French Lessons

My father is a man of many languages. In grammar school, he began learning French in first grade and then added Latin. In high school, he continued French and Latin and added ancient Greek. In college, he studied German, Russian, and a little bit of Farsi.

As a child, instead of counting sheep, my father would put me to bed by reciting the Greek alphabet. Although I could only ever remember “Alpha, Beta, Gamma,” and “Zeta, Eta, Theta,” his love of languages left a lasting impression on me.

When it was time to select a foreign language in middle school, I studied Latin. In high school, I added German, and in college, I became a Russian major. Somehow, I made it all the way through a liberal arts education without ever studying a lick of French. But several months ago all of this changed.

I was reading my grandfather’s account of his experiences in World War II in his book, “Survival: The Salvage and Protection of Art in War.” The first two chapters take place in France – first Normandy, then Paris. As I mapped out places of interest, plotting points on a Google map, I was stunned by the fact that I didn’t even know how to pronounce place names. The only logical solution was to begin studying French – immediately!

On Craigslist, I found a fabulous tutor who took great interest in my mission to study French. She even went out and rented the film “Monuments Men” so that we could discuss the topic and create relevant dialogues. Now, after 6 weeks of studying, I can state my purpose for traveling:

C’est la première fois pour moi en France.
Je viens en France à cause de mon grand-père.
Il fait parti de Monuments Men.
Mon grand-père est venu en France à la fin de la deuxième guerre mondiale.
Ils ont retrouvé les oeuvres d’art volés par les Nazis.
Il a été représenté par Matt Damon dans le film The Monuments Men.
Je viens pour retracer les pas de mon grand-père.

While it was my father who inspired me to study Latin, German and Russian, it is my grandfather, a man I never met, who has inspired me to study French!

If you’d like to know the truth about my grandfather’s French skills, check out this interview with my Dad!

‘The Monuments Men’: Son of real-life member of the group shares his thoughts on the movie (Christian Science Monitor)


8 thoughts on “French Lessons

  1. Alas, unlike my Francophile brother Brad, I never learned French except to read Bordeaux wine labels and such. Kudos to you for starting to learn French, an admirable task which will undoubtedly improve as your upcoming European travels unfold! Brava!

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