Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How I Have Been Mistaken for a French Speaker

This morning, as I walked into work, I finally got the courage to talk a little more to the security guard at the front of our building that I see everyday. He is a smaller, middle-age man with rough, somewhat drawn skin and a longer, pointed nose. Everyday, he, or I, (whoever happens to be first) say bonjour, and the other responds with the same.

Today, however, I ventured out on a limb with my French, or lack thereof. “Bonjour,” I said when I walked in. “Ça va?” And the rest of the conversation only God and the guard know…because I certainly don’t. As soon as the words, “ça va” came out of my mouth, I was greeted with a reply that I could not comprehend. All I know is I somehow managed in response to what I guess was his question of “I’m fine how are you?” to get out another “ça va,” which in French is both “how are you” and “I am fin,” and after he made another longer comment, I laughed awkwardly. I’m still not sure that was an appropriate response to what he said, but I figured by the tone in his voice it was the best guess at the time. For all I know he could have said, “Haha, you are a stupid American who thinks she can speak French.” In that case, I guess a laugh would still have been an appropriate response, so it’s okay.

Of course, this is not the only time I have been mistaken for a fluent French speaker. Often on the streets someone will come up to me and ask for directions. Most of the time they get the message that I don’t speak from my deer in the headlights look, but normally if that doesn’t work, they quickly figure it out when I open my mouth. Although the other day, I did manage to point someone in the correct direction with the metro station. It was a good thing the only thing I had to do was point in front of my and say “tout droit.”

I would love to be able to speak French, and hopefully, I will be able to soon. But for now, I have to say I somewhat enjoy these slightly awkward moments as I laugh my way through this francophone city.