French Lessons

It has rained steadily since last evening and so far today, I keep thinking of the Jimi Hendrix line “the sky is crying.”  The meteo shows it will continue all day, but be clear the rest of the week.

Last night in the dormitory met a man who had just arrived from near Bordeaux, he is here for a week long course on ploughing by horse.  We got to talking, of course he twigged I was not French, and from there we spoke in a mixture of English and French, he was asking me how things are pronounced in English – “say it again – how do you pronounce? – Connecticut?”  And bless him, he gave me some very good advice on learning French.

He explained how as children they are taught – phonetically – for example I had trouble pronouncing the word naturalisation en français, and he broke it out to the syllables, and said pronounce it one syllable at a time for a while and then try to bring them together, you’ll get it in no time.  I’ve been trying periodically since, throughout  the evening, lying awake at night, again this morning – I think I almost have it, this morning.

He pointed to the glass and said verre – v-e-r-r-e – and then pointed to the green bottle of Perrier and said vert – v-e-r-t – to make the point of how the pronounciation and the spelling and syllabification go together, and listening to him I can hear the very subtle difference and recognise each word, but trying to get my own vocal chords to co-operate and create that subtle difference… oi vey!  Must get over my own self-consciousness, even in private, and practice talking – saying these things out loud and getting used to the sound of my own voice, try to get it to go there…

We were talking about our decisions to pursue the courses at the CFPPA and our interests in viticulture, and how people we know have reacted to our decisions.  I quoted to him something I found years ago – as a teenager, I read Ralph Waldo Emerson (mid 19th c American philospher and poet) and a wonderful essay of his called Self Reliance.  Since then I have always kept this quote by me, and struggled to live up to it:

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion, it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

Image du jour, actually taken Saturday whilst walking the path that runs along the top of Chambertin and Latricières – I think I had reached the latter vineyard.