To Put One's Foot in Their Mouth

Trip Start Sep 26, 2011
Trip End May 06, 2012

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Flag of France  , Rhône-Alpes,
Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My French isn't perfect, it is far from perfect. I am horrible at conjugating verbs and I constantly can't keep track of who I'm using "tu" form with and who I'm using "vous" form with. Not to mention, it's impossible to memorize which nouns are "feminine" and which nouns are "masculine". Therefore, when I talk in French I tend to make mistakes...a lot of mistakes. I'm not embarrassed by making mistakes, it's the only way you learn. However, that all changes when you make a pretty big mistake in front of a whole class room of students. 

It was "review" day in my CM2 class or 10 year olds, and I decided to create a "Jeopardy" review game on the black board for my students. All of the questions were based on vocabulary and just asked the students to translate French words into English. One of the categories was "Pets" and for 100 points I asked my students "What is 'une chat' en anglais?". One of my students quickly responded with a loud "QUOOI?" The French teacher at the rear of the classroom immediately asked the student "What are you thinking of? She asked 'what is a cat in English'. The cat is female!" At this point, all the children are laughing at the student and the teacher looks at me with a sly smile and shakes her head. Completely unaware of what was so funny, I continued the lesson and then left the classroom for my preparation period. 

As soon as I got to the teacher's room, I texted a friend asking what the difference was between "un chat" and "une chat" (so the difference between using the feminine and masculine article of 'cat'). He told me that "un chat" is the correct form of the word, but one can you the "une" article to reference a female cat. In addition, "une chatte" which is pronounced very similar to "une chat" is a slang word for "pussy" or "vagina". Let's just say, that 10 year old student of mine probably thought I asked "What is 'a vagina' en anglais?" instead of a cat. And that French teacher probably knew what her student was thinking and responded to him sarcastically. And for me, I am completely mortified that I said "vagina" in front of a bunch of primary students. 

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