“I think it would be amusing…if the verbs aren’t too irregular.”
I’m heading to Italy today! My friend Serena has been living near Rome for the last few months, and I resolved to fly south before she left in December. I don’t speak Italian–it’s kind of shameful, actually–so the thought of up and jetting to Italy by myself was really not particularly palatable. Anyway, we’re going to Rome tomorrow, and then to Florence on Saturday, which is particularly thrilling, because even though I’m not an art or museum person, I am way into books about English people in Italy that are usually by E.M. Forster or his Bloomsbury pals and movies involving Merchant-Ivory, Maggie Smith, or Judi Dench (or all three!). So for my trip to Italy, I am going to take some advice from Forster’s Mr. Emerson (senior) and beware of muddle (by the way, I have had that phrase in my head since my freshman year of high school, when Dr. Kidner based her graduation speech on it. I finally met Dr. Kidner back in March and got to tell her how that stuck with me). I am not going to worry about anything, but simply enjoy the ride. And buy a Baedeker, because I think I just have to.
Anyway, as I have, true to form, awoken forty minutes before my alarm, with no need to leave for the airport for another hour and a half, I thought I would do a quick post before I’m MIA for three days. What I really wanted to talk about in this blog post (before A Room With a View and Tea With Mussolini took it over) was the French language.
Last night before my theater class, I was sitting in the lobby chatting with Claudette, one of the older women in my class. She has the gift of asking just the right questions that will get a slightly reticent American (“Oh yes, I’m reticent!”) to chatter on and on in French. And while I was talking, I got to thinking about the sound of French. Even though I feel incredibly insecure most of the time about my ability to speak French, I have been told quite often that my accent is superb, and that I speak really well “for an American” (I got that several times at my audition the other day). I think it’s twofold. I think I’m starting to get over my perfectionism, to the point that if given enough time, I can just allow myself to speak French and believe that my (very patient) listener will understand me, just like I would understand somebody speaking shaky English. And the second part is that I have a great ear, as you might expect of a singer. Most people are surprised by my accent when I speak French, but it’s mostly done by mimicry. My first French teacher, Madame Nadkarni, was a native Frenchwoman (she played the guitar!), so I had an excellent foundation. I also just plain like the sounds I hear when people speak good French (I’m not so keen on that sort of back-in-the-throat guttural difficult-to-understand French that a lot of younger people here seem to speak), so it’s fun to try to make them myself. Especially the rolled uvular R. Sometimes that sound comes out of my mouth and I’m like, wait, what? (In the Follies documentary, Liliane Montevecchi talks about how she puts lots of rolled uvulars into her performance of “Ah, Paree,” because it’s the only thing that the Americans CAN’T do. Take that!)
Well, it’s time for me to go get myself ready. So here’s a video of a completely adorable French girl making up a fairytale. I sort of wish I wanted to babysit or teach English so that I could listen to French children talk all day long–their accents are so pure, to say nothing of too cute for words. Si mignonne!