elb's hovel of thoughts

Monday, April 03, 2006

English language in Paris

Normally when one travels, one of the handiest phrases would be 'Can you speak ' in the dominant language of the place you travel to. In my case, 'Parlez-vous Anglais?'

However, it seems that the tables were turned on me this time in Paris. A lady, begging for money came up and asked

'Excuse me, can you speak English?'
'No.'

She walked away. Another one came up a couple of minutes later

'Excuse me, can you speak English?'
'No, I am not able to.'

She left.

One of them approached a friend:

'Excuse me, can you speak English?'
'不会' (Bu hui; Chinese for 'not able to')
And she started: 'I have a child.... we are poor...'

Lesson: Speak English to the beggars so that they can actually understand that you don't want them to bug you

And when walking along Rue de Clichy (aka Paris' red light district), the lady-pimps outside the sex clubs trying to solicit people outside:

'Ni hao (with bad pronunciation). Hello sir, do you speak English?'
'No thanks'
'But sir, this is not a video. It is a live show!' *putting her hand on my arm*
'Not interested thank you'
*Blabber blabbermyearswereshut*

Other cultural mismatches:

Another interesting conversation took place between us and a policeman, as we were hoping to catch some of the demonstrations but did not know where to go..

'Excuse me sir. We were just wondering where the riots were so we can avoid them (reality: we want to take a look)'
*blank look*
'Errr..'
'Ah, Notre Dame?' He gestures to us the directions to get there.
'Err.. merci'

Also, a crepe seller noticed my extremely broken French, and he gave me a couple of pointers as his wife was making my Grand Marnier savoury crepe. That took me by surprise and it was very nice of them.

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