I fear it may be. He’s been here nearly 20 years. Sometimes I can’t tell if it’s fading or if I’m just not hearing it any more out of familiarity. Occasionally, one of my American friends will look to me to “translate” for him and scoff at my concerns that his accent has flown back to France. But for every one of those moments, there’s another where a stranger won’t know that he’s French.
It’s a huge bummer. I love French accents. I find them sexy, charming. Say anything tossed with a French accent and the world is instantly tinged with excitement and adventure. Even if the speaker’s grammar is horrible and they are talking about something boring, like cars or lawn care, I still bask in the sound of it all.
When I tell people my husband is French, often they don’t realize I mean that he’s actually from France. “You mean French French? Like from France?” Yeah. The real kind. Not the way I’m “Irish” just because my hair is red and my skin gets pink after 20 seconds in the sun. Americans love to say they are “Italian” or “Irish” or “Mexican,” even though sometimes those roots are so far back that there’s nothing Italian, Irish, or Mexican about them. I get it. We’re all, on some level, searching for our identity. To ground us, connect us.
My husband is really from France. He came across the pond with only a basic grasp of our language. Now, he’s way too good at it. Seriously. The guy almost never trips over grammar issues or spelling, and he often corrects my mistakes. I knew I was marrying a smart man, but I didn’t think it meant that his accent would fade. Not cool.
Most of our French friends aren’t bicultural couples, so the language spoken in their homes is French. Meaning their English is good enough to get through the workday, but not something they’re using all the time. Thus, their accents remain thick and distinctly French. We speak mainly English in our home. My husband’s accent does get stronger when he’s around other French people and/or when he’s drinking. Keeping him drunk all the time isn’t an option, nor is spending every waking moment with the in-laws. So for now, when he asks me, “Am I saying this right?” I just smile and nod, and I don’t tell him the truth. Because that accent is so irresistible.