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June 30, 2010

Conversations from my French class, translated for your entertainment

I started taking a once-weekly intermediate French class last week in hopes of improving my dastardly speaking skills. It turns out "intermediate" can mean anything from a 15-year-old who just finished her first year of high school French, to her father, who had one year of high-school French 30 years ago, to a guy who lived in Quebec for 10 years, to a charming 20-something who has a BA in the language and is looking to dust off her skills before going to France for a year. Oh, wait. That's me!

For the past two Mondays, I have been paired with a fellow I'll call "Guy" for our designated conversation practice time. I think Guy took a few years of Spanish way back when, and he feels like those language skills were immediately applicable to French. That would at least explain why he pronounces the "s" in "dans" and pronounces the "e" at the end of words like "banane" as "ay" (/buh-NAHN-ay/).

This week we had to devise our own situations where one person is a salesperson and the other is a customer. I did my best to translate literally, for your maximum enjoyment. Our exchange went a little like this:

Guy: Hello, ma'am. What do you desire?
Me: I desire a hat for my dog.
Guy: A what?
Me: A hat for my dog, so he doesn't gain a sunburn.
Guy: Sunburn? What is this?
Me: It is when the sun makes the skin blush.
Guy: Oh. OK. We have a hat on the third floor.
Me: Where is it made? I do not support hats that are not made in France.
Guy: There is a factory in England.
Me: Oh. Can I wash this hat at my house or do I need to bring it to a dry cleaner?
Guy: A dry cleaner? What is this?
Me: The place where the professional men wash clothes.
Guy: Shampoo?
Me: No. It is a store. It is a store where people take the clothes that are delicate and say goodbye to the brown things. They wash it very gently.
Guy: I do not understand.
Me: When you wear a tuxedo, you can not wash the earth off it at your house. You must take it to a dry cleaner.
Guy: (blank stare)
Me: Um. I buy it. Thank you. Goodbye.
Guy: Goodbye, ma'am.

Next we were in a restaurant, where I decided to try being funny. I'm not sure why, since I've learned time and again that my humor doesn't translate.

Guy: Hello m'am. Welcome to the restaurant. What would you desire?
Me: I desire a sandwich.
Guy: Which meat do you desire?
Me: I desire a sandwich of pigeons.
Guy: Pigeons? I do not understand.
Me: It is a bird. It is similar to a dove. It is gray. It is a rat that flies.
Guy: Dove? I do not understand.
Me: The dove symbolizes peace. It is white.
Guy: Oh. OK. But pigeon?
Me: It is almost the same word in English. (Enunciating really hard and jutting neck forward) Peed-zjon.
Guy: Oh. Oh! This is bizarre. We do not have pigeons.
Me: I saw some on the street. You could kill them for me.
Guy: In five minutes, I do this.What would you like to drink?
Me: I would like the juice of socks.
Guy: Socks? What is this?
Me: It is the clothing you put on before you put on the shoe.
Guy: (blank stare)
Me: (Pointing at other students) Those people are wearing socks. We are not wearing socks.
Guy: (blank stare)
Me: (Pantomiming putting a sock on) One puts it on the feet. It can be made with the hair of a sheep.
Guy: Oh. Oh! This is bizarre.
Me: Yes. I have desires that are bizarre.
Guy: Good appetite!

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