They did not teach me zouk in school

It was the end of summer 1991. I’d just arrived in Paris. It was my first time in France, I’d studied French for six years but had never spoken it and so I was unable to even ask for change to make a telephone call to a friend who was putting me up while I looked for accommodation.

I soon realised that everyday spoken French is filled with slang words and expressions they did not teach me in school. I was confused. ‘Je vais au travail en voiture’ often becomes ‘Je vais au boulot en bagnole’ when chatting with friends. You can even play around with words swapping syllables (an argot called ‘verlan‘). It was like cracking a code.

The fact that this Zouk Machine song was playing everywhere did not help. My French was so bad I had not realised it was sung in Antillean Creole! Close enough to make me think it was the language I learnt, yet different enough to make me panic that I’ll never learn French – let alone write a whole dissertation in it by the end of the year!

Enjoy the video. Guaranteed to shower you with warmth and colour on a cold grey day like London today.

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