Sunday, August 06, 2006

My French is, How You Say, Tres' Mal

I work at a small 'virtual company', and by this I mean that we all work from home and communicate mostly via email, sometimes via telephone. The company wasn't always like this, but some of my coworkers have always been in other parts of the country, and we are mostly on an email basis. One of the VPs, whom I shall call 'D', for some reason emailed me once using a word or two in French. I don't know if that was the start of our French email relationship or if something I said triggered him, but I went along with it. I went online, found a free translator, and had my reply to his email translated into French, and sent it that way. We went back and forth this way for awhile, each of us thinking that perhaps the other person actually KNEW some French.

Just a quick aside to tell you all that I actually DID take two years of French in college, and I sucked at it. I'm worse at French than I am at Latin, and let me tell you, that's saying something. Writing French is hard, because I can never remember which little accent to use. My second year of French, I got an F. That's right, an F. I always thought that if you at least showed up and took all of the tests and TRIED, you would at least get a D. Nope. Mme. Peterson was a woman of moral values, and she felt you should EARN your D. So, I gave up the beautiful language of love, and decided to speak only English from now on. Did I hold this against French people? Not often. I do admit to being a bit peeved when French families would check into the hotel, and their SMALL CHILDREN could speak French so well. I mean, shouldn't they be struggling, just like I had? Well, maybe they didn't know what to do with an accent ague either. Whatever. No, I did not hold the whole language thing against the French, and I even went so far as to GO to France on my honeymoon. There, I survived by using such phrases as "J'ai voudrais du" and pointing at what I wanted. So, if I wanted two peaches, I would say, "I would like two" and point at the peaches. Of course, I always added a little "sil vous plait" in there, to be polite. This was enough for a big city like Paris, where everyone is cosmopolitan and most everyone speaks English anyway, and you're fine as long as you don't act like the 'ugly American'.

Fast forward to present day, and my email exchanges with 'D'. Boy, I had him fooled. This turned into a problem on Thursday, when he phoned me to tell me that we are working with the City of Montreal, and need a contract written in French. HA! He was going to use one of those free online translators, but wanted me to look it over afterwards, to make sure it was all kosher. I had to disillusion him, and tell him that he would be better off finding someone who actually PASSED French class if he wanted his contract to be scrutinized the way it ought to be. Sigh. He was heartbroken.

By the way, it's disturbing to me that when looking for a pretty picture of Paris to use for this post, I did my little google search for "Paris", and I had to look at nasty pictures of Paris Hilton eating a hamburger in her dental floss outfit. That's just wrong.

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