, and now that I have a student card, I’ll flash that baby on weekends when I get to peruse through the library and take out French films.

Had two Scousers in my class, which was WELL funny, yeh.

The teacher is awesome – she is from Grenoble, it turns out. The city I lived in for the year I was in France.
She also told us a story – and I think I understood the jist of it – but interesting character: she was a hippie once (?) and tied herself to a tree for five months so they didn’t chop it down.

Five months living tied to a tree in the middle of a French city. Shweeet.

Also chatted about the French socialist system. This was around about the time I realised that in 10 years, I’d lost a lot of the language and was possibly a little out of my depth.

But I understood bits and pieces, and from what I learnt (this is a shonky translation, so maybe I have it wrong):

1) If you’re unemployed in France, for five months after your last job, the government matches your salary. Like free. Thereafter it gradually gets more and subsidised. How does anyone work? At all?
2) You have a card for everything medical. You swipe it, and you never ever see a bill.
3) You strike or tie yourself to trees when you’re upset.
4) You pay exorbitant taxes for the above benefits.

Yeah, they’re almost communists, but they’re not. I love it. Je l’aime je l’aime.

Had to give a stand up description to the class about what we love and what we hate.
Needless to say no one found ‘J’adore le vin rouge et Richard ’Ammonde’ funny.

Suis-je bovvered?

What is ‘wha evah’ in French I wonder. Because that’s what I’ll say next time, and give them a Catherine Tate impersonation.
(‘Regardez mon visage. Est-ce que vous disrespectez ma famille?
Est ce que vous appellez ma mere une pikey?’)

Gotta write a French story in some random tense for next week. Fuck. The last time I did tense was in the plane on the way back from Cape Town, and it wasn’t the tense the teacher was referring to.

Better look on the Internet.

Bless. They have all these cultural events involving cheese and wine, just like how I imagined.

I’ve found my club.

There goes that brief crash course in Italian.


Anonymous said...

This is a really impressive post! You described it so well that I almost felt part of the "show."
It even made me feel like joining the local venue in Durban! Did you wear the red thang? :)

Peas on Toast said...

Thanks Levi!
It's so much fun, seriously - I definitely recommend joining in Durban, even if you're not into French, you will be by the time your first class is finished!

Anonymous said...

Love it!

You make me want to start again...if only so I can sound like Audrey Tatou, and pretend I don't speak English when construction workers hit on me in the street

Peas on Toast said...

Jade - exactemente! So you can turn around, flash them a sweet smile and say, 'Va te faire enculer les cretins!'

It also whiles away an evening very nicely :)

Serge said...

Yeah, we are communists indeed. And if you criticize anything in the country, you're banned and shipped to South Africa!

Peas on Toast said...

Moi? Une critique? JAMAIS.

Comment va Paris, petit communiste? ;)

(C'est une blague ca. Juste une blague...) ;)

Roe said...

I like you, you seem fun.
Good luck with the french! x

Secret said...

Well this all sounds super amazing!
Just a q though: didnt you find another club a while back? Like a really "out-there" one? Like hangliding or something?
What happened to that club?

I wanna join a french club. What did they say about the berret?

Peas on Toast said...

Roe - why thanks, I'd like to think so :)

Secret - yip I dabbled with perhaps joining the Gauteng Bat Society - for real - and thought better of it. Even though they threw in a free fridge magnet.
Never managed to get my red beret, as I was late arriving and couldn't stop off at home. But there's always next week! :)

Charmskool said...

Ooo la la it sounds so very fwanch it almost makes me want to start speaking fwanch again but NO I am joining the Dante Aleghieri Society - I need to learn Eyetalian so I can drink chianti and drink espressos in Rome before I die (or before 2011 whichever is the sooner). I guess Tant Pis would do for "whatevah" it doesn't really mean the same but it sounds so cool. Like saying On y va when you want to head out from the restaurant to the club with your girls - I love saying that too.

Peas on Toast said...

Charm - ah oui! On y va and Tant pis is top of my phrasebook - love them too :)

Tlak me through the Dante Aleghieri Society, wouldn't mind that being my next language course (it's going to be AFTER Rome, which makes no sense whatsoever)- but is there a website or one in Joburg perhaps?

Mickey G said...

Your description of last night was like a french sitcom, sounds cool.

Fuck, now you've made me want to learn french. Thanks.

Peas on Toast said...

Mickey - it's cool hey? A whole bunch of Francophiles speaking about the socialist system and hippie tree picketing, I love it :)

Go on, join!! :)

Mickey G said...

I actually drove past the Alliance posters in Rosebank yesterday and thought about it. but I must be one of the few Italians running around that can't speak Italian so I think that should be first on the agenda.

But I can guarantee you my lessons won't be as cool as yours.

We'll probably sit around a room getting slammed on expresso, waving our hands around.

Peas on Toast said...

Mickey - that sounds ace! Waving hands around and getting juiced on espresso. I'm telling ya, that's my next course - without fail!

Charmskool said...

Si there is a Dante Aleghieri Society in Joburg - not sure where though but I am sure it's in the book. Ciao Bella!

Mickey G said...

Dante Alighieri is in Houghton. Their tel no: (011) 728 6782

Peas on Toast said...

Ah thanks guys!

Pity I'm doing these languages the wrong way round...but hey, it's still fun!

blogoratti said...

Still on the quest to learn french though-by any means necessary,lol.