Football: First course on French menus for those who eat and sleep football

France 98 will lure a number of innocents abroad but help is at hand, writes Phil Shaw
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HELP is at hand for any Midlands football supporter bound for France 98 who may have thought croque monsieur was an injured player, bete noire a brassy barmaid or crime passionel something to be savoured between the main course and coffee.

Language schools used to guarantee French without tears. Bilston Community College, which yesterday launched a pre-World Cup course entitled Ici mon fils, sur ma tete (or as Steve Bull would put it: "On me 'ed son") in conjunction with Wolverhampton Wanderers, promises French with a Black Country accent.

Starting next month, the college is to hold "a fans' survival course" at Molineux. The seven 90-minute classes are aimed at both the fortunate few with tickets and those who may be watching the finals in cafes or bars while holidaying in France.

Some of the first to enrol attended a mock lesson at Wolves to publicise the project. For the benefit of Central TV's cameras they asked the kind of questions which they envisaged arising next summer. "If you get fed up eating frogs' legs," said one middle-aged gentleman, "how can you ask for bacon and grey peas?"

While minds boggled and stomachs rumbled at the thought of this local delicacy, a woman highlighted her priority: "How do I order 20 pints of lager?" Another man mischievously sought the translation for "Have you got any roast lamb?" while the head of a family kitted out in Derby County colours came straight to the point: "How do I shout: `Are you blind, ref?' "

The classes will put the emphasis on what the tutor behind the idea, Mike Arthur, describes as "fun learning". The nearest anyone will come to the old-fashioned chanting of verbs will be to learn the Euro 96 anthem line by line, although "Trois lions sur une chemise" may have trouble catching on.

Of more practical use should be the sessions on how to work out the nuances of a restaurant menu; how to ask for directions and advice on routes (remembering that the French, with infuriating lack of consideration, drive on the wrong side of the road); and how to change currency or find a room for six.

There will also be a class on how to cope with what Arthur terms "the get-out-of-that scenario", such as your car breaking down in a remote village, or being thrown in jail. When dealing with doctors, dentists, policemen and paternity lawyers, he suggests that it might be inadvisable to rely on the theory that "everyone speaks English these days".

As well as developing oral skills, the course is designed to enhance the appreciation of cultural differences. A representative of Lens, the club on whose ground England play Colombia, will give the run-down on his city, and there will also be a one-off session on French cuisine.

Which brings us back to the 64,000-franc question. Just how do you order bacon and grey peas? The answer turns out to be: "Jambon frit et petits pois gris, s'il vous plait". However, asking for it might be to risk undermining that popular French drink, the entente cordiale.