Sunday, 12 June 2011

Flying Deer, Riding Bears & Shooting Tigers in Paris!

It goes without saying that as a foreign person moving abroad without considerable efficiency in the native language, you can be certain of some inevitable language barriers.

To say the least I have had my fair share of these moments that make you cringe and go so red that someone could easily cook a million french frogs legs on my face let alone one boiled egg!
So the natural reaction is to glorify the most absurd, comical and embarassing one's on the internet right?

This isn't a blog post.
                  This is a Wall of Fame Shame!

1) It is essential to note: When you first arrive in France and the french people you meet understand that you can speak 'Eeenglish', they will proceed to speak english whilst continuously reverting back to french subconciously. This concludes in a rather daunting soup of languages - especially if you have just arrived, are completely not acclimatised to the french accent and are unaccustomed to the unusal 'franglais' used by the majority of the french population!

One of the best examples I can give of this is an experience of my friend Rachel:
Picture an american politely making conversation with a family friend who says:
"Je vois you like to ride 'ours', Rachelle?"
Rachel by this point is replaying this single sentence in her head, chopping it into bite size pieces & struggling to find the meaning! Not as easy as you may think for the simple reason:
'Ours' is the french word for Bear. And coincidentally it has the same sound as a french man pronouncing the word 'Horse' in english - "Orse"!
So Rachel naturally replies: "No not at all!!"
The french men is terribly perplexed: "Mais, tu as pictures of 'Orses' dans ta chambre, non?"
Rachel rapidly double checks herself and replies: "No, I don't believe there are pictures of bears in my room!"
The french man by this point is smiley widely at the obvious and common foreigner 'faux pas' and marches Rachel into her own bedroom, points at a picture of her riding a horse and says smugly:
"Non, non! Not 'Ours' but 'Orse! Vous savez, 'Clip clop clip clop!'"

My own experience with this combining of languages was with Stephane from my host family here enthousiastically recounting a story:
"'Azel, j'ai un ami who works selling guns - il est fou quoi! Mais, his son at school one day got into trouble because le prof asked tous the children to draw what they had done at school au weekend. Tu peux imaginer the surprise when le prof saw the drawing my friend's son had sketched! He had drawn him and his father, mon ami, shooting tigers in Paris!"

"....Errrr...! That's possible?! In Paris?!"

"Ouais, bien sur 'Azel!"

"But....It's Paris! Where do they hunt the tigers?!"

"Tigers?! Who said anything about tigers?! I said they were shooting TARGETS 'Azel!"

Tigers & Targets. The french pronounciation of Targets sounds very much like the work 'Tigers'. Very different. Not to be confused!
With a doubt my french comprehension has improved dramatically since those early painful days of "I'm sorry, I do beg your pardon, What did you say? And what does that mean?!"

But, even after I have been living in Paris for approaching 3 months (!) today I had yet another language 'faux pas' moment! One that deserves it's place amongst the greats!

My host family proposed to me today:
<< Il y a du vent! On doit aller au sentier près de la rivière avec le cerf-volant 'Azel!>>

I speed translated this sentence word by word:
Cerf = Stag
Volant = Flying  (Present Participe of the verb 'voler')
Hence, my lightning speed french-english translation resulted in this unfortunate translation:
"It's windy! We should go to the path near the river with the flying stag Hazel!"

Justly my response was a little off the target subject:

"You have a flying dear?! ...Is he called Ruldolph?!"
"Vous avez un "cerf volant"?! Son nom est 'Ruldolph'?!?!"


Perhaps a strange conclusion to draw from a remark about the weather!
Sometimes I wander why the parents trust me to look after their children!

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