Thursday, October 9, 2008

so I thought I knew what entrée means

I studied French in middle school, high school, and at the university... but never got a chance to set foot in the country until our honeymoon. Yet immersion is such a great teacher. I knew what petit-dejeuner means, but until I spent some time in France it didn't occur to me why they don't really have a word for breakfast. Practically no one eats breakfast here--the most important meal of the day for me, since by the time we sit down at the table of a family I've probably been out on my run and my body is digesting itself... I remember when we were in Japan that we learned there were several words for what we call rice, and I've heard that in Alaska there are multiple names for snow. Yet none of this prepared me for, oh, well, why should I be the only one to make all the linguistic blunders? Pop quiz!

Which of these means what an american english-speaker would expect (I'll even include the anglicized spellings when they're not obvious)?


  • entrée
  • lecture / lecteur
  • télévision
  • biscuit
  • t-shirt
  • week-end
  • sandwich
  • magasin
  • balai
  • boutique
  • pièce
  • guardien
  • tram
  • crayon

Just to help you not cheat, I'll squeeze in a little anecdote here. Last night and tonight we've been interviewing prospective tutors for the kids... We want someone to stop by 3 evenings a week to do a 30 minute lesson in French for each kid, one-on-one. Additionally, we've been having the kids do their devoirs in english so they can re-integrate just fine when we go back to the states. Our homework room looks like this (Griffin's art work is on the wall at the right):




So back to the franglais -- the list could go on and on and on--it almost looks like a person who can read English would do just fine in France... so how did you do? I think I got all of the gotchas wrong:

  • entrée -- side dish that goes along with the meal -- one of the five dishes in a formal dinner (appetizer, salad, main dish, cheese, dessert)

  • lecture / lecteur -- reading

  • télévision -- t.v.

  • biscuit -- cookie

  • t-shirt -- t-shirt

  • week-end -- weekend

  • sandwich -- sandwich

  • magazin -- store

  • boutique -- plain shop

  • balai -- broom

  • pièce -- piece or room

  • guardien -- apartment supervisor or maintenance person

  • tram -- trolley

  • crayon -- pencil


Sometimes the language is so close that I think I know what people are saying, until it suddenly doesn't make any sense any more--like today at stand-up meeting when I joked that we must be talking too much since my boss pulled over a chair and sat down. A couple other people said something and then looked at me, repeated "André" and waited for my response. I reworded my joke and then they said no, no, we're asking if you'd be interested in leading next week's 10-minute discussion on a subject of personal interest. Hmmm, gotcha!


Last gotcha for the day--the clavier, keyboard. It's so close yet so far away that typing at home on a US keyboard and at work on a french one has degraded my touch-typing skills to that of a hunt-and-peck typist:


Bon soir


2 comments:

rdesgroppes said...

Right typo for "magazin" is "magasin".
My 2 cents,
Regis.

HarvieFamily said...

Wow- It's taken a lifetime to learn to type and I can't imagine being thrown into a world with a new keyboard with re-arranged keys! Can you just switch for your old one? -jenae

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