The brain does strange things when you’re learning a new language…at least mine does and I’ve now learnt that the Dear One’s does as well.
When he was in South Africa, he spoke Afrikaans quite well. When I was in South Africa, I could speak a smattering of Zulu and a little Afrikaans …and here is the strange thing…
When you’re faced with a situation such as standing in the queue at the Pharmacy (in France you always queue in the Pharmacy, you don’t just help yourself and go to a teller at the door!) and you want to ask for something because you have a sore throat or the beginnings of a cold, an amazing thing takes place in your brain. It’s searching so hard for a foreign word that any foreign word will do and long forgotten school vocabulary in Afrikaans or even Zulu spring to mind and get stuck there as the only word available.
I have a deep seated knowledge of Zulu words that I never knew existed in the “little grey cells” as Hercule Proirot would say and the Dear One can’t believe how much his Afrikaans has improved. So now not only are you faced with trying to find a French word, you have to stand there and bravely fight off any other foreign language words that pop into your head out of almost schizophrenic desperation…Zulu voices, Afrikaans voices, English voices and not a French word in site and after you’ve grappled with the problem, for ten minutes of standing in the queue, you step up to the counter, open your mouth and say in your very best French
“Je veux le comprime pour…” and as you search for words on what tablets you are wanting, the assistant says in perfect English,
“Would you rather explain in English?”
And the relief is such that you feel like leaning across and giving her a hug, sore throat, muzzy head and all!
But there comes a time when you really need to have your ducks in a row and say something or write and email and it NEEDS to be in some semblance of French and at that point, Google Translate is invaluable. Many an Estate problem has been discussed between the Beloved and Samuel and solved with Google (a word understood by English and French alike). It works surprisingly well and when I had to write a letter to the Prefecture (local government offices) I sent the letter off to a French friend to check; he came back with only one minor alteration.
Having said that, it can also create a bit of a problem… as we learnt recently. The Dear One needed to tell a recently made friend that we couldn’t attend a meeting as he had flu. He started with Google Translate and said he had a cold…it was translated as “froi” which means cold as opposed to hot which implied that he really was cold and needed to put on a coat or jersey…so logically, that wouldn’t work. So he tried to say he had flu, thinking that “flu” would be a sort of international word.
Off went the email with the sentence,
“I’m not very well, I’m in bed with a bad case of flu and we’ll see you next week.”
An answer came back almost immediately which was also translated into English in Google Translate and it said,
“Oh no! Are you alright? Were you badly hurt in the accident?”
Puzzled, the Beloved re-read his email with new eyes and realization dawned…
A flue is a chimney, and basically, he wasn’t very well and was in bed due to a problem with a chimney!
Samuel set us straight. Having a cold or flu means you have a “rhume”…
“J’ai le rhume”…I have a cold, as simple as that!
Most people learn French by starting with some of the tourist basics and before long they can order coffee, ask where the hotel is, get directions to the Louvre and get some well-deserved wine. They then progress from there with the post office, clothing, the bank and perhaps the doctor.
We have progressed strangely. Being quite isolated before, when we were in Brittany, we also started with the tourist basics but instead of gently going forward in a logical order, we have had a “baptism of fire” as it were and launched into French words for tractor, wheelbarrow, cement, plaster board, hydraulic fluid, sulpher, clutch cables, mud, wellington boots, wood borer, copper plumbing pipes and electric sockets.
How I wish I had paid more attention to my single years’ worth of school French when I was fourteen….
On a different note, the forest and Chateau gardens have patches of the most beautiful snowdrops and the daffodils are now sporting buds which look like they’ll be opening in the next week or two. We’ve discovered umpteen dozen rabbit burrows in the old wood pile and a few of these furry people have started to bound around the garden much to Tass’ delight.
Samuel still joins us for morning coffee before work and now we meet again for afternoon tea together with the plumber, a dear fatherly looking man who looks like a garden gnome and who also patiently helps us learn “une mot per jour”…one word a day. He has calmly moved pipes, cut out old pipes and got everything ready to install a bathroom in the bedroom upstairs. But for now, the downstairs loo has been taken out and stands proudly in the entrance area, complete with loo roll causing great hilarity and comments as it waits to be reinstalled with new piping. We reckon another five weeks and we should have a new home with a French Green front door and hanging baskets filled with flowers. It’s that thought that’s keeping me going…and trying to figure out how to fit all our furniture into a Hansel and Gretel cottage. If I could shrink some of our furniture like I’ve shrunk some of our clothes over the years I would be a happy person
A la prochain and thank you for voting for Footpath to France, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it – and all the comments of how much you enjoy reading it as well as your thoughts and views. You’re all so precious and are adding to the journey making the rocky bits easy and the smooth bits more exciting. If you have friends that you think would like to join us, please invite them along, the more the merrier.
Thanks to you all!