I need six hours of intermediate-advanced French so I can get my second major in English Literature, and I finished off the first three hours this past Wednesday when I completed our final exam. I am currently doing an independent study with another Butler French professor, and with that done I will graduate for real in August… which means I still get to walk in May Commencement. Oh, scheduling…
Though my written final was on Wednesday, I took the oral portion on Monday with a partner. It’s not that bad. My French is very spotty, because I studied it for five years in middle/high school. That’s a pretty long time, but then I went another five years without speaking it. Again, that’s a pretty long time.
The point is, I remember a lot, and most of the grammar points that we covered, I had learned in the distant past. However, since it was a matter of recall… and I am no languages genius… I still struggled with certain things. Such as the phrase “free time.”
As I was playacting a skit with my partner, something typical about interviewing the other person for an apartment, I tried to ask what my partner did in his spare time. “Qu’est-ce que vous aimez faire dans votre amser sbâr?”
A beat. A pause. A quizzical look. Why was what I’d said wrong? It was, somehow, I knew. My teacher prompted, “votre temps libres?”
Yes, that was the French phrase for “free time,” one I hadn’t used that often.
Oh. It dawned on me. Welsh. “Amser sbâr” was Welsh for “free time.” I was speaking the wrong language! I hadn’t studied Welsh for two years, hadn’t thought about it really for months. Yet that phrase “amser sbâr” had been used often in the beginning of the Welsh course I followed, so it was apparently the “free time” that popped into my head first.
And then things got even more surreal when my French teacher said to me, in French, “That’s Welsh, isn’t it?” And then she said, “Beth dych chi’n hoffi wneud yn eich amser sbar?”
That’s perfect Welsh for, “What do you like to do in your spare time?” which I what I’d been trying to ask in French.