It Just Might Work!!

It has been a battle. For no other reason than I have ties to the country and I love the language, I’ve been trying to convince my kids that they should take and learn French in High School. I finally convinced my daughter, who is not yet in High School. I got to her by appealing to her appreciation of beauty and foreign adventure.

The son has been a bit of a challenge, however. None of the arguments I’ve tried have been able to walk him back from his, "Why am I going to need French" response.

I think I found a new argument.

In the past I prevailed upon his affinity for wine. I’ve been tasting wine with my son from a very young age. He sniffs, tastes, swallows then tells me what he tasted and smelled. He’s pretty good at it. In fact, back in grade school when we started doing this he showed an affinity for putting words to flavors and aromas.

So I explained, "the world of wine is really based on a French vocabulary! The names of the grapes are french, son. And words like ‘Clos and Chateau’ are all over wine. You can’t really appreciate wine if you don’t understand its traditional language."

To which he responded, "I don’t need to read French to know if it’s red or white".

True. But what’s more important than his brilliant observation is that I haven’t done a good job teaching him the real pleasure in going beyond red and white.  But that’s neither here nor there…for now.

Being as stubborn as he, I’ve not been willing to give up. I’m not willing quite yet to let him, at the mere age of 14, get away with winning an argument. So I’ve kept my mind open, looking for new and better arguments. I think I found one, of sorts.

Having lunched at Boulevard recently with a friend (it’s still a fabulous restaurant), and having consumed a nice Pastis and Barbera with my Salmon Carpaccio and Bavette of Kobi, I needed to use the restroom.  Instructions given to me were, "through the door, through the next door, down the stairs, to the right, down hall."

When I got there I saw two doors labeled: "Hommes" and "Dames". No pictures!

I’m tempted to take my son to Boulevard, fill him up on Diet Pepsi, then send him to the restroom with the hopes that, having not known the difference between "hommes" and "dames" he’ll walk in on a crowd of dames adjusting themselves.

It just might work!

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10 Responses

  1. Marco - August 25, 2008

    Will that be NV Diet Pepsi?

  2. Stacy Nelson - August 25, 2008

    I have to say – I agree with your son. Even though I am a wino, outside of the wine world, French is utterly useless. I took it for about 9 years and have lost most of it because I have never had cause to use it – except when reading a wine bottle. And while in France, if your accent is not perfect you’re better off speaking in English as the French are quite persnickety about their pronunciation.
    Sorry – but there are few times that I’ll not side with the parents but…

  3. Steve Heimoff - August 25, 2008

    Tell him that French is the Language of Love.

  4. Dylan Klymenko - August 25, 2008

    Funny, funny situation.
    I think the reason you face such opposition is because your trying to get your son to do it. Did you force him to enjoy wine tasting? No, of course not. He saw that his father did it and took an affinity to it himself.
    Invite (not tell) your son to be interested as you did with tasting and it will happen on its own if it’s meant to be. Rent and watch french films that he may enjoy. Play popular french music in the house. And, of course, the external factors: DAMMES. It never hurts if cute girls at his school are taking french or if he’s digging french girls either.
    Movies, music, women. They’re reasons for him to learn the skill, but he needs to make that his own reason, not told that is the reason.
    On an ironic aside to this, personally, knowing Spanish helped me the most with my wine experience this past summer in Sonoma. Those were the majority of workers while I was in the fields, not french. One could say Spanish is the language of California wines among the wines and French is the language of the labels.

  5. Dylan Klymenko - August 25, 2008

    among the vines*

  6. Benito - August 25, 2008

    I took German in high school and Italian in college, and while both have been somewhat helpful with wine, I rarely get to use either in conversation. If I had it to do all over again I would have taken Spanish, as it’s increasingly a second language throughout the entire US (not to mention the presence of TV channels, radio, and other media with which to get real-life practice).
    The French vocabulary of food and wine is easy enough to pick up along the way. I like knowing that quadrillage means the square grid of char lines on grilled meat or vegetables, but do I need to know how to conjugate French verbs to be a well-rounded cook and wine enthusiast?

  7. dfredman - August 25, 2008

    I took German in high school (what was I thinking?!) and have picked up a smattering of Spanish over the years. After a trip to France and Italy in 2002 where I was embarrassed not to able to communicate with anyone who didn’t speak English, I began taking French lessons. Although my conversational skills suck, I can at least get the gist of a conversation or magazine/newspaper article. This leads to intra-cranial confusion when I’m in Argentina or Austria and I’m trying to speak to someone – it’s unsettling to find myself trying to come up with understandable sentences composed of a semi-learned vocabulary from four different languages. It’s coming together slowly, as I get more practice speaking with people fluent in any of these languages.
    I probably should have just stuck to learning how to speak Australian…

  8. Morton Leslie - August 25, 2008

    Unfortunately it’s going to cost you more than a meal at Boulevard. The only way to actually make them want to learn French is to have them fall in love with Paris. There are ample things for the young teen to enjoy, rock concerts, that beach scene they set up each summer along the Seine, street fairs, lots of stuff that you probably don’t want to do. They can even go clubbing and have a beer at 16. The secret is for you not to be with them. There are many summer “camp” experiences where they can visit chaperoned with other teens. Some even include some language study. You want them to associate being free, out in the world, and “grown-up” with France. I think they’ll get the picture.

  9. Strappo - August 25, 2008

    My God, what a bunch of silly self-justifications for not learning another language. For the record, the French aren’t any more tiresome about pronunciation than Americans are. Everyone (even the French!) appreciates even faltering efforts at communicating in their language. And, let’s face it, language IS culture.
    No, learning a language just for reading wine labels isn’t a particularly productive thing to do. But to learn one to deepen your appreciation of the culture behind the wine is very satisfying, even if progress can be slow and fitful. And in this day and age you don’t even have to travel thousands of miles to make friends with native speakers of a language.
    Make the kid learn French, Tom. It’ll make it easy for him to get into the wine business, and if not, he’ll have a lot of fun doing it (a’ la Morton Leslie).

  10. Ludovic - September 3, 2008

    hummm, it’s nice to read theses comments about wanting to learn french, from a french perspective…Well, i agree with one comment at least : send him to France as soon as possible, and it will make a big difference for sure. That’s really how I got to learn english, spanish, italian and german : because after, it’s love that drives you and nothing else ! 🙂

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