Life on Tapp with Blaise Tapp: The importance of learning languages

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Like most people with a people carrier and mortgage, my school days are a long way behind me.

For the large part they were enjoyable enough but not so much that I would swap middle aged drudgery for zits and the smell of Lynx and live it all again.

School was fun but academic endeavour and I were never serious bedfellows. If I am being totally honest, we weren’t even occasional acquaintances, given that my motto in the classroom was ‘the bare minimum will do’.

And it did do me just fine on the whole: I passed all those exams considered to be essential and found myself in my chosen career before the sun had set on week long hangovers and my teenage years.

And that is where I left my school years - in the dim and distant past, with barely a second thought given to stale smelling blazers and the rudamentaries of Judaism or other syllabyses that haven’t really proved a great deal of use to me since.

But there are the very few occasions when I look back on those days with more than a hint of regret, sometimes wishing that I had paid a little more attention than I did.

In fact, that is how I am feeling right now, as I sit here nibbling on a rock hard piece of this morning’s baguette while enjoying the view from our mobile home of the opposite side of the Channel. But it is times like these that my shortcomings as a student are truly exposed as I blunder my way through the glorious Normandy countryside trying to order lunch without being laughed at.

My main problem is that French classes and I were totally incompatible, largely due to the fact that I was extremely fond of playing Le Goat.

I think it was probably because these were lessons where I could really put my acting skills to the test - I got an A in drama. My raison d’etre was to make my chums laugh and I achieved that by adopting the most ridiculous accent possible - think Arthur Bostrom in ‘Allo ‘Allo.

I cared not a jot about how to ask for a ripe pineapple or what number bus went to Rouen.

Oh how I regret the folly of youth right now.

I would love to be able to walk into a patisserie without making a right pomme tart of myself but I am paying for those rash decisions taken in a soulless modern languages studio some 25 years ago.

Sure, I have the basics but I am told my version of merci sounds more like the Scouse river.

There have been some small successes: I managed to buy an extra large pair of the obligatory French budgie smugglers by waving my hands about and shouting loudly and slowly.

I also perfectly understood the shop worker when he quipped that perhaps I should stop eating, then maybe finding a pair to fit me would not be such a problem.

This past week or so has reinforced the importance of teaching our kids languages, especially as our nine-year-old is struggling to cope with how her European playmates all seem to at least have a good grasp of English.

She starts French lessons when she returns to class next month and I hope that she pays more attention than her dad ever did.