Showing posts with label bilingualism in Montreal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bilingualism in Montreal. Show all posts

Sep 18, 2011

James Taylor spoke French to me and I fell in love with a man in a turquoise outfit

I met James Taylor many years ago at a concert in Saratoga Springs. My boyfriend at the time was 20 years my senior (an attorney who dabbled in entertainment) and he brought me to the concert for my birthday.

I have been a big James Taylor fan since way back to my camp days when the best looking, most popular guy played "You've Got a Friend" on his guitar (and I was thinking to myself - "you bet you do").

Okay so we are going to skip the whole James Taylor thing for just a moment and move on to the other part of the story.

I live in Montreal and so having a knowledge of the French language is extremely useful. With this in mind, at the ripe age of 17 my friends and I decided to spend 6 weeks in a remote French village and participate in a French immersion program.

Here are some other reasons why as a teenager I wanted to go to a small remote French town.

1 - There was no drinking age.
2 - We could therefore get smashed every night (because of #1)
3 - The Quebec government  footed the bill.
4 - We could improve our French by dating French boys (if we weren't smashed)

So on a beautiful, sunny, Thursday morning back in 1980 something friends and I got on a 9 hour bus ride to our semester away.

On the first day of class, we were placed in these cubicles in a language lab and asked to complete an oral test. Based on our scores, we would then be placed in the appropriate level of French class.

Here is a sample of one of the questions - I will translate to the best of my ability.

A - La voiture est dans la garage - the car is in the garage.
B - La voiture est sur la garage - the car is in on top of the garage
C - La voiture est sous la garage (the car is under the garage - or is it dessous?)

I chose A (after twirling my finger around in the air, closing my eyes and seeing where my finger tip landed) and moved forward with that well thought out method for the remaining questions.

To my utter shock, I was placed in the Advanced Group while my friends were placed in the Beginner Group (they went on to have much more fun - for example on one of our "field days" they all wore pylons on their heads while my class sang a French song about a little girl who liked to weave baskets (not that there is anything wrong with that).

School began and we did the same thing on Day One as we did every other day of the program - we drank - a lot. Actually it was encouraged as they brought us on day trips to the forest (there was nowhere else to go except the steel mills) where they served us wine with lunch and then more wine without lunch.

They were however very strict about one thing - you were never to speak English until the program was over. My roommate and I didn't quite agree with this policy so as soon as we returned to our "pad" we spoke English. We had no idea that our "animators" were listening outside our door to make sure we were not cheating.

We were called before the board and reprimanded for speaking English and warned that if we did so again, we would be sent home.

"The Board" consisted of someones grandmother who was bored of playing Bingo at the local Seniors home, someones aunt Henrietta who looked like Tom Petty and smoked a cigar and the gardener who mowed the lawn in back of our residence and showed us his "parts" on a regular basis.

We were so fearful of being sent home that we apologized profusely and promised never to speak English again (until we returned to our rooms and started drinking too much and were only able to speak English).

During my stay, I managed to find an older man who I was very attracted to - that being one of the Deans. So being an ignorant 17 year old before the time of social media and YouTube, I told him in my best French that I wanted to go for a ride in his Corvette (even though he wore "outfits" and one in particular was turquoise - my mother loves that word - she uses it like this - "Lisa you would look really lovely in this outfit I bought when I was in Florida - it's an Anne Shapiro - or Anne Schwartz - I don't know).

Yeah so he was a handsome man - tall, green eyes, mustache and all wrapped up in his outfit. We ended up kissing in his car after the final dance and the next day I was back on the bus heading home.

However I did manage to slip my number to the Dean saying "If you are ever in Montreal - call me" (you should never say this to anyone).

He showed up in Montreal a month later and asked me out for dinner. I met up with him but the attraction on my end had dwindled. He however asked me if I would like to come and spend Christmas with him and his mom at which point I realized he lived with his mother (not that there is anything wrong with that), he wore outfits by Anne Shapiro and Anne Schwartz and that I had to immediately tell him that I was moving to Florida that very week.

I made one more mistake (okay many more) - instead of practicing my French, I spoke English with him.

Now back to the James Taylor portion of this story:

My boyfriend promised he was going to introduce me to James Taylor and get me back stage. Before the show, he did just that. We waited in back of the stadium and James Taylor walked out with a large bodyguard to where we and a few contest winners were standing. He was totally down to earth in his lumber shirt and jeans and sandals. He said hello to the contest winners  and then he moved toward me and I froze. James Taylor was looking right into my eyes (and he was not wearing an outfit).

Then my boyfriend decided to take care of the introductions "This is Lisa - she is a bit nervous - she came from Montreal to see your show (as if it was such a big journey from Montreal to Saratoga) and James reached out his hand and said "Bonjour Lisa - J'aime Montreal beaucoup - and then still in French - I lived in Paris for a year and so I love to practice my French" and this tremendous flush of regret came over me. I had cheated in the French Immersion program all those years back and now I was paying for it dearly.

I struggled for the words - I reflected on all that I had learned back in that small town  (like how to drink shots and inject vodka into a watermelon).

Once he realized I was permanently stunned, he grabbed my ticket stub and gave me his autograph. He shook my hand one more time and then he was gone.

Moral of the Story: If you are given the choice between going on a fully paid 6 week French Immersion Program to a small remote town to learn a new language or going on a fully paid 6 week French Immersion Program to a small remote town to get totally wasted - don't be a fool - figure out at way to accomplish both and maybe one day you will be able to speak French to James Taylor.

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