Once a week I am subjected to a routine humiliation.
I enter the office and am greeted with a familiar nod by the receptionist.
I say, “J’ai un rendez-vous avec Monsieur Roure.”
“Avec qui?” he leans forward, a smile dancing around the corners of his mouth. I think he enjoys this – we’ve been performing this ritual for two months now.
“Monsieur Roure,” I repeat, the two French ‘r’s putting strain on my mouth so that it’s a challenge to get the required volume for the vowels.
“Roure, R-O-U-R-E,” I spell in French.
“Ah, Roure,” the receptionist says with a satisfied smile. As he calls my student, I slink to one of the seats to wait.
I have accepted that there are some words I’ll never be able to say in French. Neuilly always gives me strife, which is rather embarrassing, considering that I live in Neuilly sur Seine.
And this student’s name has reawakened me to the difficulties of the French ‘r’. Generally I do it quite well, but there are some words where I just can’t manage it. Roure, for example. Roi is one I’ve struggled with since high-school – followed by this vowel sound, my ‘r’ often sounds more like a ‘w’.
Admittedly, the other day I found myself struggling to say ‘rural’ to a student . . . so maybe I struggle with ‘r’s in general.