Saturday, July 11, 2009

C'est drôle!

Here's a special moment from my trip back home...

Binky and S have a daughter, ActionGirl. She is studying French immersion, as I once did, many moons ago. Unlike her younger sister, ActionGirl is quiet and a bit shy.

We were all down at a cottage (near the Confederation Bridge), playing on the beach, where the tide was out. I had forgotten how the beach is a natural amusement park for kids: there are all kinds of things to explore. (And it's all genuine, which is the best part).

As we walked along the rocks and shells, I thought about how to broach French with ActionGirl. I had to tread carefully. I remember very well being about 8 years-old and having every adult imaginable try to goad me into speaking French. It never worked: I would retreat into my shell even more. With ActionGirl, this approach would very likely produce the same effect.

(I wonder though if she gets it as often as I did: I was in a pilot program for The Island, and so it might have been more of a novelty back in the day. Thankfully, for the good of French Canada and the entire country, it is much more common now.)

I was in a pickle. Tentatively, I asked ActionGirl how school was going and received a one-word, bored reply. Then a bolt of lightning from the heavens: her Uncle R said the only French he remembered was:

J'aime manger la fromage dans la piscine.

(I love to eat cheese in the pool.)

Bingo! ActionGirl laughed, and Uncle R gave me a huge opening. Let the games begin.

My trick was to repeat the phrase, but to replace 'cheese' with various words. On the walk back to the cottage from the beach, I must have done this with a dozen words. The repetition and pun-effect was vaguely reminiscent from a previously successful game we played during the previous summer.

However, this one was so much better. I have no words for the feeling of making a child laugh in another language. I would just say a phrase, each more ridiculous than the one before, and she would laugh. She never replied. She never asked what it meant. She would simply walk along, and laugh, completely 'getting it' and smiling, be out of her shell at last.



Binky said...

That was a fun day! Both the gilrs really adore you. They thought you were the better of their two soccer foes, too.

There's something so elemental about the beach that's almost sacred.

You (and Uncle R.) have a good sense of how to talk to kids in ways that meet them where they're at, but treat them as inviduals in their own right.



CaptainCanuck said...

Thanks for the note, Binky! That brightened my day...

re: sacred. yes, indeed!

Uncle R is the champion at non sequitur as icebreaker, a skill he has honed with Uncle K, who is perhaps the King