Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Sensitive Spot

I'd say my French language skills are okay. But they're not great - I work in English and speak English with Frog at home (his English is fluent and otherwise he wouldn't get to keep it).

However, I can follow a movie, read a magazine and watch the news. I can keep up with most of the conversation at the Family Frog dinner table, although I have to be pretty sure of myself - or have drunk enough - to really join in a group conversation. One on one I can more than get by. Dermatologist, Dentist, Doctors, Minor Surgery I've done them all and survived.

I do get terribly self-conscious and I guess it's a sign of progress but I hear the mistakes all the time. For example - the gender mistakes - if - it's la bière - it must be une Leffe I request or the waiter will just look puzzled at "un Leffe" (the important stuff you know).

But as my job prospects for next year have an even larger question mark than before hanging over them I am really starting to panic. Discuss integrated brand planning & marketing 100% in French? Write in French? That's a whole other ballgame.

Maybe it was just the result of a tired and emotional state of mind the other week, but when we decided to treat ourselves to a lunch of steak, frites and a lovely glass of red wine as reward for having survived the latest in the moving sage, the fact that the waiter didn't understand me reduced me to tears. It took three times of my repetition to get the plat du jour understood, he then asked me my drink order in terrible English, refused to understand a request for a Brouilly and brought me the worst house wine. End result was a rather watery Oiseau at the table.

It's not like I didn't have similar problems in NYC with waiters - an English accent with a hard "t" in water will not get results and a handy Spanish phrase could work wonders. But this really naffs me off.

Frog is not a great one in dealing with me in tears, but he almost boosted my confidence by later (oh so kindly!) recounting the tale to his parents ("you didn't tell them, I cried did you?" , "Um, no. Well, um, yes") who said they were surprised and how much they thought my French had improved since they met me last year.

So, progress will continue andI hope there will be a real boost after spending the summer break with several of Frog's French friends. Although I'm not entirely sure that'll be the type of language to help with the CV and Letter of Motivation that look likely in the autumn, quoi!

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