“J’ai bu beaucoup de bières”
Pardon my French, if this is butchered. It’s been many years since I’ve used any French. But, if I did it right, it basically says “I drank a lot of beers.”
See, when I went back to college, I was a non-traditional student. I went to a college in Central Pennsylvania — Pennsyltucky, if you will — and part of the curriculum made me take a foreign language.
Realize this — I never had to take a foreign language in high school. I do well enough with English and would prefer to leave it that way. Apparently, that wasn’t good enough for the school, so I had to take a foreign language.
I decided on French, figuring it might help me in my obsessive yearly trips to Montreal. Little did I know this wasn’t going to be an easy chore. Especially trying to deal with many other things for college.
Not only did I have to take French, I had to get through four semesters of it — and I wasn’t allowed to take French I four different times.
I learned quickly that I could be funny and get by. I never did much more than a C in those classes (which really stunk, considering it was probably the reason I missed Dean’s List each semester). I had the same professor for three of the semesters and she was amazingly awesome. She was patient and worked with kids.
She realized how hard I had it with this language. Conjugations, and different tenses. Language of love my rear! It’s the language of “Holy crap, this is hard!”
Still, I battled through.
Every Monday, she would ask me what I did that weekend. My responses, 90 percent of the time, was the same.
“J’ai bu beaucoup de bières”
She would laugh and move along to the next person. Whew!
Many times, that was true. After all, I was in college. And, it turns out, it was also a time when I actually studied French. See, my neighbor at the one apartment complex I lived in was a French exchange student. Besides being beautiful with an amazing accent, she was a lot of fun to hang out with. And she found it entertaining to try and help me and a few others in the complex with our French after we had been tipping back a few cold ones.
I never thought much of it.
Then came one of my trips to Montreal. We were in one of our favorite watering holes — The Mad Hatter. This place, for us, is a whole heap of fun because of the deck in the summer. And people are so friendly. Several people who worked at the bar remembered us year after year.
This particular year, I struck up a conversation with a few Montreal co-eds and had a grand time. There were quite a few Molsons involved, too, so I’m sure it was a night in a haze. But I do remember being told they’d see us out and about the next evening, which is always a good thing.
That’s when it gets a bit better.
You don’t think much of how a night goes until you sit back and reflect. Or get a shocking reminder.
We met up with the co-eds the next night. My mind wasn’t a fog as we had spent a day doing many things. I was just enjoying my first cordial when the ladies showed up. Allow me to reenact the conversation, as I remember it.
Me, looking around. “Uhhh… bonjour?”
“Comment ça va?”
Me… “Uhhh. ça va?”
I think, that that point, I had gotten things right… but my tone was probably setting off some alarms.
One of the gals then said a few other things — en français, of course. That made my sober head spin. All I could say was…
At that point, my friends were bursting out in laughter.
Turns out the night before, when I was in a different state, I was speaking en français — nearly fluently, to my surprise. Apparently, everything I was saying was correct and I guess I sounded native. This night, with a sober mind, I had no clue what the heck was being said, save a word or two that I could recall.
The only thing I could figure were those late-night study sessions after a few hours at the local pub.
These days, I’m lucky if I could put a sentence together in French. No matter what, though, I know there was that one night in Montreal when four semesters of that language truly worked out.
I can only imagine stumbling into class on Monday and being asked by my professor how my weekend was.
“J’ai bu beaucoup de bière et parlait le Français.”
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