And we were doing so well. Long before we had any plans of living in France we were watching French movies with the English subtitles turned on so that we could understand what was being said. That was a compromise since the real reason we were renting these films was for the scenery, be it the Eiffel Tower, Medieval castles, or fields of lavender in full bloom; all were really just inspiration for our next vacation. It’s a challenge, however, to read the dialog and try to take in all of the beautiful landscapes sharing the same screen. Then we moved here with access to 100 TV channels broadcast in French with only a few offering some programs subtitled in English but all having the option of displaying the spoken text on the screen for the deaf or hard of hearing. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em so that became our next step in comprehending what was going on. At least we could match up the words we were hearing with those across the bottom of the screen.
After a year of being here, Bill read the opinion of an online French teacher that it was easy to become dependent upon seeing the words on the TV to the point that you don’t pay attention to what is being said out loud. That seemed logical since our daily encounters with neighbors or shopkeepers never included anyone holding up cardboard signs of what they were saying so off went the subtitles. Our concentration then moved up the screen to the actors’ mouths where we were now trying to match their words with their lips, exactly as we were doing in real life conversations. Hear it, see it, understand it.
That was working well and then along came coronavirus, or more precisely the masks that everyone is now supposed to wear. Apparently they do a great job of keeping Covid-19 from spreading and I can confirm that they are 100% effective in preventing us from reading anyone’s lips. Until we were fairly comfortable with the language, we dreaded getting phone calls since it was impossible to see the face of the caller to get any clues from their expressions about what they were saying or even who they were. Now we’ve been plunged back into a guessing game of sorts but at least we can still see people’s eyes which Bill says always reveals if they are smiling.
You’ve probably seen a chart indicating the best case scenario that if everyone wore a mask there would be essentially no virus transmission; but I like a more reasonable evaluation from the French government, printed below, that uses an arrow on a dial to show the “level of protection” from none up to maximum. Using the government’s recommended website listed below, Bill made masks for us from some of his mom’s leftover quilting fabric. By the way, if you can’t tell in the photo, he’s smiling. After all, we’re healthy and happily living in the south of France!
French government Covid-19 info: https://www.gouvernement.fr/info-coronavirus