Monday, March 17, 2014

Remembering Monsieur Yperman

Yesterday, for some reason, I thought about my old French professor, Monsieur Yperman. I figured he was deceased by now since he was old when I was in school many years ago. On the other hand, I thought, maybe he’s still alive. So I looked him up online and found out that he was indeed gone from this world. It was sad, but not surprising.

I remember he was a funny man. Every day when he would walk into the classroom or when class was over, he would say, “Vive La France!” which was funny in itself because he was from Belgium, not France.

He had white hair and a white beard, sort of like Santa Claus, but he wore a black beret every day. Maybe it was his own joke to wear that beret like a stereotypical Frenchman, but I never saw him without it.

He used to tell funny stories in class. I would laugh at his jokes every time, but my other classmates looked annoyed. I thought that was very rude not to laugh at his jokes. Geez, they could at least indulge the old man.

There was only one guy in the entire classroom of women. M. Yperman would laugh and tell the guy that he was the head of the “poulailler” which is the henhouse. I thought it was funny, even after he told the joke several times.

There was another joke he would say about the word “fesser” which means “to spank.” So, a “professeur” would be like a pro-spanker. I really botched this joke. I’m not good at telling or remember jokes at all, but you get the gist.

My friend Wanda and I would write strange things in French when we had to make up sentences for our assignments. Like, “When the man woke up he was thirsty for blood. He had become a vampire.” But, we didn’t get a reaction from M. Yperman. He never said anything about our weird sentences, even though we tried to make them weirder and funnier. We just made ourselves laugh.

My friend, Jennifer would chew gum in class which he didn’t like, but instead of being angry, he would say, “It’s strange. I can’t hear you. I see your mouth moving, but nothing is coming out of it.”

He used to tell us how he learned English. He would find idiomatic phrases in a book, like “in an instant” and repeat them over and over. That tip really helped me memorize idiomatic expressions. He called them “les idiotismes” like the words idiot+isms because words in idiomatic expressions don’t make any sense on their own.

From the internet, I learned that Monsieur Yperman moved to San Francisco and Wyoming after he retired. I wonder if he had family there. Or did he move there because it was cheaper to live than in California? There was no obituary, so I hope that doesn’t mean he died alone. That’s a sad thought. He was 84 when he died.

Out of all my French professors, he was the one that made learning French the most fun.

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