Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Speaking French

As you all know... when you go to Paris, it is imperative that you go there with a working knowledge of at least 5 phrases in French.  Before our first trip, I bought the CD's and practiced in my car.  I knew how to say the basics, tell the weather (incase anyone asked) and could count to 100.  Yes, I had French in the palm of my hand.

The reality hit me like a ton of bricks once I stepped onto French soil.  I felt like a fake... anytime I opened my mouth, I knew they knew that I wasn't one of "them"... still, somehow, whenever I tried, I got a smile.  

I've heard the French are rude my entire life.  I did not find this to be true at all.  As long as I played by the rules and spoke French, things were fabulous.  I expected Scott to feel the same way, and jump right in and try... but there is one huge, colossal difference between he and I.  I am perfectly willing to jump in with both feet and make a fool of myself, if needed.  Scott does not in any way feel the need or desire to jump into ANYTHING, until he's sure he will not embarrass himself.  So... I did ALL the talking on that first trip...all the ordering... all the question asking... everything.  I was annoyed at first, but adjusted quickly.  Necessity was my motivation.

I had also heard that French people will not talk to you, or answer you on the street.  I read they are actually shy, not rude, and most of them are just as uncomfortable speaking English, as we are French... and bonus, we usually massacre the pronunciation, so most times, they honestly don't know what we are trying to say.

Once (well, one time of many) we were hopelessly lost... I got up my nerve, and walked right up to a frenchman on the street.  I said (in French) with my best Texas accent... "So sorry to bother you, but could you tell me where Rue Cler is?"  I knew I was saying it correctly... I practiced it in my mind over and over before I said it.  The reaction?  He stared at me... blankly!  I was not to be deterred... I repeated the question THREE times!  Finally, a light seemed to go off in his head, he smiled ever so slightly, and pointed to the street sign on the side of the building.  WE WERE STANDING ON RUE CLER!!!  

It was so worth it... we saw this man walking up and down the street, greeting every single shop keeper.  I couldn't help it... I walked right up to him, and asked if I could take a picture with him.  

He began telling us his life story, in French, and even pulled papers out of his pocket, showing when he arrived in France from Italy, 50 years ago.  When he finally took a breath, he realized we didn't understand.  He said, "No French??? No Italian???"  When I shook my head he said, "Hello....goodbye."  Cute!

Now for the greatest thing that happened on trip one.  By day two we were both hopelessly in love with Paris, and by day 8, we were the two saddest people you've ever seen, loading up in the taxi to head to the airport.  Scott had watched me all week, muddle through.  He finally decided to give French a go.  The taxi pulled up to CDG, and the driver unloaded our bags.  Scott paid the fare, and as the driver was getting back in his car, Scott said rather loudly, while waving, "Bonjour, bonjour!"  The driver gave him a blank stare, and half waved back.  I held my laughter... until we got inside.  I looked at Scott and said, "Bonjour means hello... au revoir means goodbye."  Scott looked a little deflated... and then we had a good laugh together.

Such great memories...


Erin said...

I loved this post!!! I had heard all the same stories you had before we went to Paris---that Parisians were rude, stand-offish and would NOT appreciate us (as Americans.) Jason and I found the exact opposite to be true! We found that they enjoyed our ATTEMPTS to speak French--and that many of the times we received blank stares were actually because we were a) butchering our words or b)asking something that made no sense :)

It's so nice reading blogs from others who love the city as much me! I cannot wait to return :)

A Tale of Two Cities said...

What a treat this blog was. No matter how much French you know before you go, you never feel quite adequate. especially with our Texas flair for pronunciation. Sounds like the little French man was a charmer....


High Heeled Life said...

Oh reading your post today.. I'm reminded of our trip to Paris last spring ... and I agree the French are sweethearts and very helpful (if you make sense in your speaking to them) ... Mr. G is much like Scott, he won't try something unless he is positive it will not cause him to seem silly. This is one area I'm happy has become even stronger for me (post accident) ~ jumping in both feet ...xo HHL

myletterstoemily said...

ha ha! what a great story! reminds me of
the beatles song, "you say goodby, i say

i found the french people to be delightful,
as long as we tried to follow their rules.
i pray you have many, many more paris

Cathi said...

I had a French phrase app on my IPhone when we went to Paris last summer, and had alot of the phrases memorized and informed my other half, Alex to do the same. The minute they heard anything out of our mouths they spoke to us in English...haha...The people were VERY NICE to us as well. We had a great time and hopefully we will go back one day!! Great story, Teri!! xxoo :)

char said...

Love this post. Knowing Scott makes it so real. He is so lucky to have you,
I have never found people in any country rude. I was even told New Yorkers were rude. Not True!
I think it's all in how we treat them. If we leave or demanding, lightening fast expectations at home we will love the French and maybe learn to slow down and enjoy life.

Meagan said...

This post reminds me of how much dad and I are alike. I love the picture of you and that man. I think it's my favorite one from all of your trips.

Girl Meets Paris said...

Yes and your dad are exactly alike in this area...Wes is somewhere in the middle...and Lexi is exactly like me! LOL.
Oh...and Scott reminded me last night, that the time he finally tried to speak French to the taxi driver was trip 2. I knew it sounded a little too brave for him to do that first year!
I am also laughing remembering the time you had that experience in France at Epcot trying to order your food...hilarious!

Parisienne Farmgirl said...

Ok, Those were funny stories. Made me laugh - in between perfume squirts! Thank you again!
How 'you been girl???


Mya said...

Wonderful memories - I hope you have kept or are keeping a journal of your Paris experiences, expecially the ones that you have not put into your blog.

I have not traveled overseas but just going to Mexico I felt completely at a lost - even when so many of the Mexicans spoke some English. Many years ago my aunt, who lived in Mexico City and taught Spanish thought she would encourage me and a friend to try speaking Spanish, so we were left in a town outside of Mexico City to spend a couple of days having to get around the best we could.
She knew that many of the people who worked at the hotel and the restaurants and the bus station could speak enough English to help us, but my friend and I had no idea. I am sure we gave everyone many laughs as we asked questions, while flipping madly through our phrase books. Scott, I understand.

The Flying Bee said...

Such a funny story. I am so enjoying your Paris stories again! I can't wait until my hubby and I can go one day.


Anonymous said...

Cute story Teri....keep 'em coming. Your recounts of your Paris experiences are wonderful, I truly want to check it out because of your enthusiasm and love for the city and it's people. Loved the part about when Scott finally jumped in and spoke french. Way to go Scott!
PS. hope all is well and Scott is doing great. ;)k

Jenny said...

How did I miss this. Teri you have a wonderful way with reminicsing. I feel carried along too. Yay for Scott for trying...has he tried more since? I wonder. I think the French, more especially Parisians roll with the tourists and, yes, laugh/chuckle at us all too. Love to you and Scott.

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