The numbers

French numbers cause me anxiety.

1-69 are cake because they’re like numbers in English.  The seventies are harder, because now you have to add numbers to other numbers:  71 is 60 plus 11, 72 is 60 plus 12, and so on.  80 becomes even more tricky, because the number is literally “four twenties” or “quatre-vingts.” If I want to say 87 I have to say four twenties seven or “quatre-vingts sept.”  90 is like 70 and 80 combined:  20 x 4 + 10.   When someone uses numbers in casual conversation I miss the part they’ve said after the numbers because I am calculating in my head.

French phone numbers look like this: 07 45 87 93 65, and are recited as five separate numbers. I can write my phone number down easily because I’ve memorized it. I can also read my phone number off to you if I am looking at it.  However I cannot tell you my phone number if you ask it from me verbally, like if I have to leave it as a message on a voicemail.  You’ll get it eventually, and with a lot of pausing.  In my head, I am seeing the number, translating it from English to French, in some cases adding numbers to each other, and then saying the number out loud.  Magical brain stuffs.  The other day I called up a company to see about lessons during the school year for B., and when no one answered, I realized I was going to have to leave my phone number.  I attempted to think of it in my head before the beep, and I couldn’t, so I just hung up.  Gratefully, caller I.D. and he called me back.

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