Friday, July 22, 2016

When in Rome . . . (or anywhere they don't speak English)

I would love to learn to speak French. Such a beautiful, romantic language.


In fact, before my trip to France, I took an adult ed class called “French for Travelers.”  
I got pretty good at saying Bonjour Madame and that was about it 
although I felt intimidated every time I said that.


The French, though, are most appreciative when we Americans at least try 
to speak their language and are gracious when we mess it up.


I’m re-reading one of my favorite books about living in France called “I’ll Never Be French.”
If you haven’t read it, it’s hysterical. One of the best parts is when the author, Mark Greenside, 
is desperately asking a French person where they bought their baguette.


“Ou est lapin?” he asks, thinking he has mastered “Where is the bread?”
 Finally, he realizes he has actually asked: “Where is the bunny?”

I laugh out loud every time I read this. 

Maybe it’s because it reminds me of traveling through the Alps. 
Here's a funny story about language challenges. 
We were in our bright yellow VW Beetle with our large German Shepherd Dog 
who we had brought to Austria with us for a two-year job assignment.


Having figured out the whole zimmer frei business (it's not a free room just waiting for you; 
it's a room available for you to pay for), we parked in front of a charming Alpine house and addressed the owner with what we thought was: “We have a dog in the car. Okay?” 
This was accompanied by lots of hand movements meaning can we bring him inside. 

I remember the look of confusion on the poor man’s face. 
Turns out our “Wir haben einen hund im auto,” was actually “Wir haben einen huhn im auto.” 
"We have a chicken in the car, okay?”

The man didn't laugh but I think I saw him hide a smile.

My point is making the effort to speak the native language is never easy or really comfortable 
but it is appreciated by the locals and funny later when you tell the story to your friends.


Bon chance!


27 comments:

  1. I think we've all made silly mistakes and made ourselves look like idiots, I know I certainly have, many times! But you are so right, the French really do appreciate our efforts to speak their language. I still make mistakes and my children who are fluent, of course, correct me time and time again. I also try very hard to speak French with a French accent, again my children help me, they are forever correcting my accent, it is not good enough for them that I speak French, I have to speak it with a correct French accent too. This has resulted recently in nearly every French person I speak to commenting on my accent - they always say I speak French with just a touch of a foreign accent which they find (for some bizarre reason) utterly charming! I'll take it as a compliment though!!!

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    1. Merci! Your children are so lucky to be bilingual and to have the experience of living in another country. We don't think of ourselves as having accents but I'm sure yours sounds very charming to the French ear. We just do our best and hope they can understand.

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  2. Cute and funny. Love your photos and the story.

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  3. Hola, me llamo Dolores, soy española y he aterrizado en tu blog por medio de otro de USA que en este momento no recuerdo. Me gusta mucho como escribes y lo que escribes, es realmente simpático y me hace reir, cosa que aprecio mucho.
    Yo no se inglés, así que te entiendo perfectamente tu caso. En francés me defiendo aceptable porque lo estudié en el colegio y además tiene la misma raíz latina y nos resulta fácil.
    Te felicito por el humor y lo bien que lo relatas.
    Con afecto

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  4. I had the same experience in Paris and Bruxelles, attempting to speak French usually was met with gracious assistance. I can find a place, order a meal, ask the cost and count money, and find a bathroom. All useful things. But I can only converse in the present tense - trying to tell a cab driver that I saw Notre Dame yesterday, and didn't need to go today was next to impossible as I couldn't remember the word for 'yesterday' LOL!!

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    1. So funny Carole. At least you could speak in the present tense which is more than I can do. I can always fall back on "Do you have a pencil?" Such useful things they teach in these classes!

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    2. Love it!. As a French teacher, I laugh out loud every time my brother-in-law confidently pronounces his favourite French phrase...'Où eat mon petit chien?' (where is my little dog). Nearly as useful as asking for a pencil !

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  5. They do appreciate when we try as bad as we may be at a language. Paris was the best trip of my life!

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  6. One of the great pleasures of travel is the number of wonderful stories one comes home with!

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    1. Definitely! Do you have any exciting travel plans coming up? I'm waiting for the world to settle down a little.

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  7. Pat,
    What a great post and how funny about your chicken. LOL, this is a must place for me to visit. Thank you for sharing at Dishing it and Digging it link party. We enjoy having

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    1. Thank you Vanessa, so glad you enjoyed my story.

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  8. Ha,Ha so funny I can imagine the face of the guy with the chicken in the car. Lol

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    1. I'm sure I've made a whole lot more grammatical mistakes in other languages that people were too polite to point out. Thanks for visiting.

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  9. I want to learn more about this zimmer frie, and was that adorable little building the room that was available <3

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    1. Hi Dara. Actually, the photo of the little building was a garden shed but I've seen zimmer frie that look a lot like this. Thanks for stopping by to read my post.

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  10. I've never been to France or Rome but would love to go. I can just imagine what it's like to have such a language barrier. You'd just have to laugh!

    Thank you so much for sharing at Thoughts of Home on Thursday. We are glad to have your talent here. :)

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    1. Thank you Stacey. Laughter usually gets you out of a tight spot in any language!

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  11. One of my first jobs right out of college was working in a doctors' office. I got patients ready for x-rays and I was so proud of myself when I learned to say, "please take off your clothes from the waist up/waist down/all your clothes", etc. in Spanish. People would always smile at me and giggle. I finally was told that I was saying "let me take your clothes off!"

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    1. Oh no! One of my most memorable mistakes was when I was talking with a friend about childbirth (as you do). I, incorrectly, used a reflexive verb, which meant that I ended up giving birth to myself. Mmm

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  12. I agree, I think the French are very appreciative whenever Americans try to speak their language. We spent a week in Paris and loved every minute; I'd love to go back some day. Thanks so much for bringing back some sweet memories, Pat. So glad you linked your post up at Vintage Charm :)

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    1. Thanks for visiting Diana. Let me know when you want to go back to Paris!

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  13. Thank you for sharing at Home Sweet Home!

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