Si t’était pas au courant, je suis le régissuer pour la production de Bonneau et la Bellehumeur pour La Troupe Du Jour, une compagnie de théatre à Saskatoon.
I’m pretty sure I spelled all that decently enough.
To more or less translate: I’ve recently taken on stage-managing for a Francophone theatre company’s touring show.
While I’ve been slapping “fluently bilingual” on all my resumes, since high school, to be perfectly honest I rarely use my French language skills. Honestly, before this gig I could count the number of times I spoke French in a year, on just one hand.
Saying many a quick “Merci” to the lovely people scooping more poutine on my plate at l’Association franco-yukonnaise didn’t count.
I was filled with a decent amount of apprehension before throwing my hat into this particular ring. So I wondered as I zinged off a CV: Is my French good enough? Will it all come back to me?
I grew up in a tiny, mainly francophone village east of Ottawa. Pretty much by virtue of my father’s foreign last name, my parents were able to enrol my sister and I in the French grade school in Vars.
So from kindergarten through to Grade 8, I was taught purely in French.
I have vivid memories of getting dropped off at St. Guillaume: my first day of school, my first day of kindergarten. And everyone around me spoke a different language.
My already-countless hours of Sesame Street weren’t going to help me here.
I don’t know if you recall the level of anxiety you might have been at during your first day of school. Though I didn’t have the vocabulary at the time, I then knew exactly the feeling behind the term, “baptism of fire”.
(Come to think of it, it was a Catholic school. Yes I know, cheap joke.)
That first day of school, somewhat safely landed in my new class, Madame Lefebvre got me to get up in front of the class and count to 100 in French.
I thought my brain was going to explode. Who knew a five-year-old could feel humiliation?
Let’s fast-forward past a good deal of awkwardness that you really need know nothing about …
I would speak French every now and then. My stints at the S.S. Klondike and the Visitor Reception Centre would sometimes get me within yapping distance of Franco-tourists. But how much French did I really need to know, to tell them when the Yukon Brewing Tours were?
Whenever I would get into a conversation involving a certain depth, my brain would stammer as it struggled to find the right words. I’ll sadly admit I dropped more than a few “anglicisms” into the conversation.
(This tactic has you say an English word with a French accent. It’s ridiculous, but it’ll get you through.)
Interestingly enough, I could understand them 100 per cent. I can easily read a French language book, or listen to francophone radio or watch great Québec comedy shows.
(Rock et Belles Oreilles – classic stuff, mes amis!)
I just couldn’t get the words out.
Now that I’ve been immersed in the language with Troupe Du Jour, all the comprehension came flooding back. Apparently, all my vocabulary skills just needed a little workout to get back into shape.
And I’m back giving tours on the ‘S.S. Fluency’!
Sure, I kinda resented my folks for sticking me with a tough school experience. But those eight years of drills, verbs and, yes, dodge ball games … they gave me a pretty awesome tool I’ll never lose.
I just gotta remember to flex it, de temps en temps.
The moral of the story: If you really want your child to be in “French Immersion”, maybe consider an actual French school?