Wednesday, 18 November 2009

C'est vrai! You're rude.

I started learning Italian last year when I had planned to vacation in Venice. Plans changed and my eventual 2008 belated vacation was an English-speaking one, but even then, as the old saying goes "Some people just don't understand English." This is true in daily life cause clearly what I say and what others hear are completely different. Like when I say yesterday, "This is needed urgently", the other person hears "It's not urgent. You can idle all day and have me wait for it until I ask for the thousandth time."

But I digress. I wanted to know enough Italian to get by and not make a fool of myself and also to be polite and not looked at with derision.

A couple people in the past few months asked me for some tips for their Parisien vacations, and I always tell them, Please please please, try to speak the people's language, if even a little.

The French are known to be a bit snobby, though in my experience, it was not necessarily so. But hear me out. If English speakers came to your French-speaking city and expected and demanded you speak English, which may not even be your second language, but maybe your third or fourth, you would not be a little annoyed as well? I mean, I think the Americans are the worst with this, because the world revolves around the land mass that is the USA. One American on a tour even remarked that the place was so "European", as if it were expected to be more American perhaps. But seriously, I don't blame the French for being a little uppity when someone comes into a cafe or a shop and goes "English? You speak English?" I find it a bit rude and people don't think about how this may come across. It is disrespectful and I would not blame anyone who pretended their perfectly good English were nonexistent in response to this rudeness.

I read in my guidebooks and found for myself, that when you attempted to speak French, often failing miserably, they made the effort to be polite and speak in English. The people can be extremely personable (they were to me). I went up to them and spoke to them in French, albeit not so good French, and recognising my shortcomings, they helped me out in English. It's a win-win. They say communication is two-way and indeed it is. But many people always want it their way or no way. I did not meet many people in Paris who did not speak English, but if they look at YOU with a blank stare and say "Non. Ne parles pas anglais", then ask yourself, "Is it me" and then say "Oui. C'est moi."

It's the same way Trinis, notoriously rapid speakers, know to slow it down when speaking to non-Trinis, and though we laugh at tourists trying to pronounce words like "macco", "farse", "lime" and "jammette" (yes!), we appreciate them trying, don't we? This is not that much different. So my advice to anyone heading to a foreign locale for vacation is, learn some basics and help yourself and respect others.

  • Hello/Goodbye
  • Good Morning/afternoon/evening/night
  • My (language) is not that good. Can you help me? Do you speak English?
  • Please/Thank You
  • Where are the hot boys?

Essentials I tell you. Essentials! In the meantime, December 2009 will likely be a stay at home vacation where English is spoken or nothing is said at all. My Italian lessons will resume in 2010 as I hopefully prepare for Rome. Ciao!


I love your writing syle Avi and my French people! Bonne journée!

And for the guys, I'll add these "Where are the hot girls?" "Is that a strip club around the corner?" "Does that drink come in a size larger than a pint?" "No No No, public RESTroom?"

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