Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat school

le frog

So we were drinking beer on Tabbo’s farm when a younger chap arrived and was introduced to us as the young Frenchman whose parents wanted him to experience agriculture before he started to study it at university. Tabbo had gladly agreed to host a frog for a weekend so he could learn agriculture on a farm in Africa before going back to learn it in France in French at a university. Ours not to reason why . .

– the agriculture oke with the greenest fingers I know

I’m Tabbo; I’m Koos we said. Hervé, he said. Ah, hello Hervé! Non non! Hervé.

Ah! Hervé, we said, copying his pronunciation carefully. Non! Hervé. OK, Hervé. Non! Non! Hervé! Hervé!

Um, yes, hello Hervé, welcome to the Vrystaat. Hervé! he muttered.

And that set the tone for the visit of eighteen year old Hervé, le frog, to the Vrystaat vlaktes.

We piled into Tabs’ pickup and drove around the farm, Tabbo pointing out a cow, a sheep and a mielie growing. He showed little interest. The only animation was whenever we mentioned his name. He would immediately say Non. Hervé! So we stopped using his name.

Back to the lovely sandstone homestead at Gailian and lunch, where he refused a beer, muttering something that sounded like muffy arse. We were to hear muffy arse A LOT.

Lunch arrived, a delicious roast something produced by Julia and __ in the large and splendid Gailian kitchen, origin of many a magnificent meal. Non. Muffy arse, came the response after he’d peered at the meat on his plate intently, nose 20mm from it. He ate the potatoes.

I’ve never met such such an impossible eighteen year old! Obnoxious, opinionated, impossible to please.

In the afternoon Tabbo drove him around some more. We – yes, even I was lecturing agriculture! – helpfully pointed out the grass, and the clouds, which would hopefully bring rain and grow that same grass; which animals would eat and convert into delicious roasts so he could mutter muffy arse. We generally gave him a thorough education in agriculture which we were sure would put him ahead of his fellow amphibious classmates when he went back across the pond to study utilisées pour l’agriculture at l’école agricole. And I’m sure le frog would have had a lot to correct there.

That evening we were back into the beer and offered him one. Non. Muffy arse, the response we’d grown used to. We went through all the grog in the Fyvie’s very well stocked pub and at last we got a oui – I forget if it was Ricard or Benedictine or Cointreau, but it was definitely Made In France and I think that was all le frog was interested in. By the look on his face as he took his first sip, he hadn’t actually tasted it before, but we were beyond caring any more. He was impossible to please and we were now just keeping him quiet, happy that a sixpack of beer divided as easily into two as three.

– Gailian’s well-stocked pub on a less surreal evening – just drunkards –

After a while the silly little frog whipped out a tiny little French-English dictionary out of his pocket and pointed to the word méfiance and muttered urgently muffy arse. So THAT was muffy arse! méfiance!

The translation: MISTRUST!

We hosed ourselves, which miffed le frog. He got all miffy arsed.

We were not sad to see him go. Still being polite, we asked him if he thought he’d learnt enough to help him when he went back to study his agriculture? Non, Non. he said indignantly. He was going to l’université to study mathematique!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
2_Free State / Vrystaat 7_Confessions

Wat Sê Jy?

or “scusi?

Quora asked this question recently: “How do you know when you are fluent in a language?”

I answered thus: My guess is usually you won’t really know. Native speakers are usually polite and will flatter you with a better assessment than is true. Maybe a better question to ask yourself is “When am I fluent enough?”

My guess? When you’re enjoying using it and not really thinking about it. I am fluent enough in Afrikaans and can happily hold any conversation with someone who only speaks that language. But even though I have spoken it since I was little, no native speaker would mistake me for a native Afrikaans speaker.

Confession: I laboured under the mistaken impression that I was completely fluent. No-one told me otherwise. Then at age fourteen I went to Namibia (South West Africa as it was) and visited third cousins I had never met before. Within two sentences one of them blurted out “Jis! Jy kan hoor jy’s ’n rooinek!” (Boy, You can hear you’re English-speaking!) and my bubble burst. I’m now amazed I was so deluded!

Another case in point: My 94-yr old Dad speaks “fluent Italian” which he learnt in Italy in WW2. I asked an Italian-born schoolfriend a few years ago “How well does the old man actually speak Eyetie?” and he said “Really well. Really”. Somehow I think that’s politeness. I mean, two years in Italy seventy years ago when he was already 22yrs-old – ?? How likely is that? But I have no way of telling, so I’m happy to go with Claudio’s assessment! Thanks, figlio!

Another: I often get complimented for speaking good Zulu. This is definitely not true and is just polite people’s way of saying “Thank you for trying to speak isiZulu to me”.

ngiyabonga

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