Just when I think I have mastered the art of speaking French something happens which makes me realise I am by no means fluent. This morning found me frantically searching through the dictionary to look up the correct words for ‘limping’, ‘collapsing after a few steps’ and ‘quivering with pain’ before taking the dog for an emergency appointment with the vet. I coped pretty well with the Vet’s questions regarding the dog’s condition over the weekend – luckily it was fairly easy to guess what he was talking about when he asked if she had produced any ‘crottes’. This was also the first time I have noticed that ‘Sentir’ means ‘To Smell’ and also ‘To Feel’ but I assume the vet understood when I said that I couldn’t feel anything wrong with the dog’s leg. Unfortunately he could feel something and I learned a new expression “Sub luxation d’Epaule” – “Dislocated Shoulder”. The prescription was for anti-inflammatories but, most important of all, she must rest as much as possible for TWO WHOLE WEEKS. No running, no jumping, no playing, just accompanied visits into the garden when necessary. The vet admitted that this would be very difficult with a Border Collie and wished me ‘courage’ as we left the surgery – I didn’t need a dictionary to realise that this meant ‘Good luck, you’re going to need it”!
Once I had manhandled her back into the car (an undignified experience for both of us) I decided that as she was technically ‘resting’ I might as well carry on with my plans to visit a kitchen designer in Ceret. This visit proved yet again how little French I know as I struggled to produce the right words for sink, worktop, corner-cupboard, extractor unit etc. I nearly selected the more expensive granite worktops as I didn’t know the word for MDF, however, I struggled on and we had the makings of a good kitchen plan when he asked (or so I thought) if I wanted the ‘Peinture’. At first I thought he was talking about the decoration but then he grabbed hold of a plastic baguette from a display and then said “Pain-tire” (Bread Pull) (or so I thought). In fact he was talking about a Panetier, a special cupboard with an upright canvas bag inside which allows you to store your baguette safely. Obviously this has gone on the plan.
So, I now feel as if I have had a morning of intensive French lessons – and have learned a great deal. There is no better way of learning a language than in having to speak it in real situations and I highly recommend ‘total immersion’. Don’t worry about making mistakes - many, if not most (in my experience) of the French locals here don’t speak any other language so are genuinely impressed if you can speak even a little French and they are only too keen to help you get the sentence right. Instead of trying to track down an English-speaking dentist, hair-dresser, or kitchen-designer, why not just give it a go in French. What’s the worst that could happen – granite worktops?!