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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Seeking a Common Language

People sometimes ask me what is the hardest part about living in Paris.
You might be surprised at my response.
It is communicating with non-French people.
Picture this: two people who speak French as a second language try to have a conversation
"How is your here I try to find the word for the thing that your legs are attached to at the top of your legs but below your waist" (Yes I meant hip)
"Vous avez le truc pour nettoyer la uses circling motion with both hands?" (She was very surprised when I showed her the toilet brush. She wanted to mop the floor. I am so glad we cleared that one up!)
"What is the word in English for" (Yes that is just what we need, the insertion of another language we do not have in common. That will surely help this conversation!"
It can be quite funny at times, very frustrating at others. I think at the end of the day everyone appreciates understanding and being understood. If it takes considerable work to make that happen, we should perhaps be grateful.
But hey, I am no Buddha. 


  1. Your answer did surprise me. But, I’m sure this is a frequent issue for you.

    I communicate (I use the word loosely) with artists daily (mostly Italian and French). Many speak very good English, many none at all, and I do not have the language gene. However, visually we speak a common language and are able to understand what each other is doing and saying in their painting. We can look at a painting, pick out 2 or 3 words from the description, and make simple statements with the aid of Google translator like beautiful, powerful, and thank you. Sometimes we get adventurous and construct a sentence. But when I’m trying to follow two or three artists in a rather “heady” conversation commenting in multiple languages some words or concepts just do not translate. I can look at the painting and want to jump in, but know that the Google translation will not be accurate - especially when dealing with colloquialisms.

    I am reminded of an Indian friend I worked with that must have heard someone use the phrase; “I’ll keep an eye out for it.” In a later conversation with me she said, “I’ll take my eye out for it.”

    1. I have so many funny examples, but I imagine some of the funniest are from my own mouth.

  2. At least you have French. Think about me. Only actions work! :)


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