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.