Sunday, 13 February 2011

Paris, je t'aime!

Some thoughts:

My French-speaking English friends and I have a habit of using French words in conversation quite unconsciously, when we are using words that are far more concerned with our French than our English lives. Sentences like "I love working in a lycée, there were grèves for pretty much the whole of November", or texts from Alice about "you should have come to the apéro, it was super sympa", or hearing that someone lives in a colocation in the dix-neuvième arrondissement. I've found myself talking about élèves (students) and profs (teachers) while in English. But they are different - a student is, to me, a university student, probably in Britain. An élève is one of the 18 year old multiethnic kids who I attempt to cajole into telling me about their holidays in English. Similarly, a teacher is a committed authority figure intent on handing out detentions for untucked shirts; a prof bitches with me about the awfulness of the élèves and is outraged they might have to work until age 62.

Is this an interesting dialect born of cross-linguistic fertilization, or does speaking this way just make us sound like Del Boy?

Questions, questions.

I know it would seem pretentious if we did it anywhere else but Paris, but I find it quite charming. Last night I was speaking English and suddenly used the word rue instead of street, no doubt because there was a strong image in my head of the street I was talking about, which I always think of as Rue de Whatever. This happens occasionally, and I imagine it will happen more and more the longer I live here.

I made people laugh in French last night! Multiple times! It is coming, it is coming. In a strange way, speaking and thinking in French is harder than I thought it would be, and I'm always interested in how I must come across to a native French speaker. While I can express myself fine most of the time, I'm aware that my phrasing and choice of idiom must sound foreign, and that I still have an English accent. All accents and dialects give context to what someone is saying, and I'm conscious that, for example, the English teachers at my school have perfect RP accents which can't be connected to any actual location. I find it interesting how language is both personal and communal, the tool you use to think your most personal thoughts is also a huge collaborative project with strongly embedded ideas, values and judgements. Language is first and foremost a way of thinking, and I still think in English.

So, after a soirée last night in La Défense, this afternoon I went for a stroll around the Parc Floral, listening to The Gaslight Anthem and seeking out signs of Spring.  

But most impressive of all were these PEACOCKS WANDERING AROUND RANDOMLY. I've no idea why, I didn't know there were peacocks living in the park. There were four, but it was this alpha male who kept showing his plumage. I took so many photos. 

In this one he is rattling his plumage at a nearby pigeon, I guess just to prove that he is alpha male of the group. Look how sad and small the pigeon looks next to the peacock!

I then experimented with some different modes on my camera, to see what would best show off the extraordinary colours. First is pinhole, which, as ever, makes a photo look washed-out but nostalgic. 

Pop art! An almost scary neon tinge to the eyes. 

And the other three peacocks, just chilling. 

Well, it's Valentine's Day tomorrow, and as indifferent as that holiday leaves me whether I'm single or not, perhaps it is time to declare something. Je suis amoureuse de cette ville, de cette langue, et de ma vie ici aussi. I have no complaints; living in Paris is... for me, the closest thing to contentment that I think I have any right to expect from life. I wake up, there are things to see and do, I rarely feel sad. I like the friends I've made here, I like having free time to explore the city, to take photos, to read, I like having a job, I like feeling that my French is improving every day, I like going to parties with French people, I like the multiculturalism of it all, it's not boring. Paris is fascinating and beautiful. 


  1. Hello,

    I was impressed with your recent comment in "Secret Life of France" and came to check out your blog. From a quick scan I can see that you are a good writer. I'm looking forward to reading the other entries.


  2. Mange Tout as Del Boy would say! Love, love, love to read your blog. Your writing evokes Paris and your experience of it beautifully and so eloquently. Laska x