When you move to another country where the language is something other than the one you grew up with, communication takes center stage. We’ve lived here for a year and we are far from fluent in French despite continued classes, studying, audio files, reading, and daily contact with everyone who speaks it without effort…that is, everyone except each other. If we lived in a true total immersion situation, by now we’d be fully understanding news reports on the radio, TV sitcoms with all of their slang expressions, films with rapid fire dialog, and those dreaded phone calls from utility companies, delivery services, and even telemarketers. Outside our house we’re in a French world so we do our best with the “language of Moliere” but safely back inside with the front door shut it’s more about Mark Twain, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and David Sedaris (!).
Years ago when we went to Germany to learn the “language of Goethe” we actually did try to avoid speaking to each other in English. That lasted for less than two days when we ended up just pointing, shrugging shoulders, and grimacing, kind of like we do now when we can’t get our point across with a vendor at the market. Luckily we’ve discovered a means of communication that everyone seems to understand and Carcassonne does an outstanding job of promoting it.
For four weeks every summer the city holds a massive music festival in venues all over town that attracts hundreds of thousands to hear national artists and international stars including Elton John, Sting, and last year’s headliner, Pharrell Williams. While those 100+ concerts in July highlight musicians with huge followings, one of the theaters is used for 3 months in the winter to spotlight local talent. The building includes a sound studio that is made available to these groups who wish to record their performances. Every weekend we can attend concerts that include rock, pop, hip-hop, folk, traditional French songs, and acoustic guitar, to name a few. Last week we listened to a jazz quartet. By the way, the tickets for this winter music series are free.
Like many cities in France, Carcassonne has a Deputy Mayor for Cultural Affairs who ensures that the public has ready access to museums, art galleries, concerts, exhibitions, and other cultural events. I just saw a chart that compares funding for the arts in various countries around the world. France allocates about 1.3 percent of its national budget to the arts and this year will increase that amount to the largest figure in the country’s history. For reference, that chart says the US spent 0.13 percent of its budget on the arts during that same period. We’re off now to a gallery opening that’s also featuring wines from a local vineyard. All part of that universal language.