Migrant Thoughts … about Language




I wish schools would teach languages “as they are spoken.”

It would have saved me a lot of trouble

and a lot of silence

and confusion.

When I was just a youngling, I started my first stint away from the nest in “Le Midi de la France,” meaning the south of France, and more precisely in the hills behind Alès, some fifty or so miles north of the Camargue and the Rhône delta.

I’ve had several years of French lessons in my Swiss school but none had prepared me to understand the locals. They could have talked Marsian and it would have been all the same. Between the local pronunciation or the regional dialect, I couldn’t understand a word and spent my first few weeks of au-pair-girl in utter silence, always wondering what anyone was talking about or telling me.

The same happened when I had moved to the United States. My English lessons had strictly been Cambridge (the one in England) and my first contacts with the natives were in Oklahoma and Texas.

It could have been on the moon…

for I had NO idea what anyone was saying.

All things foreign language get worse around cashiers, guaranteed. I remember once asking my American husband to “please translate” what the girl at Walmart asked me after I’d asked her to repeat three times already.
He did and she rolled her eyes to heaven…

My verbal interactions with waitresses were so terrible that I learned to just point at the item on the menu for ordering. But even then, I’d be asked things like: did I want my eggs “sunny side up” or “over-easy”? in a garbled-kind-of way.

How is a foreigner supposed to figure these things out?

Why don’t they teach you

>>>  “eggs over-easy” <<<

in the English lessons at school?

Why is there no class that explains local dialects and teaches a basic vocabulary so that one can at least manage to ask for and understand the barest necessities of life?

And – mostly – why are there no interactive menu-screens at every drive-through restaurant allowing foreigners to fully enjoy America’s favorite foods even though they can’t understand the especially distorted language that comes through cheapo intercom?

Yes, foreign language lessons have still a long way to go…






One thought on “Migrant Thoughts … about Language

  1. bexybexybexy says:

    And yet we seem to understand our pets and attempt to understand those we want to love. Back in the day, my new Japanese friend had to take her son to the doctor and filling out the forms together, not knowing each others language was both scary and hilarious. I had the love for them and the time to mime and attempt to understand their mimes back of most strange questions on the form.
    Now I’m attempting to learn French using YouTube. There’s learning the way it is written and some helpful clips on how it really is spoken. A bit like me saying “I’m” instead of “I am”, apparently it’s the same in France:
    “J’we” and not “Je suis”
    Anyways, good morning Monday 26th June and let us see what the day brings here in Wales, UK will bring.

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