I'm not your bitch, don't hang your shit on me.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?

Whether being sung by LaBelle, or a quartet of whorish-looking 20-somethings, those lyrics are understood by everyone, even if they are in French.

Unfortunately, not many people know more words or phrases in that language. Sure, they can say Bonjour, or S'il vous plait, in badly-accented English, but it doesn't mean they know what they're saying.

And, as a reminder, the term french fries doesn't count.

With Canada being a bi-lingual (or multi-lingual, depending on where you live) country, I am fortunate enough to know both official languages. Spoken and written. Many years of schooling has prepared me for badly-dubbed, foreign films and the occasional back-handed comment about my hair and clothes.

This knowledge is both a gift and a curse, depending on personal perspective. Personally, I am on the fence.

Being employed in an environment where no one speaks French (let alone, a modicum of English), you're the one who has to deal with the francophone population. Fine. No problem. Glad to be of service. Only these French people happen to work for the media.

Just like the anglophone media, the francophone media can be either friendly because you want to speak specifically to them, or pissy because you're bothering them at the most inopportune time - which is, apparently, always.

There is a particular method that I employ when doing my calls. Some media outlets are very particular on how you approach them; Francophone outlets, especially. It's a provincial thing.

"Est-ce qu'il y a un person qui peut m'assister en anglais?" Always start in their language to respect their cultural heritage.

"Mais oui. 'Ow can I 'elp you…?"

On a subjective level, I see their point of view. If someone phones me, and speaks in their native tongue, I feel like it's my duty to bow to their culture. Customs. They called me, not the other way around. Thankfully, I am able to respond (in several languages) - Steven, the human Berlitz course.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about my co-workers. They would not know how to handle the language barriers in London... Ontario.

While I am on the other line, the phone rings, and someone else picks it up. There are murmurs and a distinct, "Uh, ok, you want to speak to Steven?" with the emphasis on Steven.

The sounds of squeaks and footsteps precede C’s appearance by my desk.

“There’s someone on the phone for you. I don’t know what they’re saying, but I think it’s French.” Shocking! I’m surprised he even knows how to use the phone.

”Bonjour, c’est Steven,” I say in a slightly lilted accent, when I bring the handset to my ear.

”Ah, oui, bonjour! Vous m’a telephoné à quelques minutes. Je suis Marie…” Aren’t they all named Marie?

”Oui, oui. Merci de me rappeller. Mais, si tu veux, puis-je parler en anglais? C’est la meilleur manière que je sais choisir les mots correctes. Plus clair. Is that ok?”

”Ok. Ce n’est pas une problème.”

Surprisingly, the rest of the conversation is a mixture of both langues. A few words of French are interspersed within the English ones. Overall, the chat has a light and breezy quality to it. Very cosmopolitan. Very French.

“Merci pour votre assistance. Bonne journée,” I say at the end of our talk.

”Pas de problème. Au revoir.” Click.

Knowing that I can improve on these dextrous language skills with a more knowledgeable person is good for my ego because they can lead you in the right direction, no matter if you can hear them giggling in the background when you over-roll your r’s on certain words.

What is also impressive is that I can insult any one of my co-workers while on the phone without them knowing it. Jokes are funny in any language. No one cares if you mispronounce a word or colloquial term.

"Je ne desirais pas coucher avec toi. J'ai mal dans la tete..."

8 Comments:

Blogger vanguard said...

Oh la la. Est-ce que tu etes sur que tu ne desirait pas coucher avec moi? Quelle dommage! (Desolee. il ya beaucoup de temps que j'ai eu parler la langue.)

September 29, 2005 1:53 am  
Blogger SILVER BULLET said...

Wow, it would be nice to know more than one language. I don't think my mind could handle it. I know I tried taking Spanish in high school (over 30 years ago!) and only remember "hola". Too bad I didn't learn it better. Now we are infiltrated with Mexicans here, so anywhere we go, we hear a lot of Spanish. I am still in the United States, right? Sometimes it's hard to tell.

September 29, 2005 10:31 am  
Anonymous whatsthebuzz said...

I took French in high school but, Je ne peux pas parler beaucoup du français...if that's even right. I do remember quite a bit more than I should, in theory. I can read it better than I can speak it, so I'm afraid I'd be giving you that mal de tete, along with the rest of them, lol! I'm with you silverbullet. I WISH I knew another language, but there's really no one to practice on, and I think it's kind of a use it or lose it thing...and heck, I ain't so good at English!

September 29, 2005 3:13 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Felicitations Tiva! Au moins tu peux faire des choses que les autres ne peuvent pas. Vas-y toujours en avance!
A samedi mon cher.

September 29, 2005 4:30 pm  
Blogger Steven said...

For those who are like, WTF is going on with the ooh la la comments, let me explain...

Long story short, people who don't want to learn another anything (language, or whatever), are plain ol' stupide.

September 29, 2005 6:08 pm  
Anonymous stupide said...

It's not that I don't WANT to learn another language, or 3 or 4. It's just that I'm stilling failing at figuring out how to communicate with my family, and those around me, who SUPPOSIDLY speak THE SAME language I do.

October 02, 2005 12:08 pm  
Blogger Steven said...

Stupide, you make a good point.

YOU want to learn how to communicate (in one language, or many), but it's OTHERS who don't have the desire.

Oh, the irony...

If english is such an "easy" language to learn, why do so many lack basic comprehension skills?

October 02, 2005 12:57 pm  
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