Posted by: vlibrizzi | March 12, 2009

A flash of…cake!

I spent all day today studying for a test on the passe compose vs. the imparfait…and I didn’t do so well! So I’m trying to justify for myself why I’m actually studying this language. Did I really move to France to spend my days cooped up in a library studying verb tenses?

But, I have to admit that I’ve asked myself this question before.  I think that the point in learning a language when I have to differentiate between the two past tenses is where I always get a bit frustrated. For example, I distinctly remember learning the preterito and the imperfecto in Spanish when I was a Junior in high school and thinking to myself….”This language just got a bit too difficult for me. I think I like speaking in the present tense the best.” But unfortunately, my Spanish teachers didn’t really appreciate my resistance, and I eventually had to learn how to speak in the past, the future, the conditional, and all the other verb tenses.

So then, after not doing so well on my test today, I was obviously in no mood to learn anything more in French, let alone speak French. Heck, I was ready to go to Mr. Sarkozy and beg him to change the national language to English. So you can imagine how unhappy I was to learn that my French class was, in fact, not yet over, and, even worse, we had to listen to a recording of two French people talking about how they met, and then we had to answer questions about them. 

My teacher could clearly see my frustration with the activity (it was written all over my face), but instead of pitying me, she went in for the kill. 

Mme: “Quelle est la femme de porter?” (What is the woman wearing?)

Me: “Je ne sais pas. Une chemise?” (I don’t know. A shirt?)

Mme: “No, elle porte un gilet.”

Me: “Quel est un gilet?” (What is a gilet?)

Mme: “Un gilet a fermeture eclair.” 

Me (thinking to myself): A gilet has an eclair for a closing? Like a pastry? That doesn’t make sense. She is wearing a pastry? 

By then, the rest of the class was a bit confused too, and Madame took that opportunity to explain to us the definition of an “eclair.” It’s not actually a yummy pastry with chocolate on top. According to the dictionary, an eclair is a flash of something. Madame explained to us that the French named the petite gateau (little cake) an “eclair” because, to them, it is a little cake that you can eat in a flash. 

So then, a gilet is a shirt that can close in a flash. Anyone want to guess? 

A cardigan. 

Why can’t the French just call it a cardigan then? And while they’re at it, can’t they just speak in the present tense too?

It would make my life a heck of a lot easier.

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