Saturday, October 6, 2012

Could You Speak French? I Can't Understand Your English.

I have had the privilege of hanging out in Orange Beach all week with Beverly Jo Scott, Sirius Plan and the Belgian film crew that has been filming a documentary about BJ.

I've known BJ for years. I have hung out with Sirius Plan for most of their visit, And I did interviews with the film crew (well i knew Francoise and Virginie. the guys were new to me. But very nice) during my visit to Belgium earlier this year. So I was basically hanging out all week with my good friends and colleagues. It was great.

In addition to being super nice people, all the folks I talked about above speak French (not surprising since it is their native tongue).

For those of you that don't know I love the French language and enjoy any opportunity to practice. This week provided ample opportunity for that.

I must say Thank you to all my new French teachers for their patience. Im sure it was annoying but they were all so nice and helped me.

But as I hacked my way through French all week, I was reminded of a funny trip from my past.

In 2005 Dale Drinkard Jr , Jay Hines and myself went to France and Italy. During our trip there we had a couple of long train rides.

This train ride was from Florence to Rome. We find our compartment. It is a small room with 3 seats on one wall facing 3 seats on the other wall.

These other 3 seats were filled by the time we arrived.

Upon getting situated we struck up a conversation. After a little engagement we realize that the 3 men are Italian. One speaks English very well, the other two speak Italian only. So its obvious that the bilingual guy will be our Rosetta Stone.

After a little conversation we realize he also speaks French.
As I said above I take any opportunity to try (wretchedly) to speak French. So I began speaking horrible French with the "translator". His face lights up.

He says I can understand when he speaks (pointing at Dale)

He says I can understand when he speaks (pointing at Jay)

But I can't understand unless you speak French.

This made me feel great and bad simultaneously.

On the one hand my French must be ok enough for him to understand because he is insisting I speak only in French for the remainder of the trip. This is a big pat on the back. My French must be better than I thought (NOTE: my French is highly rusty at this point but during the 2005 trip I had practiced a lot and brushed up on a lot of vocabulary and grammar. So it was much better then than it is now. Hopefully my hanging with my Belgian friends in America and in Europe will help me get better at speaking French)


But on the other hand , the Italian man was letting me know that I mumble and under enunciate English so badly that he couldn't understand me. Hahaha wow.

He had unknowingly insulted and complimented me. But since the purpose of language is really just communicating , he was actually trying to facilitate the transferring of information. Which is the goal.

It just made me laugh.

I had been focusing so hard on using the correct words with the correct pronunciation in another language that I lost focus on my own language.

We had an enjoyable trip with the Italians. I wish I had recorded the trip though. It would have been strange to listen to I believe.

Italian from the Italian only speakers to the "Rosetta Stone" guy
English to us.
English from Jay and Dale back to Rosetta Stone guy
French from me back to him.

Repeat for about 2-3 hours.


That trip always pops in my mind when other languages are flying around me (as they were this week). I Unfortunately have let my French slip but I plan to fix that situation and be more proficient by the time I return to Europe.

Luckily my next trip overseas is to Australia. I'm pretty sure I'll be able to understand them. Of course the Italian train scene reminds me that I may want to work on my English before I leave so they can understand me. Hahaha

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