Friday, 19 January 2007

Bread or Rabbits.

Before coming to live here permanently I had been to Night classes to try and improve my schoolgirl grasp of the French language and thought I was getting on quite well, but the reality was a shock. People here didn't sound anything like my Teacher and spoke at a speed I found amazing and for the most part incomprehensible.

Each morning I would spend an hour on improving my vocabulary and leaning grammar, I watched documentaries on French tele and went each week to Travail Manuel to chat to the ladies but it was slow going.

I had not been here long when I received a visit from an unknown Frenchman speaking French!!!! He said he did Bread deliveries and wanted to know if I would be interested in him calling at the Farm. I explained that I was normally on my own and didn't eat a lot of bread, but he was quite persistant so I asked if he had his van with him but he said no. He said he would come back in a few days and I said that I would think about whether I needed regular deliveries and let him know when he returned.

A few days later he came back and I said that because I was often alone there was no point in him calling as I would very rarely need bread. He then asked if he could have a look at something in the garden, I wasn't sure what he had said!! Now you are probably a little worried for my well-being but this was rural France 15 years ago and I had no worries about being on my own with a stranger. He obviously knew the property and went off to look at some rabbit hutches that had been left behind by the previous owner. It was when he offered to buy the hutches as I didn't intend to breed and sell rabbits for meat that the "centime" finally dropped.

He had not been offering to deliver "le pain" or bread, but wanted to know if there would be any "lapins" or rabbits to collect, which is what he used to do for the previous owner. Somehow I managed to extricate myself from this "faux-pas" and said that we might be producing rabbits at a later date so would not be selling the hutches. He went off seemingly unaware that I thought he was trying to sell me bread.

This was not the last time I would lose the plot but it taught me to be careful in making assumptions and to ask more questions if I wasn't sure. There are also many words that sound like English words but have entirely different meanings. I have worked hard with the language over the past 15 years and have learned a lot but still encounter problems from time to time, usually involving difficult accents or inveterate mumblers.

However I have made progress, people still know that I'm not French but they don't immediately know that I'm English!!!!


liz fenwick said...

It reminds of when I was living in Moscow and a friend thought she had ordered a gin and tonic. She had taken such care with her Russian. You should have seen her face when she was givin a cup of tea!!

Your story will have me smiling all day.

Caroline said...

I found that french tv helped. I can still remember the day when I realised that I was understanding what they were saying. I was shocked!!!

If you want to put links etc onto your blog, then email me (via my blog) and I'll send you an email explaining/with the links.