So here’s something I’ve learned about living in a foreign language, context is king. Lots of understanding comes from gestures and facial expressions. I didn’t realize how much I’ve been getting by with full scale theatrical productions of English phrases. Of course all this goes away when you’re on the phone.
My lovely husband Neil, who speaks Spanish, French and a bit of Italian (what a show-off), has always told me that he has great difficulty speaking foreign languages on the phone which I never understood. Either you parlez-vous or you don’t. I put it down to my better two-third’s fundamental weirdness when it comes to phone finesse.
Here’s a perfect example: He answers the phone. I wildly gesticulate to him how unavailable I am at the moment which involves me mouthing “I’m in the shower” or a rapid sweeping of my hand back and forth across my throat which, as everyone knows, means ‘I’m not here’. Neil says “sorry hold on a minute, Bobbi’s trying to tell me something.” I politely say hello as my shoe goes sailing toward his head and he looks confused. Every single time.
Well it looks like a feed of crow is on my menu tonight as I just got off the phone with a receptionist at a dentist’s office here in France and it was a narrow escape to be sure. The good news is I’ve reached my target heart rate for the day and lost a couple of pounds in sweat. The bad news is I have a whole new language challenge.
What a drama. Recent claims about my French progress were clearly exaggerated. I’d rehearsed everything I needed to say but forgot that someone would be responding to me. Every time she spoke it was a stream of gobbledygook. But it takes more than that to keep a good Newfie down. See, being made fun of by snotty mainlanders your whole life eventually pays off. I just kept right on going through all her sighs and audible eye rolls with no concern at all for her disdain much like any Newfie would behave at an Air Canada check-in counter.
Anyway at the end of the day I’m the big winner and she can kiss my lily white arse. I have developed an empathic understanding of my husband’s phone difficulties plus I have a dental appointment at the end of May or a date with a dental hygienist named Celeste for Saturday night, either way not too shabby.
What’s your latest triumph over the world?
Bobbi French is a regular contributor at Gypsy Girls Guide