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Note in a brown bag lunch

I'm glad you used your extra time last night for French. Not just because there's a good chance it will help you get into college - which it will, now that the dearth of basic foreign-language instruction has been uncovered.

For one thing, I'm glad for you because on your trip through Paris this summer on the way to Les Diablerets you'll already know about the Place de L'Opera being a monument to music, the Hotel des Invalides a military museum, the Bois de Boulogne a historic park, and the Champs-Elysees a world promenade. Not only that, but you'll be able to toss out these names with conversational confidence.

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I know you are realizing that learning French is hard work - what with words ending in an, on, or in to be sounded through a clothespin nose. And how you must remember not to say I want but rather I'd like. And remembering that the acute accent goes up and the grave comes down. I heard you telling Gail she can forget finding any shortcuts for learning noun genders - she should just learn the la or le and remember it. And shortcuts for remembering how irregular verbs go? You convinced her that that's fantasy, too.

I'm glad for you because eventually you'll enjoy the un-stumbling reading of English - magazines, books, letters - (maybe other languages, too) where the texts are salted with italicized trompe l'oeil, fin de siecle, and the like. With you, recognizing their meanings each time will be no problem. I'm getting so I remember a few, but it wasn't easy. Another thing - I always thought it would be nice to read Maupassant or Proust or Moliere in the original. So maybe before long, you'll get to some of that; only don't write me that these lose something in translation.

I'm glad for you, too, because your perfected travel French will whisk you through a host of possible delaying circumstances. The gendarme at the old Togo border wanted to know when I was returning to Ghana - and I couldn't remember aujourd'hui. Our luggage wasn't being loaded on the Air France cart at Phnom Penh on our way from Angkor Wat until finally someone said in English, ''You were not speaking French, m'sieur.'' And besides, travel French means you can decide whether the Foie de Volaille Saute, Madere on the dinner menu sounds more appetizing than Les Rognons Rouennaise or the Dindonneau Roti aux Chipolatas Sc. Airelle - with Le Vacherin Alexandre afterward. And maybe sometime in Montreal you'll even be able to enter into the de 'ockee discussions - although someone may feel your accent is a little suspect.

I'm glad for you in another way because the progress you are making in French shows you are really getting somewhere. You know what that means? Later on, someday when someone asks if you have French, you won't have to say apologetically that you took it in high school (for that phrase usually means you don't have it at all). And, too, in any real French conversation you won't have to resort frantically to using mental phonetics so as to recognize the words you heard.

Save ray, so study hard.

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