the little Fr-engine that could

fr-engine says, "parle français à moi, bébé!"

Monday night, back at the French Meetup for the first time in quite awhile, I got into a conversation with a Parisian whose parents are from Côte d’Ivoire. It started with a discussion of the cultural and philosophical underpinnings of my embarrassment ‘vous‘ing strangers who are peers as opposed to elders or respected figures. Which led to a consideration of whether the United States or France has deeper ‘fractures sociales‘ between classes and races. Which led to him telling me the story of why and how his parents left Côte d’Ivoire for France. Which segued into a conversation about the weird rules of French colonialism. Which was followed by a summation (his) of the hundred-year social history running up to the Liberian civil war. Which brought us, in a roundabout way, to my Senegal dreams. And on and on…

When people ask me whether I speak French my answer is always no, because there’s so much French I don’t know, and so much I do know but muck up anyway. On nights like Monday, though, I marvel at all that I can say and understand, and I find myself thinking, “I do speak French.” No disclaimer or modifier necessary.

[Photo: Sputnick; terrible photoshopping: me]

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