Nov. 6, 2009
I’m on my third semester of French classes at Folsom Lake College. The teacher, being from Geneva, Switzerland, is multilingual. Her mother was Spanish and her schooling was French. She also speaks Italian and German, though she says the Swiss speak a horrible dialect of German that really is hard on the ears.
I only mention this because one of assignments we had was “What I did when I was a kid.”
So many of my classmates raved about going to Disneyland when they were little. We took our kids to Disneyland when they were little and though they enjoyed it we did not. There were long lines for everything, including for a hamburger or the bathroom, if you could find one. And for this we paid something like $55 a head plus parking.
My son was very young then, 3 or 4. We put him in one of those gentle boat rides and he was mostly scared by the experience. My daughter enjoyed “It’s a Small World,” but the song got a little tedious.
For us the best deal was Universal Studios. The tour was great and informative and exciting. The rides were fun and had short lines. We’ve been back to Universal Studios a second time and wouldn’t hesitate to go a third time. I rate it right up there with the Malibu Getty and the Los Angeles Getty museums.
But for my French class the irony to me was that the best time to go to Disneyland had already come and gone, as far as I was concerned. My parents took me when it opened in 1955. I got to do some rides, take a cruise on the jungle boat and the best part was going to Frontier Town and meeting Fess Parker, who played Davey Crockett in the TV series. Of course that marks me as the oldest member of the class and the only one who knows all the words to the Davey Crockett theme song.
Fess Parker is still around, by the way. He owns the Doubletree Resort in Santa Barbara. I’m sure he owns more than that. Some stars are able to use their money to make reasonably astute investments and make it grow. The late Bob Hope was another big-time real estate mogul.
College language classes include conversation, grammar and spelling. My mother took two years of French in junior college in Portland, later graduating from the University of Oregon in 1939. The second year of French her class studied Cyrano de Bergerac. Reading literature probably didn’t help with keeping a conversation going. Seven years later she had trouble getting directions in Paris after the war. She and Dad, as the story is told to me, would ask a gendarme for directions and go as far as “Turn right” would get them until they found another gendarme to get them the next few blocks. They kept repeating this until they got to where they were going. But I’ll bet she could still cite some passages from Cyrano.
Though I’ll be the first to admit it is easy to forget much of what you learned about a language in a decade of not using it. In that amount of time I couldn’t remember much of anything from the two years of Greek and Latin I studied in college, though I can remember how to say in Sanskrit, “The two elephants smell the perfume.”
I had a semester of French in high school long before all but a few of my classmates were even born. I remember more of that than my college classical studies. It’s either because a conversational language sticks better in your mind or it sticks better when you are young. I’m going with the young theory, especially since I ended the high school semester with a lousy grade in French.