The Art of Conversation

My live-in pupil went home yesterday and I’m not sure who was more relieved – Quentin or me.

It’s not that he was any trouble to have around. He stayed in bed until almost lunchtime, refused anything to eat or drink for a ‘belated breakfast’  and, apart from  two sessions of English each day, spent most of his time playing Nintendo on the spare television or amusing himself on the computer.

In the evenings he prefered to cook his own meal of pasta and then went back to his games or watched a film on his ipod.

The only time we spent ‘en famille’ was at lunchtime, when I kind of insisted that we all eat together. Attempts to instigate a conversation were difficult, partly because his level of English wasn’t up to it and partly because no-one else in the household seemed prepared to make an effort.

It’s not easy to ascertain whether Quentin was bored or shy but he seemed very keen to disappear into his world of virtual games and often needed a gentle prod to come and ‘do some English’.

His parents had wanted him to go and stay with a family in England while they went on holiday to Honfleur, so I get the impression that this was his ‘punishment’ for refusing.

Anyway, two  daily ‘lessons’ of about an hour were enough for both of us as concentration lagged. I discovered that his routine at home during the holidays wasn’t much different from his life with us. He would stay in his room watching films until lunchtime then play Nintendo or ‘Chat’ online for most of the day. He might go out with his mates or play tennis though.

His parents were very grateful to us for taking him on but I fear their hopes that he would make up for two years of failed English at school in less than two weeks were rather optimistic.

The most depressing part of this last fortnight is that it suddenly struck me how little we, as a family, talk to each other.

Chez-nous, the art of conversation is in danger of dying.

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6 Responses to “The Art of Conversation”

  1. BearNaked Says:

    I think it was not your fault that Quentin did not learn much English in the two weeks (too short a time frame in my opinion) that he was your guest.
    It sounds like he wasn’t very keen about the whole thing to begin with and probably figured in his own mind that nothing you did was going to be correct.
    Bravo for you for taking this responsibility on.
    And please don’t be too hard on yourself.
    Many people would not have agreed to do it.

    ps Thanks for the vote of confidence for my entry into the “Synchronized Sittin” event.
    I have had quite a few good laughs today about some of the comments on Bob T’s blog.
    And that is what it is all about–having a fun time with blog friends around the world.

    Bear((( )))

    You’re right. Quentin wasn’t at all keen, but, at least, he was reasonably polite. There was no-one he could relate to in our household to have a ‘meaningful’ chat about teenage ‘stuff’ so he must have felt terribly isolated.
    Hope you win the ‘Sittin’ competition. Your Bear pictures are wonderful!

  2. Keith Says:

    I think that attitude by the younger generation is now pretty well general all over the Europe. They demand respect from you, but don’t respect you in return.
    I have a young grand-nephew (13) who takes his Playstation with him everywhere and just ignores everybody and plays with it. When he’s at home he just watches TV, or plays on the computer. If you speak to him he just grunts or ignores you. How he understands the computer beats me, because he cannot read or write properly! His speech isn’t much better either; I can’t understand half of what he says.
    His parents just can’t be bothered with him, they spend all their spare time down the local pub and very often go home drunk!

    It sounds as though your nephew doesn’t get much support at home then!
    At least Quentin’s parents want him to do well and are making an effort to ‘push’ him but at 17 that’s not easy as peer pressure is far stronger than parental influence.

  3. lilalia Says:

    Whereas Quentin’s behaviour might not be uncommon, there are a lot of young people out there who are curious, communicative, and creative. Obviously, you can not instill a need to communicate into someone who is staying with you for two weeks. It is something that has to be done at home. If his parents send him away as a punishment of sorts, even if it is only indirectly, I can well imagine Quentin’s motivation to be charming and communicative as being null. Well, you did make an effort and that is really all that you could do. It is a shame that it wasn’t more fun for you.

    I’d like to think that Quentin could make intelligent conversation in French if he wanted to. . . .

  4. Little old me Says:

    well you gave it a go

    Yes, I tried!

  5. bretonne Says:

    I’m dying to know, what financial arrangements did you make, if any?

    Well, I thought of a small sum to cover food but didn’t get a chance to mention it because his parents embarrassed me by leaving far too much – plus a present and a plant!

  6. Hal Says:

    Many adults I know are not good with conversation. They don’t seem to enjoy discussion unless it is mundane, superficial and worthless. I wonder if this grows out of youngsters such as Quentin?

    If youngsters don’t grow up in a household where people discuss a variety of interesting topics I suppose they are not going to enjoy the art of conversation.
    However, although I know that the members of our family are quite capable of having a lively discussion it rarely happens.

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