Friday, October 27, 2006

In English, please

I may be repeating myself, but HEY! It is just my way of proving that I really am getting old.

When we learned that we were going to be transferred to France for a limited time, one of the first things we did was check with M’s college to see if she could get off from school for a semester without any huge problems. M had taken French in high school and could help us with a language the rest of the family was totally helpless with. She came with us and if not fun for her, I’d guess it was at least interesting. She taught me how to say, in French, “I do not speak French.” That is probably the most useless phrase a non- French speaking person can learn. Natives assume that since you said it in French, you must understand French.

There were a few other phrases that were useful. I was in charge and like any boss any where in the world, I was talked and joked about behind my back - and in my case. right in front of me. One day as we were assembling in the conference room for a meeting, the laughter, sly looks in my direction, and general ruckus reached a high pitch. So as the last person in came through the door, I said casually and in French, “Mrs. Herbert, please close the door”. The stunned silence was one of those priceless moments that commercials are written about. Of course, I got quite good at saying, “Stupid American!”, when stopped by a traffic cop. The phrase, “How much?” also came in handy almost daily. I specially appreciated the gas station attendants who would write the amount on their hand with a ball-point pen.

Now I find myself in southern Florida, where English is fast becoming a forgotten language. It confuses the hell out of the Spanish-speaking folks when I say, I don’t speak French, in French.

1 comment:

Archana said...

LOL :-D! Loved your commercial moment!

This reminds me of the time I was in Calcutta - the sports teacher only knew to speak the Bengali language and I did not understand most of it.

Once, along with a friend, I got into trouble with the teacher. She started scolding us in Bengali - I couldn't understand a word and kept grinning at her. That made her madder and she scolded me more and I grinned more and .... so it went :-))!

It is very frustrating though, when you can't understand what people around you are talking!