Wednesday, 30 July 2008
Je Suis Inadequate
This morning I took our dirty washing along to a local launderette having decided that the indignity of washing clothes in a shower cap in the sink was getting too much. Now, after a month in New York I am more than au fait with the workings of a laundromat - change machine, washing powder machine, put coins in slot and away you go. Unfortunately here in Luxembourg I managed to pick a 'service wash' type of launderette, along the lines of the one Pauline & Dot ran in EastEnders. So, there I was looking around in a vague fashion for the change machine and desparately trying to work out what to do when a young boy of about 14 approached me and started talking. Clearly my blank expression led him to the conclusion that I didn't have the foggiest what he was saying. So he tried 'Francais?", to which I mumbled in response "Un petit" while holding my thumb and index finger a millimeter apart to help demonstrate exactly how 'petit' this was. And then he said 'English?', to which I gratefully answered 'Yes!' and he proceeded to explain exactly what I needed to do and how the process worked in perfect English. I don't doubt that if I had shaken my head to 'English', he would have been able to speak to me fluently in German or Italian, such is the level of multi-lingualism (is that a word?) over here on the Continent which constantly puts us to shame. I studied French for 5 years at school and even managed to get an A in my GCSE (don't know how, must have been a lenient marker who looked at my paper and listened to my oral exam cassette) and yet put me in any situation where I'm expected to say anything more advanced than 'Je voudrais un baguette' and it all goes terribly, horribly, embarrassingly wrong. Hubby announced that we should take French classes but I'm sure that anything we learn will go in one brain cell and out the other. Is there any hope for us?