I will admit, I am a total linguistic geek. I love languages. I love listening to people speak their native tongue, even if I can’t understand a word. I love how learning even a few basic phrases in a language will open doors and beget smiles that don’t happen when I talk to people in English. I am fortunate to live in a very ethnically diverse area. When I pick my children up from school, I can hear upward of ten different languages from other parents waiting to collect their kids.
I envy people who are raised speaking more than one language. I grew up in a mono-linguistic home. I remember being upset as a child that my mother never learned Danish from her father, who died before I could get him to teach me. Over the years, I have studied a number of languages, including French, Spanish, Icelandic, and Russian, and even dabbled in Arabic and Italian for a few years. I’m not fluent in any language (other than English) but I can usually recognize a few words when I hear a language spoken that I have studied. And I am always borrowing “learn to speak…” books from my local library to add flavor to my stories with ethnically diverse characters.
With learning any foreign language, however, comes the inevitable faux-pas. My best slip of the tongue, to date, was when I was living in Paris, trying to improve my French. I stayed with a woman who was on a very strict diet for health reasons. She ate only fish, spinach and rice. But I couldn’t resist the lure of the French bakeries, and once a week I would buy a baguette and some cheese and enjoy. Unfortunately, I can’t eat a whole baguette by myself and my friend once commented that I always threw a quarter of it away each week. I explained, in French, that the problem was that the baker didn’t put any condoms in the bread, so it went hard very fast. She looked puzzled for a moment then burst into laughter. And now you know, the word “préservatif” which I had used, thinking it meant preservatives, actually means condoms. The correct term to use, when referring to food, is “agent de conservation.” I still can’t look at a baguette without thinking of condoms. Especially when they get hard. And now, you probably won’t be able to either. You’re welcome, or should I say, “De rien.”
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ROFL Oh Alexia that is too funny! I’m so very glad my time in Germany involved limited need for the language as I’m sure I’d have found some way to make a similar flub.
Thanks, Rhianna, glad you enjoyed the story. I consider my gaffs as a public service, providing entertainment to the locals.
I snorted and laughed out loud, Alexia!! What a wonderful gaffe! Good thing you weren’t discussing the problem with a tall dark and handsome man at the time… 🙂