Monday, 31 March 2008

Mummy-os, Daddy-as

Feeling a bit deflated and at a loose end this evening. What on earth are we going to do tomorrow? Looks like it is going to have to be housework! Ahhhhhhhh!

After so many months working on the apartment, we have nothing left to do. Our first guests are installed, for the next three weeks.

And a wonderful couple they are. They estimated that they would arrive vers quatre heures and so they did. Anyone who drives for 1000 kilometres and manages to arrive when they said they would - are clever in my book!

They were elderly, both categorised as disabled (walking with sticks) and charming. They have been coming for la cure at Lamalou every year for the last seven years - longer than we have actually lived in France. They know Lamalou better by far than we do! And every year they have stayed at the Villa des Pins.


Within five minutes of pulling up outside the apartment, they had people tooting at them and stopping to chat - all people they have met and known from previous years. It seems the same people come at the same time of year, year in and year out, for la cure. It is like a strange holiday camp.

We proudly showed them in, and were a bit disconcerted - they were polite and very complimentary but did not seem overly impressed with our renovations. It is easy to forget that our 'modern minimalistic' style does not necessarily appeal to the more mature French guests. Oh, well. We like the apartment anyway....

They arrived with everything but the kitchen sink. They are obviously used to the previous owner(s) who used to strip the accommodation down to the barest minimum. Anyone who drives 1000 kilometres with washing up liquid, coat hangers and 10 kg of apples has to be surprised when they find we have provided a 'welcome pack' of bread (they are French you know!), milk, fruit juice, toilet rolls....and of course a bottle of wine. They were delighted when they realised that we were leaving the last item for them!!

And what was wonderful?! We could understand them, and they us, with no difficulty. They are from the north of France you see!!

***
Had a very interesting chat on and off throughout the evening with Nic. Mainly about Occitan and other languages....as taught in France.

It all started when she told us how she had got on in her Occitan test today. I noticed that when she mentioned the subject in English, she pronounced it differently to when she discussed it whilst talking French.

Phonetically it is OSSITAN in English but OKSITON in French. And in Occitan....it is LO Oksitan. And I have used capitals versus lower case specifically to show the differences.

In her year there are just 12 students doing Occitan, of which 10 speak it at home! That astonished us! We think of it as a 'dead language' but it is still actively spoken day to day by many families!! Incredible!

Her Occitan teacher, who she thinks is not TOO old (ie late twenties, early thirties), was brought up speaking it at home and also teaches French, Spanish as well as SVT (basically biology) at college level. Incredible again!

Nic explained that Occitan is a SLOW language compared to French and indeed English. She went on to expand on this, at our request. In French, each syllable gets the same weighting whilst in Occitan - the degree that you accentuate a syllable, changes the meaning of the word. Fascinating!

She went on (we were enthralled...all this from our eleven year old daughter!). In Occitan, you do not have personal pronouns. The ending of the verb determines this instead.

In addition, any name or noun can be altered slightly by being given a specific ending depending on whether you consider the person/thing you are referring to, to be above or below you in the hierarchy of life.

We were confused, so Nic explained using a story they had been studying today. All about a wolf and a fox.

The fox referred to the wolf as (phonetically French) loupos, whilst the wolf called the fox renardas.

See?! An ending -os implies you are superior, whilst -as implies you are inferior to the speaker. What can I say?! A fascinating language!!

Nic will be doing German next year, so further insights into languages will follow....she is only one of about ten in her year that will be doing German rather than Spanish. A sign of where we live, I suppose, where those that do not speak Occitan at home, often speak Spanish!

Nic has asked whether we would consider getting together with Edwige who lives in our village (a girl one year above Nic at college who she is friends with).

Edwige's grandmother was brought up speaking Occitan (and also speaks French, Spanish and a little English!) and brought Edwige's father up to speak Occitan and Spanish as well. They all live in our village, and Nic wondered if we would ask if she could join in with them at home once a week maybe, to practise speaking Occitan in a day-to-day way. They have already asked if we would do this with Edwige, inviting her around to speak only English with us.

Our local pharmicist has asked the same - they want their daughter to speak all the languages she is learning 'as a native would' ie in a practical way. It is seen as the future - where everyone should be able to do whatever job they decide, in several languages.

We might live in the middle of nowhere, in a small village, but there is a real belief here that education is important and that languages should be taught to be SPOKEN actively and not just as book learning. Enlightening!

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