Sunday, 14 July 2013

J'em Appelle Tony.

I don't know about anybody else but whenever I go to a country where English is not the first language it takes me a few days to acclimatise.
Things that I do without thinking in my own country like shopping for groceries suddenly become fraught with the peril of looking like an idiot in front of a shop full of disapproving locals.

I was in France last week and before I went I learned a few key phrases so I could go into shops, restaurants and bars and ask for things in French rather than just waving my arms around and speaking English in an increasingly loud voice.

The drawback in learning things parrot fashion is that the person I am speaking to will reply in French, leaving me standing in a cloud of awkward silence as I try to process what to me was just a noise.
Then I usually point at my object of desire and say 'One of them, please' in English.

At least I tried. I was in a restaurant in Deauville next to a party of Americans who ordered everything in English and had no trouble at all in making themselves understood, the only French word they used was 'Merci' but they were charming with it.

By the end of the week I was fully acclimatised and sitting outside pavement cafes ordering red wine in French with a Yorkshire accent and eating cheese that smelt like a men's locker room.  Surrounded by stylishly dressed French people who all smoked and drank wine and Ricard in the middle of a working day.

And if I didn't understand the waiter's response and thing's get a bit tense then I had an emergency back up phrase:
'Desole. Je ne parle pas bien la Francais. Parlez-vous l'anglais'?

Sorry. I don't speak much French. Do you speak English'?

Always good to have something to fall back on instead of shrugging and looking blank.


Poster said...

Yeah, most of the french know english, but for some reason they choose not to speak it

Pat Hatt said...

haha I knew the last phrase and to ask to go to the bathroom, other than that pointing will do.

Katsidhe said...

It drives me mad to not be able to understand the native language because I'm a control freak like that. Which meant I've done crash courses in several languages. =P I think in most countries, they appreciate that you at least try but will accommodate you with English if they can.

Vapid Vixen said...

I'm pretty sure this is the first time in history Americans abroad have been described as charming.

Amy said...

My aunt once married someone from Switzerland, and when his family came over to visit, we had to speak Spanish in order to communicate. Then when I was in Thailand there were a lot of folks from other countries on my team, and it seemed they all knew some English, some Spanish and a few of them also knew Italian and French. Me being an ignorant "gringo" from America, I am hoping that if I ever get in that situation, my Spanish will get me through.

YeamieWaffles said...

This post really made me laugh Tony. I've never really been in a country with citizens that speak a separate language apart from Spain so I can't relate completely but I would be exactly the same ca'va bien.

Adam said...

I've never had to deal with language issues in a foriegn country. Though I hope to visit Japan one day. Did learn a lot of Japanese and I am still learning, but it is tough.

Janie Junebug said...

The Hurricane speaks French so well that French people will actually talk to her instead of looking at her as if she's an idiot. I'm very jealous. My French accent is terrible.


Francis Lee said...

It does help to know a little but the French will always be......French!

SkippyMom said...

I admire and applaud anyone who travels to a foreign country and attempts to learn the language. Even if it is a few phrases, it isn't the locals job to speak our language.

Nicely done Tony. I know if I went anywhere that was English or Spanish speaking I would have to know how to say "Where is the bathroom" and "How do I return to my hotel?" giggle

Hugs my friend. Sounds like a lovely time. xo

Baiba said...

I learned just some phrases about myself. But since I'm no longer 18, I can't even tell how old I am in French, lol.

But I think it's always good to learn some important basics when you go abroad.

Dana said...

I've never been to another country, but I would like to travel one day. Thanks for the tip. :)

altadenahiker said...

Gosh, I love cheese that smells like gym socks. I really do.

Al Penwasser said...

As you can imagine, I've had my share of English problems when the Navy took me here and there. Surprisingly, I had no such difficulty when I visited London. Interestingly, the people in Iceland speak English (it's a required subject in school. As well as Danish. The language, not the pastry). Whenever I mangled an Icelandic phrase, the person to whom I was speaking said, "Just forget about it. We'll speak in English."
The old joke:
What do you call a person who speaks three languages?
What do you call a person who speaks two languages?
What do you call a person who speaks one language?
An American
By the way, I think the secret, besides speaking loudly, is to speak with a French accent. Works at EPCOT.

EC Stilson said...

That sounds like so much fun. And I know what you mean--it reminds me of our recent trip to Mexico :)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

This is something I've very familiar with. Except when I was in Finland, people thought I was an Estonia refugee due to my poor Finnish skills. LOL

Kianwi said...

I visited a friend in France and while I was with her, all was well, as she was fluent. But when it was time for me to go home, I had to take a train from where she lived to Paris, and then get on the subway to the airport. I was terrified, since I spoke no French and had heard rumors that French people didn't take kindly to foreigners who didn't speak French. Turned out to be not true, because everyone was very helpful to me and I amazingly found my way to my plane to go home :)