Archive for April, 2011


I have to say, it hurt. It hurt quite a lot to pay £5.99 for an iPhone app. Five British whole pounds and ninety-nine pence!

“…O.k.,” I thought grudgingly, “This language app better be worth it, I tell ya!”

So as I made my merry way home on the train, I listened to a French woman telling me in English to sit back, relax, enjoy the music, listen to the words, and see what happens.

The music started to play and I listened intently to the English man and the French woman flirting with each other, saying the phrases to the rhythm of the music.

It’s catchy, too catchy, and before too long, what started off as me silently mouthing the words, turned into me mumbling ‘un kafeh oh leh’ (un café au lait/ a coffee with milk) out loud.

The woman sitting next me looked uncomfortable, and slowly moved away from me. Oh well, more space for me.

My knowledge of French before this magic app, apart from the obvious hello/goodbye, etc. malarkey, was limited to the following useless random words/phrases thanks to rote learning:

Poisson rouge– gold fish- (I liked the sound)

Pain au chocolat– (Food)

La maison– house (I liked saying it)

Écouter de la musique– to listen to music (I think I liked saying it)

aller à la plage– to go to the beach (This and the next two phrases were bunched together in a group)

aller à la piscine– to go to the swimming pool

aller à la patinoire– to go to the ice rink

Je suis anglais– I’m English (Always useful)

J’ai douze ans– I’m 12 years old (This was my favourite phrase to fall back on if I ran out of French words. I learnt French for a year when I was 12- when I do automatically repeat this, people just laugh for some reason)

But with the help of this app, I was picking French up relatively quickly.

For example, when I tried to speak German with a friend, she told me I had a French accent.

I even woke up one day, and had the music playing in my head with the phrase ‘don luh sontr veel’ (dans le centre-ville/ to the city centre) in my head. The ‘earworm’ worked- huzzah!

It was time. I was ready.

So with zest and a spring in my step, I set off to Paris, determined to use my French. And to see mon mec, of course.

I went into a bakery determined to order something in French.

“Bonjour! Je voudrais deux pain au chocolat et un croissant s’il vous plait.”

The lady smiled and went to get my order. She understood- HA!

I felt great, so great in fact that I blurted out in English to Monsieur L-O: “I did it, I DID IT!!!” and I smiled with my signature stupid grin.

The other customers obviously overheard and smiled knowingly. They probably thought, silly little English girl, bravo for stringing a sentence together.

However, when I was still feeling pleased with myself, the lady came back to me and said something to me in French.

I quickly deflated. What did she mean?? I stared back blankly, then looked over to Monsieur L-O for some help.

He responded and then everything was right in the world.

I did try to speak French when I was by myself at the train station, but the lady just responded to me in English- spoil sport.

It’s reported that Fabio Capello claimed he only needed 100 words to manage the English football team. I’m not sure he needs more than that to be honest- don’t hurt me!

I don’t know if I’ve reached the 100-words barrier yet, and I can’t be bothered to count the words either.

But, since I’m down with the kids, it’s only right that I leave you with a random ‘cool French’ phrase from the Beeb’s website: “J’ai les boules” (completed with the appropriate gesture).

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How to break the ice on the tube

This is by no means an extensive list. In fact, it’s not even a list at all, it’s just something I witnessed recently.

So, there I was listening to an Englishman and a French woman flirt on my iPhone when a young lady stepped onto the train cradling sort of white small dog in her arms.

It was nothing to write home about, so I dismissed what I saw and carried on listening to the ‘I would like’ chapter of my French app.

With nothing else to look at on my journey, my eyes rested on the dog.

“But wheeeyyyyyytttt,” I thought, as said by my mum in her Jamaican accent [translation: but wait, hold on a minute]. “That dog has massive ears!”

Then I noticed the whiskers, and low and behold, it was actually a white rabbit with grey spots- on an orange LEASH with yellow flowers!

A leash- by Jove, that woman actually walks that thing!

Is it a fast hopper? Does it go in the direction she wants it to go in? Does it listen to commands? Can it do tricks? Would it poo in her arms at any minute?

These questions rapidly raced through my mind, and, I’m sure, the minds of my fellow passengers on the packed central line train.

People’s reactions to the rabbit were even more interesting to watch though, because, you know, it wasn’t really moving around or anything.

Some pretended not to notice- as if they’ve seen that all before or they shouldn’t be entertaining such behaviour. “I’m too sophisticated to notice such folly, yesss,” they faces seemed to say.

One woman looked on with disgust, which was understandable because if Roger (yes Roger, even though it was a female) pooed or farted, then she would be in the firing line. So she moved to the other side of the carriage.

But most people pointed and actually smiled! And it sparked a full blown conversation between two strangers! Mind you, the discussion wasn’t about feasible solutions on how to end world poverty, but it was something meaningful nonetheless.

It got me thinking. Does it really take something as peculiar as a rabbit on a leash to get a few people to loosen up and be friendly on a daily commute? Maybe I should invest in a penguin.

When the lady got off the train, I must admit, I strained my neck to try and catch a glimpse of the rabbit hopping along the platform. Alas, it did not happen.

The whole scenario did lift my spirits though. Then as I exited the station to go home I was greeted by Batman and Robin giving out Fitness First flyers. Fun times.