By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
Of all the Romance languages, the most beautiful, in my humble opinion, is Pig Latin.
Take this simple phrase: “Hiya, toots!” Translated into Pig Latin, it becomes: “Iya-hay, oots-tay!”
Eloquent, isn’t it?
The second most beautiful Romance language is French, in which I am not, unfortunately, conversant. But I am learning it with a certain je ne sais quoi (translation: “Hiya, toots!”) with the help of my 3-year-old granddaughter, Chloe.
Chloe is learning French with the help of her daddy, Guillaume, who is from France, a magnificent (magnifique) country that I visited five years ago with my wife (ma femme), Sue (Sue), and some other members of our family (la famille) for the wedding of Guillaume and our younger daughter (fille), Lauren (ditto).
Now their daughter, Chloe, is teaching me (moi) French.
I want to speak it better than I do Spanish, which I took for eight years in high school and college and still can’t hold a decent conversation. I know only two phrases: “Cerveza fria, por favor” (“Cold beer, please”) and the natural follow-up question, “Donde esta el bano?” (“Where is the bathroom?”)
That is why I am sure Chloe will be muy bien (sorry, I mean tres bon) in teaching me French.
According to Lauren, when Chloe went for a doctor’s appointment recently, she said to the receptionist, “Je m’appelle Chloe,” which means “My name is Chloe.”
“Did she just speak French?” the stunned receptionist asked.
“Yes,” Lauren replied, though she should have said, “Oui.”
The next time I saw Chloe, I said, “Je m’appelle Poppie.”
She smiled, no doubt at my pathetic pronunciation, and said, “Poppie!”
I was babysitting her and thought it was a good time for a French lesson.
“Bonjour, Chloe,” I said.
“Bonjour, Poppie,” she responded.
That was pretty much all I knew. But I was about to get a crash course. Chloe loves books and always wants me to read to her, so I was not surprised when she handed me a book starring her favorite character, Peppa Pig. The title: “Une Journee Avec Peppa” (“A Day With Peppa”).
Yes, it was in French.
If you read Chloe a book in English and stumble over a word, she will make you repeat it.
“My God (Mon Dieu),” I thought, “this is going to be terrible (terrible).”
I began to read: “Ce matin, Peppa se reveille.”
I had no idea what I just said, but it didn’t matter because Chloe didn’t correct me. I thought, however, that the word “reveille” meant Peppa was in the Army, though the drawing on the page showed that she was in her bed at home and was waking up at 7 o’clock in the morning.
It was obvious from subsequent drawings that the little pink porker was getting ready for school.
I trudged on: “Et prendre le petit-dejeuner tous ensemble, c’est encore mieux. Parole de Peppa!”
Chloe smiled and turned the page, a clear indication that my reading was d’accord (OK).
When Peppa got to school with her classmates, there was this line about the teacher: “Madame Gazelle, leur maitresse, est fantastique!”
Then Peppa went home for lunch: “C’est pizza et salade au menu!”
Afterward, she went to the park with her friends: “L’apres-midi, Peppa retrouve ses amis au parc.”
At dinner, Peppa’s father, Daddy Pig (Papa Pig), made his famous soup (fameuse soupe), after which Peppa had to brush her teeth (“apres avoir mange, il faut toujours se laver dents”) and go to bed (“bonne nuit!”).
Through the entire reading, Chloe didn’t stop me once, so I felt confident enough to add, “The end,” which I didn’t know in French (la fin).
But that was all right because Chloe paid me the ultimate compliment: “Merci, Poppie!”
I had passed my first French (francais) test. One of these days, with Chloe’s help, I will speak it fluently.
Then, of course, I will teach her Pig Latin.
Copyright 2016 by Jerry Zezima