I’m keeping the agenda loose for this afternoon’s workshop. For one, this is my first meeting with “the group”. For another, I’m told, members of “the group” vary from one session to another. So do their numbers – anywhere from four to twelve participants. Basic language skills (and in what languages)? Variable, comes the illuminating answer.
As a general outline, the two-hour session will involve a basic getting-to-know-you section. On which – depending on the identifiable variables – I’ll tack on something about expressions imagées. For instance, what does a French speaker mean when he or she says: “j’ai des fourmis dans les jambes” or “il a la tête dans les nuages” or “je donne ma langue au chat“? Do you have a similar expression in your language to say I’m restless or he’s daydreaming or I give up, tell me the answer.
Plus: whatever happens for real, in real time. I’m bringing along paper, pens, pencils, crayons and such, and we’ll see what happens when somewhere between four and twelve teen-aged asylum seekers from an assortment of origins sit down for a session they haven’t asked for but must attend or else.
Next week, in another session (90 minutes) I must lead twelve of the same (or other) youngsters through basic training in how you present yourself to a French teacher/potential employer/person in authority in order to exude respect, self-confidence and eagerness of a controlled/enthusiastic kind. Again, the session is mandatory and the group home is – how shall I say – experimenting in the field of occupational programs. Most of the thirty or so residents in the home are still in administrative limbo. I bet they spend more time with their head in the clouds or their eyes glued to their phone than devouring manuals on French grammar or memorizing the dictionary.
Somewhat in limbo myself, story-wise. Must up the ante somehow or the assembled ingredients will not provide a satisfactory finale.
As I write this, I’m looking at photos I did of a nine-year-old boy’s copybook. The boy does better with words when he can draw at the same time. For instance, a drawing to describe what happened (and why he was punished but not the other kid) when a classmate called him the dumbest guy in the whole school. The other kid punched him in his glasses to make his point and our hero swatted him on the head in response… ah! there’s another expression imagée for the group this afternoon: donner une bonne tarte. Which doesn’t mean giving someone a good pie but rather, delivering a vigorous swat with the open hand.
Of what, if any, use any of this will be in fiction? Time in one of its wrinkles may reveal.