Tuesday, May 01, 2007

La belle demoiselle qui passe...

I can't believe I actually found this.

Three centuries ago, when I was about to enter 7th grade, I had to spend a summer listening to ALM French lesson records on our hi-fi to prepare for taking beginning French. Below are the sentences we had to memorize in perfect pronunciation. (First, say "la demoiselle" about 15 times. Then "la belle demoiselle," ditto. Then "la belle demoiselle qui passe", etc... )

Tu comprends le truc, non? You get the drill? And I mean drill. Evidently these three sentences have all the sounds heard in French, plus all the syntax constructions you'll need for a lifetime of speaking French.

1. La belle demoiselle qui passe là-bas est la voisine de Jeanne à la classe de mathématiques de la capitale.

2. Le jeune monsieur qui travaille à côté est le nouveau professeur de Charlot au cours de littérature espagnole du collège.

3. Le gentil garçon qui prononce bien a un voisin ennuyeux qui bavarde constamment dans une classe de français à Verdun.

Even today I still could recite almost all of nos. one and three by heart, which is how I was able to Google it. Shows what torture will do to the young brain. I think ALM stands for A Long Memory.

And you can imagine how thrilled I was at age 12 to listen to anything other than the Beatles, Herb Alpert, or the soundtrack to The Sound of Music. But somehow something clicked and it eventually didn't seem so difficult. And now, here I am, 99.9% fluent. In Paris.


Unknown said...

THIS is brilliant!!! This is the ONLY thing I can remember from 5 years of french. At least it's the only thing I can remember sober. Get a few glasses of wine in me and I'll parlerai your ears off.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Isn't the memory a weird thing? At least I went on to learn other bits of French (depending on who you talk to!

Wine definitely aids the ancient memory.

Anonymous said...

I learned these in college french. Thirty years later, I still catch myself thinking, "La belle demoiselle . . . ." I'm glad I'm not alone!

Anonymous said...

For someone who taught as an assistant to Pierre Delattre, I can say or vouch that no method has had better success that this one. RosettaStone is a boring method teaching you only vocab until you pack the DVDs for good.
La belle demoiselle was ahead of Chomsky's universal grammar, taking in store all that Krashen wrote ten years later.
I wish someone would re-publish Delattre's work, and that a university would train immersion teachers the way Pierre Delattre would have done if he had not played Tennis at noon in Santa Barbara and leave us, poor assistants, without a mentor. Jean-Pierre de Villers, University of Windsor.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Merci, Jean-Pierre. I agree that it was so helpful,to get an ear for the fluent language, a good accent, and more. La Belle demoiselle helps you be a better sponge for learning French!

Jean-Pierre de Villers said...

Hi! It is me again. If you remember those three sentences, you are technically bilingual! You can answer most questions like" qui passe, qui est belle, qui parle constamment. où est la demoiselle, etc etc , those three sentences can generate a super-list of questions with their answers already embedded in them! Super-prof, Jean-Pierre de Villers. I made a film about them. . . soon on your blog!

GRB said...

I learned 3 similar sentences crafted by Pierre DeLattre in his text used the University of Colorado around 1964.

The first one was: La belle demoiselle qui passe là-bas est la voisine de Jeanne qui habite dans une maison particulière près du Jardin de Luxembourg.

I'm trying to find the other two used at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

I would appreciated help in finding them.

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