MR. FAIRFIELD: Okay, everyone: let’s conjugate the verb “to run,” or in French, “run-er.” Present tense…
CLASS: (In unison) Je run. Tu runs. Il run. Nous runons. Vous runez. Ils running.
MR. FAIRFIELD: Close. Very close. Remember that in French, for irregular verbs like “run” or “drive,” the third-person plural is always followed by a question mark, as in “ils running?” or “ils driventing?” Now, what’s the rule for the third-person plurals of regular intransitive verbs? Lukaas?
LUKAAS: Uh… those are cartoon sad faces followed by a question mark?
MR. FAIRFIELD: Right. As in “to arrive”: ils cartoon sad face question mark. Good.
(An exasperated groan rises from the back of the class.)
MR. FAIRFIELD: Copter, do you have a problem?
COPTER: Well, yeah. Why do we have to learn this dumb language? It’s not like anyone actually speaks it or anything.
MR. FAIRFIELD: That’s true. The only evidence we really have of the French language was the collection of manuscripts by 21st century philologist Edward Barrow, recovered during the Second Reconstruction. Luckily each page provided complete translations of various sentences from English to French, and a variety of verb conjugations. This Barrow fellow showed a very real concern that these records be noticed by future generations, as each short manuscript is covered with bold, eye-catching red marks, some pages even bearing the exhortation “PLEASE SEE ME.”
COPTER: Yeah, okay, but so what? Who cares that the French for “bird” is “birde” or “computer” is “computère”?
ONONONO: Yeah. “Bonjour, monsieur est madam. Mon birde likes son computère.” When am I ever going to use that?
MR. FAIRFIELD: Well, I mean, languages are for more than just utility; they’re the lifeblood of cultures. This language is presumably the fruit of thousands of years of development by hundreds of generations, providing a scaffold for the thoughts and experiences of countless individuals. Keeping this language alive and preserving this unique frame of expressivity is not only your duty, but your honor.
(The class grumbles assent.)
MR. FAIRFIELD: Okay. So, let’s get to some translation. “Je wante go avec mes friendes. Ils running? á le question mark ellipsis lazy sketch of a sailboat.”