There is this strange thing that happens after I drink a few vodkas: my French improves. No really, it does! I know you’re probably thinking what really happens is my confidence in speaking French improves, or my perception of my level of fluency increases… but you’re wrong. I’ve tested this, pretty much scientifically, and the results were conclusive. My level of oral French improves in direct proportion to the amount of vodka consumed… up to a certain ceiling of course, after which I would undoubtedly be unconscious. It unexplainable- like how people can awake from a coma suddenly fluent in a foreign language of which they previously had no exposure to- except perhaps not as miraculous.
Roisin and I visited Paris earlier this year- you know all about that! In the knowledge that Roisin had mastered only the most basic phrases (Bonjour, Merci, Au revoir…), I tried to brush up on my very rusty French (okay, so it was never really any good to begin with). During the day, I struggled with the simplest of conversations and usually resorted to my own variation of the language, peppered with English words and animated gesticulation. The French have this annoying habit of pretending not to understand you until you get the pronunciation spot on. That didn’t help.
Once the sun went down, it all seemed to get a lot easier. Maybe its that crowded noisy bars make people slow down and focus on basic messages. Or the grammar police loosen up after working hours. Or you feel less pressure to understand and be understood after a couple of drinks… I don’t know.
One night, we got a taxi-driver who had absolutely no English. Daytime me would panic over that but we breezed over the address and directions. We chatted (disjointedly, I’ll admit) about the value of property in the sixteenth (where we were headed), the Tour de France (which was on in Paris at the time) and where all the tourists were hanging out. I asked Roisin did she think I could cross thing #72 off my list and her answer was a definite Yes! Yay!
When we reached the apartment, the driver knocked a fiver off the taxi fare. He said it was because he had respect for Irish people (or something like that) but I took it as a direct compliment on my efforts at speaking French.
P.s. I considered writing this post en français, but I didn’t have enough vodka in my apartment and I figured if I started writing my posts while drunk, it could be a slippery slope…
€5 has been donated to UNICEF Ireland for the completion of this ‘thing’. Click here if you too would like to donate online.