The first thing to go in a foreign language is your sense of humor. When I speak French, if I manage to speak French, everything is 100% literal. Teasing, telling jokes, sarcasm—c’est pas possible. Occasionally people laugh at the things I say (see: my photographer/writer/economist spy persona), but it’s usually a happy accident.
But this week I felt like I won when I made my French class laugh on purpose. It wasn’t even a clever joke, just two carefully timed words: Quel dommage! (What a shame!)
Laurine had asked how I celebrated the holidays, and I explained that I’d gone to Spain, to Carcassonne, and to Marseille for two days. When I used the wrong word for “for,” she stopped to correct me.
“No, not pour deux jours,” she said. “Pour is for actions that start in the present and continue into the future. You should use pendant because the holidays are finished now.”
“Oui,” I replied and then shook my head. “Quel dommage!“
The class laughed, and I felt a little bit more like myself.