In today’s lesson I accomplished everything and nothing. This is how it went …

2 hour commute to my 2 hour French lesson – way on the other side of Paris. 3 tram stops and 4 metro stations changes later. I’m exhausted before I get there. So many numbers already.

I meet my tutor M in the local bar/cafe and pop a Panadol with my “thé aux fruits rouge”. Really hitting the hard stuff this morning.

We begin. I learn. Nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, indefinite, definite and possessive articles all determined by gender (masculine/feminine) and whether they’re flying solo (singular) or at a party (plural).  M says “indefinite article” to me and I nod politely but really my mind goes blank. I’m supposed to remember this. I’d like to know exactly how many people read and go “oh there’s an indefinite article, a noun and a verb and there’s that doing word thingo”. Do you?

Moving on from my English Lit failure …

M taught me how to count. It’s very similar to Italian so it seems like a no brainer for me. Then you hit 60 and sh*t gets real. For example:

  • 60 is written soixante. 
  • 70 is written soixante dix, because 60 + 10 = 70. Dix being 10. OK. Stay with me.
  • 71 is written soixante et onze, because 60 + 11 = 71.  Onze being 11.  Still there?
  • 72 is soixante douze, 60 + 12 = 72. Douze being 12 …. and so on, until you get to the mothers of all the numbers, 80 and 90.
  • 8o is written quatre-vingts, because 4 x 20 = 80. Just let that sink in for a minute.
  • 90 is written quatre-vingt dix, because 4 x 20 = 80 + 10 = 90. Got it? Nailed it right.

Picture this … 

You’re at the checkout with no digital display to show you the total amount due. It’s common in the local stores here, at the butcher, the baker the candlestick maker.

You’re still working out the coin sizes (1 and 2 cent pieces still exist). The assistant tells you in the fastest of French, which sometimes has a Chinese or Vietnamese accent, “douze euros et quatre-vingt quatorze centimes”. 

???????? WTHeck ????????? 

Your mind goes AWOL. You search around in your purse attempting to cover up the fact you have no idea what they just said by looking for change, whilst you’re frantically trying to reiterate the words in your mind to come up with a ’round about number. You cannot work it out so you mumble “je n’ai pas la bonne monnaie” (I don’t have the right change) and hand over a bank note. Defeated.

This has been me on countless occasions. I’ve boycotted stores for this very reason. I prefer to support the local guys so I really need to get better at this change thing.

If you are still trying to work out that number, it’s €12.94. Easy! Ha.