Free French III

QUÉBEC, Canada
May 31, 2012

It was the teacher's birthday today.

Throughout all those introductory drills we repeated over our initial weeks of class (e.g., "What is your name? What is your address? How old are you?") our grammar instructor Madame G. never once revealed her age. However, she did let the month and date slip in passing conversation earlier in the week. One of my classmates recalled that point yesterday; we students decided to throw our teacher a surprise party in class on her birthday this morning.

We confided our scheme in Madame É., our other and less rigorous instructor. Madame É. is a grad student who immerses us in French language by leading afternoon activities such as memory games, skits, bingo, "I Spy", and treasure hunts throughout the building. She was happy to collude along with us by finding a scratchy YouTube clip of people singing "Joyeux Anniversaire" at the end of yesterday's session.

Madame G. and Madame É.
Blow out Candles
By the time I stepped into class this morning the chalkboard had already been covered in large, elaborate congratulations and designs across its entire length. Everybody signed a birthday card. I contributed the basics: forks, cups, napkins, and paper plates--the latter two items each printed with images of brightly colored balloons. Somebody brought a bouquet of real helium balloons, too. Somebody else contributed soda pop. All of us chipped in together to buy two cakes covered with glazed fruit.

Language Classmates Represent
Philippines, Peru, Iraq, and USA
Before lighting the candles we all attempted a round of "Joyeux Anniversaire" together. That was followed on by separate renderings of the same tune sung in all the mother languages spoken by the students of our class: Arabic, Persian, Romanian, Russian, and Spanish. I was obliged to sing double-duty. Classmates requested that I sing "Happy Birthday" in English as well as 祝你生日快樂 in Chinese.

Even before today's collaborative effort to come together and celebrate it was clear what good energy the group of students in our class shares. Everybody gets along regardless of ability in French. There's frequent laughter throughout the day and a clear ease with the sessions, despite that they run for six hours everyday.

Free French is fun!