“Parlez-vous francaise?…

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Do you speak French? I don’t, but I wish I did.

When I was a little girl, I loved to ask my mother to tell me baby stories about myself. One of my favorites was when I was cared for by one of her sorority sisters. Rusty taught me to answer, “I don’t speak French,” when she would ask, “Parlez-vous francaise?”

We were riding on a city bus one day, in about 1949 or ‘50. I was about 18 months old. Rusty said, “Parlez-vouz francaise, Debby?” I softly and obediently responded, “I don’t ‘peak Fwench.”

A few minutes later: “Parlez-vous francaise, Debby?” Response, a little louder: “I don’t ‘peak Fwench.”

Not enough minutes later: “Parlez vous-francaise, Debby?” Response, at the top of my voice: “I DON’T PEAK FWENCH? I SAID I DON’T PEAK FWENCH!”

I spent over five weeks in France in 2008, and I just re-read my journal. I learned more French than I realized, and I loved the experience. I was thought to be a Frenchwoman by an Englishwoman on the street of St. Hilaire du Harcouet, in Normandy. I listened to an entire WWII story by a Frenchman on a corner, and though I told him I did not parlez-vous francaise, I could re-tell the story to you today. I dreamed in French.

I still don’t parlez-vous francaise, but I am going to get the chance to LISTEN (my year word), practice, and pretend that I do. Stay tuned.

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