“Your French is magnificent.”
It was an old shopkeeper who spoke to me as I walked to the till to make my purchase. He was initially very quiet as I made my way through his small hidden shop nestled anonymously on a street not frequented by tourists. His clothing and handcrafts were beautiful; and, he remained very quiet when I told him of how beautiful they were. This is why I was surprised when he spoke of my French.
I replied right away, “Thank you. And, thank you for not laughing at me. French speakers generally don’t acknowledge my bad Acadien.”
“I know it’s Acadien,” was his matter of fact response.
I was shocked and didn’t know what to say; I couldn’t believe that someone who spoke perfect French on another continent could know of a little known regional dialect from the Maritimes. He paused for a moment to wrap up the necklace I’d bought for La Niña.
“It was Acadien and Quebecois speakers who liberated Belgium.”
And there was the shock again; and, chills danced up and down my spine when I realized the profoundness of what he’d just said. There was an instant connection between his family and my great-uncles who spoke of whole villages of Belgian people cheering Canadian troops as they worked their way through the country in 1944.
“A lot of Canadians died during the liberation,” was all I could think of to say… not the wittiest response.
He handed me the package and at the same time gave me a magnificent smile as he looked over his half moon glasses.
“And, that is why your French is magnificent.”