As many of you know already from my last anecdotal blog post, I, Sam Burke, know very little about the French language. This past week has been basically a sit-com called “Watch Sam Struggle Ordering Anything!” However, I am definitely getting the hang of certain phrases that have to do with ordering food. I recently learned the magic words “Je voudrais…” meaning, “Can/May I have…” Ever since then, I’ve gone full broken record, starting pretty much every single thing I say to the employees with that phrase. I’ve also been eating a lot of pig lately as the word for pork in French is the same as English but with a “c” instead of a “k.” On Thursday, when I finally got the courage and fake accent to go out for the first time and ask the cafeteria worker if I could, in fact, have the pork, it ended up not being pork at all, but rather beef. Still, they understood me, handed me a lump of beef, and for that, I am quite proud of myself. I wouldn’t say I am fluent, but I do feel confident enough to order pork that may or may not be pork!
It definitely seems like most of my interaction with the French language has been centered around food. I’m just a hungry American trying to climb over the – quite formidable – language barrier so I can get a bite to eat. I feel successful, yet highly incompetent when I go out shopping and say only three words to the cashier while checking out: “Bonjour,” “Carte” (a.k.a. credit card), and “Merci.” Oh well, I’m learning, and at least I got my food.
Despite how intimidating the French language can be, especially when the group of people I go out with never seems to include any French speakers, I’ve found that there are always people there who are willing to try to help. For one, even those who don’t speak English will gesture and make hand motions to try and help you understand what they are trying to say. But also, a lot of French citizens speak quite good English, and many of these people are willing to meet you halfway (or 3/4 in my case) when they see you struggling with the language.
Just this last weekend, I was with my friend at the train station bus stop trying to figure out how to get home in a way that didn’t involve waiting for an hour for a bus to come. As we were talking and trying to make sense of the bus map, a middle-aged French gentleman must have overheard us and chimed in to our conversation, explaining (in perfect English) exactly what line we needed to take and where to get off. He even helped us identify the stop as it was approaching so we could signal the driver to stop. Little acts of kindness like that go a long way, and have definitely helped to shape my impression of France as an incredibly hospitable and gracious country, and inspire me to try to pay it forward, so to speak, and help any visitors to America I may encounter if the opportunity presents itself.
I now leave you with the ever-so-interesting segment, ‘French Word Of The Week’!
Habit (noun): clothing, outfit Example in a Frenglish conversation- Joel: “Hey, that’s a nice habit!” Sam: *Dressed to the nines and biting his nails* “Is that supposed to be sarcastic?” Note from the editor: The French don't pronounce the letter "H" as we do in English, so it will probably sound more like you coughed on the first letter, and they don't say the last letter generally, so it'd be pronounced more like - "abee."