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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

An hour a week of student mode

We're of an age in my French class. I wonder what a voyeur would conclude: two neatly groomed women and a sprawling male who perhaps slept rough. An act of suburban charity?

P, a former languages teacher, is in charge. She's a Quaker, a faith well adapted to gentle correction. "Not quite," she says when my guess misses by a country mile. B, also a former teacher (eng.lit.), creates better anglicisations and doesn't test P's gentleness as much as I do.

I've been at it for just over ten years, P and B go back several years further. I answered a classified that may have included "love of French literature", leading to a strangely episodic phone conversation with P. I realise now P was engaged in a difficult task; trying to tell from my responses whether B would find me acceptable.

Each week B and I prepare about ten pages of our mutually agreed book, read alternating passages aloud for P and then translate them aloud rigorously. Concentrating on the more obscure verb tenses. Our present novel (Bienvenue parmi nous, Eric Holder) is especially demanding. The author likes to use familiar words according to their tenth least likely meaning. The sequence Cela ├ętait-il du au fait qu'il l'ait..." is made doubly difficult (for me, anyway) in that it is only part of a sentence and the final word (third person singular, present subjunctive of avoir - to have) may stand alone or qualify something yet to arrive.

The books are interesting but I major on reading aloud - getting the vowel sounds right. Many Brits don't bother.

I reflected recently that if I won lottery millions I'd still want to be part of the trio. For which P charges us each £5 a pop.


  1. Friend P is obviously a reacher for the love of it. You are fortunate to have her as your instructor.

    Congratulations on your endeavor, too, Robbie!

  2. What an unusual way to keep learning.
    Good on you, RR.

  3. The Crow: I am indeed fortunate. And in being part of group with a shared intensity of interest

    Ellena: They key to these lessons is the rigour with which they are pursued.

  4. I like the sound of your class and look forward to learning the definitive translation if there is one. I wasn't sure what to make of the dots.

  5. This post opens a window on the immense layered and unsettlingly complex field of translating even a short sentence from one language to another. I much appreciate your recent insights into my attempt to remake some of Laforgue in English.

  6. Joe: You would be most welcome. Sir Hugh has sat in on one or two of our sessions. The only difficulty he had was persuading P. to take the £5 fee.

    Lucas: It's true, it's a world of approximations. But then so was journalism. I thought your remake of Laforgue rose well above the word "attempt".