Thursday, September 3, 2009

Back to School Daze

Back to school
Back to books
Back to teachers’ dirty looks
‘Cause my accent’s lame
It’s such a shame
But don’t make my kid take the blame!

It’s la rentrée. Parisians slowly shuffle back to work and school after a long, lazy summer.

But according to his teacher, Big Fry brought back more than souvenirs from his vacation in the States. He also brought back – quelle horreur! – an American accent.

La Maitresse de Classe: Bonjour, Madame. Did you have a nice summer?

La Mom: Yes, it was great. We spent a lot of time in les Etats-Unis – it was really good for Big Fry’s English.

La Maitresse: Hmmm…I noticed his accent has – comment dire – deteriorated.

La Mom: Deteriorated? But he’s completely bilingual! He speaks both languages perfectly. He never mixes French and English up.

Big Fry: Bye, Maman. Don’t worry pour moi. Je suis big this year. Je passerai un good time at l’ecole!

Merde. It’s going to be a long school year.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Making A List & Checking It Twice

It's that time of year when you'll see French parents roaming the Carrefour and Auchan supermarket aisles with lists, lists, nothing but lists in their hands!

You can spot an expat parent a mile away because they roam the aisles with very confused and/or frustrated facial expressions. You can bet they're checking their lists twice to make sure they've understood everything.

A shopping list would be too easy, a to-do list too practical, and a Christmas wish-list too early.

It's the dreaded back-to-school supply list.

La Mom mom dreads this one the way Big Cheese dreads visiting the US for a month and having to drink American coffee which he calls jus de chaussettes - sock juice. Nice visual, huh?

I dread this list because it's way too technical for moi and I need a translator to help decode the items. The list isn't made up of easy French words like stylo (pen), papier (paper), feutres (ink pens). I have to learn a whole new vocabulary like rabat, godet, timbale, and plastifiée.

Here's a sample of some of the supplies on the list this year:

-1 pochette en carton, à rabat (24x32), 6 à 8 cm d'épaisseur minimum
(A carton pocket with rabbit. 6 to 8 cm required thickness?)

-1 box of paints, 12 godets, marque Lefranc-Bourgeois or Faber Castell
(Why can't Big Fry's school pick a brand of paint that every supermarket in France carries like Crayola? Must they require a brand that I have to hunt high and low for?)

-Chaussons rythmiques
(Rythmic slippers. Hmmm, what does a 5 year old need rythmic slippers for and where do you buy them? It sounds kinky, but then again I must be missing something in the translation.)

-1 box of 12 colored crayons dans une boîte métallique plate - marque Caran d'Ache
(Will Big Fry be sent home from school if he shows up with a box of 15 crayons in a cardboard box? Must there really be 12 crayons in a flat, metallic box, made by an obscure company sold at the Librairie that's a 25 minute walk from my apartment?)

So this was my third and final year of dealing with a French school supply list! Next year I'm taking control of the situation so it doesn't take control of me. My plan of action will be as follows:

1/ Scope out the local librairie or presse shop.
2/ Make friends with the manager (read: smile, flirt, and play up the foreign accent.)
3/ Show up with the supply list and say, "French is such a rich language with so many beautiful words, but these words are new ones even to me. What does this mean?"
4/ Stand back and watch my new little buddy do my work for me.


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