Thursday, April 2, 2009

Faking French

Learning a handful of conversational phrases and some everyday vocabulary can get you a long way in a foreign country, if only as a gesture of goodwill. Learning them too well can put you in an awkward spot, when it finally becomes clear that's all you know:



Being fluent in a language with few second-language learners presents the opposite problem, where for the first few minutes of smalltalk everyone assumes you just know the stock phrases, and five minutes into the conversation, your acquaintance excitedly exclaims, "Wow, you speak ____!!" Well, yes, we've been speaking it for five minutes now.

4 comments:

Elephantschild said...

That is a very weird video.

A smattering of a second language is quite useful for reading English. I remember being able to understand a joke in a high school literature assignment that went over everyone elses' heads because I knew what "Vous voulez coucher avec moi?" meant. My conversational French is useless, though.

Evan said...

It's a clip from a very weird show, Flight of the Conchords about a pair of New Zealand...ish? (-er? -ite? -ese?) musicians trying to start a following in the US. It takes "show about nothing" to whole new heights, with the surreal addition of these bizarre little musical interludes.

Bruce Gee said...

Funny! It reminds me of my son Colin, after a year in Brasil finally going to visit Rio. The taxi drivers of course thought they knew a naive gringo when they saw one, and when they were severely rebuked en portugese by my son, they were very impressed. "They gringo speaks Portuguese!" And of course, they knew then they couldn't take him "the long way" to wherever he was going.

pois de senteur said...

I am jealous. I want to be fluent in French...

I guess raising kids that realize that American is not a language is good, don'tcha think? They are studying their required high school languages (one in German and Latin, the other in Spanish)But what to do with the older kids, one who taught himself Greek over summer vacation and the daughter getting A's in NT Greek at college!?!? She says just for the fun of it? Weird if you ask me....

and they ALL like Flight of the Conchords...go figure.