French and Italian

Here's a picture of me at a funny fountain. It was a really cool fountain on a really cool street that one of my comps and I discovered one day when we were lost.

A couple months later, we were both training some new sisters and we took them for a walk on this street, too. As we were standing near the fountain, two French men in suits started looking over at us. As I was walking past them, one said to me, pointing at my name tag, "Qu'est-ce que c'est que ca?"

Those of you who don't speak French might be frustrated that I just put in an untranslated quote, but that was exactly the point. The point was that they were being French jerks in suits, talking down to the ignorant American girls. They worked at the embassy nearby, so you would think that they had people skills and didn't talk down to people from different countries, seeing as how they were representatives and all...

He had asked "What's that?" when he pointed to my name tag, so I responded in perfect French:

Sorella Cicada: We are missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

French Snooties: Ah! But you speak French?

SC: Yes, of course. I am Canadian. I started learning French when I started school.

FS: Ah! But you speak French very well!!

SC: Well, not as well as I used to. When I learned Italian, it replaced a lot of my French.

FS: Ah! But you speak Italian?

SC: [Switching into Italian] Yes, of course. Like I said, we're missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We've come to Italy to share an important message.

FS: Ah! But you speak Italian very well!

SC: Yes, of course. At the expense of my French.

I would have loved to have said, "And don't forget that neither of these is my first language, you pompass punks. I'd love to listen to you guys speek zee engleesh!"

Of course, I didn't say or think anything like that because at the time, I was full of love and charity. I didn't smile smugly as I walked away, reflecting on their surprise when I actually understood what they had said when they pointed at my name tag. I certainly didn't think, "Couchons imbus qui osent parler en francais et qui pensent que je ne comprendrai pas! L'impudence est tout a fait incroyable. Celui qui parle une autre langue et qui se pense meilleur des autres pour ce fait-la est un imbicile. Imbicile, j'ai dit! Imbicile!"

Oh... did I not translate that last little bit for you all? That's just too bad, I suppose.

** I am making a funny face in the picture to match the funny face of the fountain, so if you're zooming in on that picture, just know that I don't look that weird.

16 comments:

Savvymom said...

So maybe there is something good about Canada. They teach you languages there... Even if it is French, that's still cool.

Cicada said...

SM,

I thought that you were married with children and thus went to bed at 8:00. Was I wrong?

Squirrel Boy said...

I love your coinage of the word "pompass." It's just such a handy little contraction. Not that I would ever use it except in my head.

Master Fob said...

Hee hee. If I had not been a missionary and thus full of love and charity like you, I would have enjoyed all the times I made fools of people who didn't think I spoke Spanish. Once my companion from Barcelona and I were on a subway train and two teenagers standing right next to us were making fun of us, assuming we were stupid Americans who didn't understand a word (I, of course, was a stupid American but I still understood every word). We smiled at each other and listened politely, then as we were getting off, my companion said in his best Spanish (which was pretty good, being as how he was a Spaniard), "See you later, guys." As we walked away our hearts overflowed with love and charity toward them.

Cicada said...

Yeah, there was this time that I was on a bus in Rome and these punk kids started talking about me and my companion and saying that we were definitely German. I looked at him and started speaking to him in Roman dialect: "What the heck are you saying? German? Do I have a German face? Whoa boy. Think again."

Limon said...

I am impressed that I was able to understand the main point of all your French. Looks like my French diction class is paying off. Paying off, I say!

Mission story:
A Mexican mother in line ahead of us at the grocery store told her unruly child that if he didn't behave, "the men behind us are going to take you away." What an ingenius way to train your son! Not only does he quiet down and fear the world, but he also develops an early aversion to LDS missionaries. Two birds. one stone.

ambrosia ananas said...

Yeah, I know what you mean. This one time on my mission, when I was waiting for a bus, these people started speaking Armenian. . . .

Oh, wait. Except I didn't serve a mission, I've never heard anyone speak Armenian outside of class, and even if I did, I wouldn't understand what they said. Drat.

So what I'm saying is I wish I were like you: fluent. (Yep, I shoot for marketable skills, not eternal qualities.)

redlaw said...

I knew what the last paragraph said!! Yea, my mission served a purpose, if only to be able to read the last paragraph of this post!!

Hee hee - the french can be sooo snooty.

JB said...

I speak Spanish. Mostly. The reason I learned to speak Spanish? I have ancestry from Spain (via Canada). :)

A lady at the LA airport the other day come up and started speaking to me in Spanish. I was surprised, since most Spanish speakers think I'm just a non-Spanish-speaking whitey (and lots of non-Spanish-speaking whities aren't at all surprised that I'm fluent in Spanish).

Anyway, I thought it was funny that she just assumed I spoke Spanish when she didn't even know me at all and she hadn't heard me speaking it. Maybe it was an intuition or a spiritual thing. In any case, I was able to help her and it made me feel cool. That's LA for ya.

Savvymom said...

Cic- I am also pregnant and have developed insomnia, and so I don't sleep before 3 am without the assistance of Ambien, which I can't take two days in a row.

Coop said...

Many people (the dumb ones) in Brasil would not understand white American missionaries that had been in the field for two years and spoke near-perfectly, while at the same time claiming that the greenie American who looked less white (who only knew how to say "Hi, here's a Book of Mormon" and "I have worms") spoke perfect Portuguese. Perceptions. Oh yes.

Abel said...

LOL. Great entry

Mandi said...

but he also develops an early aversion to LDS missionaries.

(Cracking up) I'll have to remember that in the grocery store...

daltongirl said...

I also understood your last paragraph. You see, Japanese and French are very similar languages. Either that or I took like four years of French. I can't remember.

Anyway, there was this one time when I was an exchange student (it's important to note that I was not a missionary at the time, because I was a woman/girl alone with two men), and one of the guys was a second-generation Japanese American who spoke not a word of Japanese and had never been to Japan before. I was his interpreter. So people would speak to him, I would interpret, and then answer for him. The people would continue to address him, even when they were talking to me. Hilarious.

hiking partner said...

Hi Cicada. I've joined this 'walking partner' related website and wondered if you know of any other website which might help me to find a walking partner in my local area? Many thanks

Cicada said...

hiking partner,

Strange that you're commenting on this post... it's old and your comment has nothing to do with the post. Also, I can't link to your blog, so I wonder if you're being paid to individually spam people, but if you're being paid to individually spam people, why would you choose a really old post? Confused.