Mary Birk’s Blog: French Lessons

This summer, David and I are going on a splendid adventure with our wonderful granddaughter. Morgan’s not only our only granddaughter, but our only grandchild! She turns fourteen and graduates from middle school in the same month. So it’s the perfect time for a celebratory trip!

She picked where she wanted to go: London and Paris. When I asked her what she particularly wanted to do in those cities, she said: Tea in London, Sidewalk cafe in Paris. A good start, I said, but we need to plan a few more things. See art, she replied, and maybe a castle. Not bad choices for those particular cities!

Next, David started one of his famous spreadsheets. We pored over guidebooks, read blogs and restaurant reviews, talked to lots of smart people, and decided on the rest of the itinerary. I was fortunate to just have to give opinions on options. He did all the complicated planning like reserving planes and trains and tours. Everything went on the spreadsheet, with addresses, phone numbers, and reminders about anything critical. We want everything to be perfect for her.

But it’s been many years since David and I have traveled with a teenager. More years than I care to contemplate. It’s going to be just the three of us, so we worry a little. Will she have fun with just Nana and Papa for traveling companions? Especially when neither of us (or her) speaks French.

Of course, we’ve gone to France many times by ourselves and done fine. And we’ve gone to many other places where we don’t speak the language and done fine. But for some reason, because we’re taking Morgan, it seems more important. We don’t want to be floundering around with our little French-for-Travelers books in front of her. Besides, those books are okay for asking questions, but not for understanding answers. What good does it do if I can ask where the Eiffel Tower is, if I can’t understand the answer.

So, right after Christmas, David and I both bought on-line French lessons (to learn separately). Our intentions were strong, but our follow-through weak. I got through a few lessons, David, I believe, none. We’ll be fine if someone says “he swims” or “she reads,” as they were in my lessons. Somehow I don’t see those observations coming up.

But it’s too late now to seriously pursue our French lessons; the trip isn’t far away.

So, we’re packing our little books, and we’ll do our best. Our plan is to throw ourselves on the mercy of the French. C’est la vie!

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