Language Fail

I have to admit it, I suck at languages. Not interestingly enough at accents, I do those really well. So well, I often start adopting an accent within five minutes or so of hearing it, and every now and then I’m not even aware I’m doing so. This used to cause all sort of hilarity, especially with my father who had the same mimic-like ability. He was constantly getting into trouble with strangers who thought he was mocking them. So I can handle accents just fine, but languages leave me high and dry and up the creek without a paddle. Which is, when you think about it a silly simile. I mean so you’re up a creek without a paddle. You don’t really need a paddle to float back downstream, now do you? I have no idea where I’m going to go from here with that, so I think I’ll just drop it right here. On the floor. Like a dead and smelly and unlamented rodent.

Anyway, I spent some years in school trying to learn French. Then after school, when we first decided to travel to France, I got some CD’s and tried to brush up on my French. It didn’t work. I thought I was doing pretty respectably, but it turns out I was just fooling myself. I mean I was pretty good with asking where the bidet was and all, but when someone actually replied, my mind locked up, like the Microsoft blue screen of death. I just shut down. I would be standing there and thinking, agonizingly slowly, what was that? Was he speaking French? It sounds a bit like French, but the people speaking French on the CD’s well, they spoke it slow and understandably. This guy is going a mile a minute and waving his hands around and stuff. There was no hand waving in the CD’s. No mention of how fast these people speak, either. I wonder if French people speak faster than other people, or does it just seem that way?

Now Mary, on the other hand, she takes to language like a duck to water. Or a Senator to lobbyist money. Whichever simile rocks your boat. Ok, I’m going to stop that, right now. Anyway, Mary, she learned Italian in school to facilitate her eventual dream trip to Italy. Which she eventually did do, but I was along, so the Dream Trip was peppered with “ooh, pizza!” and “these canals stink pretty bad” and other less Italianate outbursts. So when we got to France, I’m standing there, speechless, trying to figure out what these people are saying, and why they’re waving their hands about in such an alarming manner. And whatever it is they’re saying to me has very little in common with the stuff I heard on my CD’s. Mary on the other hand with her Italian and some French from way back (imagine that learning not one, but two new languages), she listens for around five minutes and she’s soon conversing with the locals, if not in perfectly idiomatic French, language good enough to find out where the bidet is, and as a bonus, an explanation on why we must find it.

All this leads up to the fact that it looks like we’ll be flying off to France, someday soon. I have considered pulling out the French CD’s again, and maybe The Complete Idiot’s Guide to French, but it’s probably a hopeless battle. I’m best off just making sure that I don’t get separated from Mary.  A a matter of fact, I should probably get some cards printed up in French that say, ‘If found, please return to Mary Waring, care of the Hotel d’Orsay’. It’s safer that way.

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