How is it that Quebec-educated Kamala Harris could go to Paris and not be able to speak French?

After I wrote my Kamala Harris shopping-spree piece here, deriding Harris's rude refusal to speak French to the locals at a fancy cookware shop in Paris, AT editor Thomas Lifson pointed out something important: 

Kamala Harris actually ought to be able to speak French.

Here's how she did:

Turns out she was educated during her four high school years in Montreal, Canada, where her mother worked as a cancer researcher during the late 1970s, early 1980s. Montreal is Canada's top French-speaking city. In 1977, approximately just when she arrived, a law was passed in Quebec requiring the use of the French language. Apparently, there were a lot of Kamalas around who weren't doing it. Despite that law, she still doesn't seem to have picked up any French.

Here's Wikipedia:

When she was twelve, Harris and her sister moved with their mother to MontrealQuebec, where Shyamala had accepted a research and teaching position at the McGill University-affiliated Jewish General Hospital.[30] Harris attended a French-speaking primary school, Notre-Dame-des-Neiges,[31] then F.A.C.E. School,[32] and finally Westmount High School[b] in Westmount, Quebec, graduating in 1981.

Here's a press account from the Toronto Star of her own claims to speaking French dating from her campaign:

Asked via email how her Westmount years influenced her, Harris expressed no particular fondness for Montreal, Quebec or Canada.

“While my sister Maya and I made great friends and even learned some French, we were happy to return home to California,” she said through a spokesperson.

Which like everything else she says about herself, seems to be an exaggeration. "Some" French, for her, is apparently three words.

As best we can tell from this video above of her shopping in a French cookware store, speaking a lot of English loudly, she then speaks to a French shop clerk in the background an observed total of three French words, one of which is "oui." The rest of her conversation with him is in English and the clerk struggles to understand it. She couldn't help him out?

If she was educated for four years in Montreal and at a pair of nice high schools, at least one of which was French-speaking, how is it she didn't know enough French to get through that simple transaction that anyone working with a tourist-oriented app such as DuoLingo would be able to get through? She could have hidden the ignorance with translators, but no, she bulled on through in English, which is kind of obnoxious, given that she was in a foreign country and polite people always try to converse with the locals in the local language. French is far from the hardest one to learn, too.

Yet she didn't learn it. Now, to be fair, it's true that if one doesn't practice one's language, it's likely one will get very rusty if not forget a lot of it. But a four-year immersion is going to be forgotten a lot less quickly than a learned course or a short trip to a foreign country. She should have been able to get by on a basic tourist-French transaction.

What we have here is someone with an opportunity of a lifetime to learn another language in the best immersion-style who didn't bother to even try to learn it while she could. Now she goes to Paris and can't speak a thing. Worse still her French was basically a Pepe Le Pew French accent in English since she never mastered the actual French language, which is especially obnoxious. 

No wonder the French reportedly ignored her visit for the most part. She should have been able to speak basic French on that trip, and that was too much for her. It comports with her lousy academic record and her climb to the top through winning the favors of powerful men.

This person was representing the United States of America abroad? Color us who've tried to learn foreign languages just a little disgusted. And color all Americans pretty embarrassed.

Image: Screen shot from Vandernold Productions/C-SPAN video, via YouTube

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