Je ne parle pas français

I’ve only met my maternal grandmother twice in my life. The second time was when we visited them in Maine for their fiftieth wedding anniversary. She died two days later. My grandfather died less than a year after that.

This is the story of the first time I met her. Her name was Leda Boutot Pelletier.


8 Replies to “Je ne parle pas français”

  1. Somehow, this brings tears to my eyes. 🙂 Beautiful post.

    My husband’s brother’s first wife was Quebecoise. (spelling?) She was truly bilingual. She had grown up speaking both languages and could flip between the two while speaking, writing, or reading. Hers, however, was the only generation that had such abilities. Her parents spoke only French and the English had been learned in school. When the next generation went to school, the politics in the area had gone back to “French only” and increased hostility to Anglophiles. You know, being bilingual is a gift; I envy those who have it. I think we should all be required to learn at least two languages while we are young, during the critical period. I’ll never understand why so many kids are not taught a second language until high school; by then it is too late.

  2. My mother’s father was born in Russia of German descent in 1885. Her mother was killed in a car accident while my mother was only 16, but we sometimes visited my grandfather, who lived in Missoula, Montana. We were in Helena then. I remember walking around his house as a small boy. He did speak English with a heavy accent, but he was more comfortable speaking German, and at some point he and my mother would speak to each other. None of the rest of us spoke German, but I remember doing things like examining his Bible and then saying to my siblings in awe, “This is his Bible. It’s in German!”

  3. I agree that we should all learn at least two languages. I wish my mom had taught us French growing up, but we ended up in a very Catholic, very, very German area of St. Paul and it was quickly apparent to them that raising kids who could speak French was not going to be a good thing. For a lot of other reasons, my dad wanted to put that past behind him quickly. My mom, not so much but maybe that is another post.

    We saw how vile the American culture gets when Huntsman spoke a sentence in Mandarin and it was learned that Romney could speak French. It truly puzzles me why we would not want our presidents to be multi-lingual. Most other presidents around the world are and I think that gives them an advantage. Eventually, our guns and money won’t be as powerful and we will have to rely on our wit and brains. But, I digress….

    I ended up learning Latin, German and Danish in addition to some very conversational French through high school and college so it all sorta worked out.

  4. I did not continue with French, but over the course of my life I have studied Danish, German and Latin. I keep loading French into my Rosetta Stone shopping cart, but I think I will never find the time to actually learn it. I may have to move to Paris for that to happen.. Or Montreal…

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