As we celebrate le Mois de la Francophonie, Alliance Française de Jackson members share why they chose French or encourage others to study the language. Today, Margaret Webb shares her story.
When I was a young girl, my granddaddy sometimes sang little songs to me, but I didn’t understand the words. He told me I could not understand them because they were French words. He said he learned these songs when he was a soldier in France during World War I. I started thinking that I liked the sound of those French songs, so I created my own, with my own made-up words, and told my friends I was singing French. Years later I moved up a step and went around the house singing, “C’est si bon!” over and over.
In 1966 I went to Mississippi College, starting out as a music major. I had taken Latin for two years in high school, but never studied any other language. Music was really my thing. I had to study a language as an elective at MC, so I chose French. After one semester, I was so in love with the French language that I changed my major from music to French. In 1970 I graduated from MC with a major in French and English and a minor in Spanish. Then followed a very short career as a French and English teacher in the Jackson Public Schools. I only lasted three years. In 1973, my husband and I took our first trip to France. It was also my first experience trying to understand and be understood by native French speakers. It was painful at times, but I still loved the language and determined that I would improve my skills.
The Alliance Française de Jackson has been instrumental in helping me improve my French. Every time I go to France, I am a bit more comfortable with the language. Thank you, Alliance Française Friends, for helping me improve my language skills and for increasing my knowledge of French culture.
My maiden name is Mathis. My daddy always told me that we were Scots-Irish, Recently, just for fun, I looked up the history of the Mathis name and discovered that its earliest use was in France, a version of Matthieu. Maybe I’m French and don’t know it.
Photo: Margaret in Annecy