Oh right, Americans

So I’m sitting with a bunch of Americans right now, and I’m not talking about expats. I mean the real deal – Americans in the middle of Paris thinking how charming the city is but how happy they are to be going back to the States soon.

You know, the ones who wear pajamas in public, passport holders around their necks, and drink cheap alcohol. They carry too much in their hands, talk loudly, and think English is more universal than it is.

They are the type of people that the French loathe, but they’re familiar folk and I’m smiling just the same.

My First French Argument

I just got back from trying to close my accounts at BNP Paribas, a huge French bank that doesn’t seem to know how to deal with non-Frenchies. My biggest problem with them is the language issue – my banker seems to have forgotten that my command of the French language is only four months old, and has talked to me like a child from what I can pick out of her garbled colloquial French.

At one point I had two employees trying to talk to me at the same time, which I finally interrupted and suggested that written interaction be easier for us all. I was flustered at this point, but apparently my adrenaline got my brain in French mode, and I was churning out appropriate conjugations for stern phrases.

I want to say that I don’t understand how people can be so dim when it comes to dealing with non-native speakers of any language, but I’ve seen it all too often in the States. Americans and French alike think that the whole world should speak a single language, but unfortunately, they don’t agree on which one!

As for me, the expatriate, please tolerate my beginner’s French, and be ready to explain yourself when I don’t understand. I really don’t want to have to get angry again.

It’s a Bilingual Thing

I was listening to my daily French podcasts and thought this was a funny commentary on the relationship between the French and English languages. Transcript below:

Allez la note du jour, ben justement (something here) MEDEF (something more here).

Ouais. Huit sur vingt toujours à Madame Laurence Parisot la president du MEDEF parce que cette année encore et bien l’assemblée generale des patrons se tient sur un thème qui est libellé en anglais. Alors, l’année dernière, en 2008 c’était “Go for benchmarking!” et bien en 2009 c’est “Ready for the future!” Alors, moi, je lui dis, “making business doesn’t always mean speaking English, et… so speak French, please, Mrs. Parisot!”

Vous êtes superbement bilingue, e… Christian rappelle que dans MEDEF, le F, ça veut dire “France,” ah?


Okay, thanks Richard. See you tomorrow.

A good week in Paris

I’m just coming off a great week in Paris, though I’m ready to be going home.

My lab sent me to an intensive LSF class for the week to kick-start my learning of the local language. It was very fun and I got to interact with normal deaf people (sorry, deaf linguists don’t count, just as hearing linguists don’t) for the first time since I’ve arrived in France. Hopefully, I’ll also be able to take a class in Rennes to keep myself in the habit of using LSF. Church was good fun as usual, and hanging out with friends from Paris during the week was a nice break from the packed weekends I’m used to.

Crystal and Ally (Alli? sorry) were in town as well, so I had a good set of American friends to test out the restaurants around Saint-Michel with during the evenings. They did a whirlwind tour of all the museums, and I hope they had a moment or two to enjoy the beautiful parts of Paris before taking off for London.

My only disappointment with the trip came in the form of two Asian women who moved into my hostel room on the last day. I tried to grab an afternoon nap, but they walked in talking quite loudly and actually made a point to wake me up to ask which beds were open (as if it wasn’t obvious). For those of you who know me just after having woken up, I’m not too happy until I’ve had a little coffee in my system – the same held true that afternoon.

But going back to my own bed in my own apartment will be quite fun. I’m looking forward to the vacations next week and getting our project off the ground and bringing in subjects to share LSF with us. Until next time!