Having had conversations over the last few days about learning disabilities, I’m resurrecting a post from 2012. The original concerned the radio program American Routes, a program produced at Tulane University with host Nick Spitzer who speaks in a delightful combination – bayou drawl with a bit of New Yawk thrown in. Plus he makes an effortless transition  from traditional French to Creole.

One show a few years ago taught me a serious lesson. It was called “Festivals acadiens et creoles.” I understand a VERY little bit of French and speak even less. Both skills diminish with the years. If I listen to the CBC out of Montreal, I can generally figure out the subject matter and most of the details even if the accent is a bit different. Example in English: where we say “about,” they say “aboot.” En français the word chair, pronounced “la chayze,” long “a”  en France, is rendered “la chize” long “i,” in Canada. It sounds odd, but everyone understands.

The French spoken in South Louisiana takes its listeners into a whole different world. During the first song on the Routes show, I caught the words “dansons” and “festival,” but they were in two different stanzas. At least I knew it was a traditional Cajun band (no drums) and not Zydeco (drums). Then I heard “ne pas oubliez (I think) le festival acadien” which is “don’t forget the Acadian Festival.” And of course I got the “Merci beaucoup” at the end.

The next song began, “Tais-toi” – “be quiet” or “shut up,” followed by some reference to “your parents,” and “your arms,” which I’m sure involves a guy sneaking his girlfriend out of her house. I missed everything until the last repetition, “Laissez les bon temps rouler,” which becomes ” ‘sez temps rouler” with a bunch of ooh-la-las in between. “Allons, dansez,” nobody could mistake – let’s dance. But what comes after that, I don’t know. And it really doesn’t matter since ev’body be two steppin’.

Anyway as I was struggling with the French, it occurred to me, this is what it is like for a child (or adult) with a learning disability. She grasps the idea, finally, but by then everyone else has moved along to the next sentence, or paragraph, or subject. Now, I know that with some concentrated effort (and a libretto) I could understand the words to the songs, but I will forever be more understanding and patient with people who can’t do the verbal two-step.

Laissez compréhension rouler.

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