What little Spanish I have accumulated since our entry into Mexico in mid-October has disappeared with the arrival of our latest fly-in guest, Carol's mother Marcelle.
For those of you who haven't met us, Carol is French-Canadian, a native French speaker, and began learning English in his late teens. His mother is a francophone and since Carol and I met I have been sporadically working on my French. With each visit to Quebec to see his family, my French comprehension surges and then subsides when I return home and get lazy about practicing. I spent a month in Paris (thanks Christine!) which helped and I took 2 years of high school French which I have mostly forgotten but which must have helped somehow.
This past week, with Marcelle visiting and dreams of French Polynesia and meeting French cruisers in mind, I have been doing my best to be brave and speak, speak, speak rather than relying on Carol for partial translations. We met a French couple who had chartered a boat and, while the mix of Quebec and French accents was confusing to me, I had a chance to practice with new speakers.
I feel like I've had a bit of a language break-through in the sense that I finally have enough French to hold conversations on a variety of topics and I understand most of what people are saying to me. Of course, when two Francophones speak to each other very quickly, or when the wine starts flowing, I start to lose the thread of conversation, but even those situations are becoming easier for me.
I have made some spectacular mistakes such as telling Carol's mother that there was a giant cat with no teeth that ate very small shrimp in the area of La Paz (I was trying to describe whale sharks). I also like to confuse the words for eggs and eyes and also the words for ears and toes. Nothing like offering your mother-in-law scrambled eyes for breakfast.
But I'm improving and looking forward to visiting a country where I can have meaningful conversations with the local residents.