Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Learn French With Benjy!

Benjy may have become an accomplished Californian dog, and his mastery of English includes such favorite words as "A treat" and "Fetch!", but let's not forget that he is originally French...
He shares this citizenship with another pooch I adore, the great writer Colette's adorable black Toby-Chien. A passionate lover of nature and animals, Colette always lived with dogs and cats, but it's Toby-Chien who inspired some of her best pages - for instance when she staged him, naive and good-hearted chatting with a wise-cracking cat, Kiki-la-Doucette in Dialogues de Bêtes (Barks And Purrs in English), a book I already mentioned here.
Chiens de Colette, which I'm currently reading, is pretty much an anthology of Colette's writings featuring dogs; it includes many pictures of Colette's precious four-legged companions.

Toby-Chien is a prolix beast whose polished vocabulary reflects Colette's always exquisite, precise and often poignant expression. So beginners should learn a first few words of French with Benjy rather than with Toby. Here is the basis of Benjy's vocab:

La balle The ball
Où est la balle? Where's the ball?
À la maison! (Let's) go home!
À la voiture! (Let's) go to the car!
À la plage! (Let's) go to the beach!
Au lit! (Let's) go to bed!
Non, non, non! No, no, no!
Tais-toi! Be quiet!
Sois sage! Be good!

36 comments:

Beth said...

My youngest son is bilingual - now I'm wondering if our beloved dog was too. I know my son sometimes spoke to Major in French.
There would have been no problem with him understanding either "No!" or "Non!"

If Jane said...

yes it is true...benjy is bilingual...does he understand spanish as well?
oh steevy is bilingual! he is a real montréalais. i mix french and english with him and everyone else speaks to him in french!

apriliniowa said...

I would love to spend a day with Benjy and my high school French dictionary. Colette would be oh so proud. :)

Mary-Laure said...

BETH - it's wonderful that your little boy is bilingual!

IF JANE - I expected no less of Smart Steevy.

APRILINIOWA - and I am sure Benjy would love to spend some time with you, if you brought a ball in addition to a dictionary.

pve design said...

If only Benjy could talk French to me.

Laura said...

And does Benjy say "wuf wuf" or "ouaf ouaf"?

Mary-Laure said...

PVE - you must agree that his eyes speak, in a language everyone can understand...

LAURA - Benjy's bark is universal, no?

Sam said...

It's so sweet to see your fella again - I think the last time we saw him he was living it was in a park in France...I think!! Colette has some lovely photos of herself with pussy cats - I didn't know she was a dog lover too!

Sam said...

Sorry! "living it up (not was)...!"

Mary-Laure said...

SAM - actually Benjy was also recently seen destroying the blinds in my bedroom...
And it's true that Colette also adored cats - her home was filled with kitties she had rescued, given shelter to and loved.

Hila said...

I wish I had a French teacher like Benjy!
My first language was Hebrew and then I heard to learn English pretty quickly. I can understand Arabic and French, but only speak them quite brokenly. I really need to improve. Coming from a family in which most people speak at least three languages as the norm, I am quite behind!

Hila said...

P.S. Tell me EVERTHING about Bright Star. I have never looked forward to seeing a film so much.

Hila said...

whoops, I meant "everything" :)

Mel said...

*hugging the computer screen*
Your dog is so adorable!
-M

Sammi said...

My dog understands some Spanish but he definitely knows more English.. he is very funny trying to have conversations with people, by cocking his head and staring at them

Debra said...

I would expect nothing less of such a well-traveled pup. I was visiting our local shelter recently and was told of a pup that could only understand French!
Apparently this little guy's elderly owner got very ill and couldn't care for him anymore. When I checked back he had been adopted- hopefully quelqu' un qui peut parler francais. I have no idea if that's at all correct...

Marci said...

Mi hijo , que esta junto a mí, ha quedado enamorado de Benjy...hace tiempo que quiere un perro, pero con dos gatos en casa, no se como iria la cosa.
Mi frase favorita es, no no no , jeej.Yo la utilizo mucho cuando se afilan las uñas en las sillas!!y en catalan es igual!! NO

Y que casualidad! estoy a punto de releer un viejo libroque anda por casa, un abiografía de Colette por Herbert Lottman...la conoces??

Así que me ha encantado hoy leerte.

Anonymous said...

Je voudrait prendre le Francais with this cute little teacher!

sealaura said...

Well it does not surprise me that "the oracle" would be a great French teacher. :) Perhaps a visiting lecturer postion is in his future.... let me talk to my chair:)!
Norm and I would love to take a course with him. thanks so much for featuring these delightful books. they are going on my amazon wish list!

Mary-Laure said...

HILA - "Bright Star"... I can't tell you how much this movie touched my heart and my mind. It's just sublime.
It touched me too deeply for me to be able to talk about it, in fact.
I highly recommend the review that came out in the New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/13/movies/13tayl.html?ref=movies

SAMMI - ah yes, isn't it just ADORABLE when they cock their heads!

DEBRA - what you wrote in French was prefect!
I'm happy that French speaking pooch was adopted by someone. It breaks my heart when animals are abandoned.

MARCI - ah, como entiendo a tu hijo! Mi hermana y yo, de niñas, tambien queriamos un perro pero nuestros padres no querian uno para nada!
Dile a tu hijo que Benjy le manda un besito de perro...
La biografia de Colette - no, no la lei pero voy a averiguarla en Amazon porque hace tiempo que quiero leer algo sobre la vida de Colette.

SEALAURA - LOL - I am sure Benjy would promptly become the most sought-after Prof on campus!

Mary-Laure said...

HILA - oops, sorry, I pasted a link to an article about Jane Campion and her movie, but it's not the review.
Here is the review:
http://movies.nytimes.com/2009/09/16/movies/16bright.html?ref=movies

jane said...

love this!

littlebird said...

well his french is better than mine!
but that is nothing to boast about!

Spangler Cummings said...

Dear Benjy: How dear of you to help me learn French. Sois Sage!

Mary-Laure said...

LITTLE BIRD - considering that Benjy was born and bred in France, his own French language skills are nothing to boast about either!

SPANGLER - oh how I wish he would be "sage"... He really has a mind of his own.

Joyce said...

Do you think Benjy could teach me a trick or two? He is adorable! Hugs to you and Benjy. xoxo

Annie said...

How wonderful is this post! Benjy teaching us French! What a smart and adorable dog. xoxo

Mary-Laure said...

JOYCE - Benjy is always willing to demonstrate his tricks. He's a real little ham, he loves having an audience...

ANNIE - yes, he is a little too adorable sometimes: he knows he can get away with anything.

Samantha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
everybodysaysdont said...

I LOVE Colette, my fav writer. I've just finished re-reading "Gigi & the Cat" I'm off to look for Barks And Purrs in English now...I hope you and Benjy have a lovely weekend x

Kwana said...

I love that sweet Benjy. He a talk French to me anytime!

girlichef said...

What a fun post!! Thanks for pointing me here :D

Fifi Flowers said...

These are all perfect for life with my teen & tween boys too...

À la voiture! Tais-toi! Non, non, non... my favorite!

Teen is doing his French lessons RIGHT NOW with his French tutor and I yelled "Sois sage!"

FUN lesson with YOU! Still waiting for your Paris photo!

Mary-Laure said...

FIFI - your comment made me laugh out loud! I hope that your boys are better behaved than my little 4-legged rascal.
Tell your teen that if he needs some help with his homework, Benjy will be happy to oblige.

Fifi Flowers said...

My boys would ADORABLE French lessons with Benjy!

marie-louise said...

Lovely little dog!