(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

lost in translation ... sorta

okay I've been living in France for almost three years now (omg, has it really been that long and yes that's right world, looky me LIVING in France ... but I digress) and I am still learning the most basic of vocabulary. or sometimes finding out that I had a word completely wrong in my head based on how it sounds.

an example.

I'm always asking my dogs nicely (okay yelling)to go outside. since here I have heard JY tell the dogs to go out, in French. It sounds like vah door. now of course it isn't that ... and many times I am loathe to ask since it seems continuous and so many times I will just think it over in my head, imagining finally that I know what the words are. doesn't matter anyway, really ... I just tell them 'vah door' knowing it means go outside. but I am always in search of the written as well as spoken word. it helps me to retain the words when I can picture them written in my imagination.

so of course I know that the first word is vas. derrrr. I turned over the second, door, in my head. no it isn't d'or because I know that or is gold and it isn't 'go of gold' we are shooting for.

so then, still talking to myself in my pea brain, I think about dor or some version. well hell, dor would be some version of dormir which is sleep and we aren't telling them to 'go sleep' (not usually anyway). hmmm. being the femme au contraire that I am, there is no way I am heading for the dictionary. I resolve to reflect more but since I know how to pronounce the phrase and its meaning I can use it and worry about spelling later.

meanwhile I am confronted with the word 'hors' more and more, always ignoring it until I reach an ATM that is hors services and I am all like what the ??? I don't see any hours written, oh wait that would be horaires or heures ... hmmm. and how did hors get wrapped up with ATMs AND appetizers?????????????

okay so I cave in look up hors and it means out. you mean to tell me I have been here almost three years and never learned (or needed to learn) the simple word OUT???? good god woman.

take it a step further and look up the word outside. dehors. pronounced duhor. when spoken quickly, door.

so yes folks it is ' vas dehors ' ... go outside. but more like GET OUT!!! when said by JY! lol

I could give more examples exactly like this where words you know to speak, when written are entirely off base. then begins the scavenger hunt, piecing bits together to get to the whole picture. fortunately, the main form of communication is spoken and one can slip by a bit ...

zee franche she ees a funny ting, no??


Kathleen said...

oui, oui, a funny ting indeed! i think we're all a little autistic when it comes to learning a new language.... that is, we think in pictures when we try to understand what a thing means. so, when you say, 'vas dehors', I picture two young German guys, out on the town in Munich looking for a little fun, and when they spot the streetwalkers, one turns to the other and says, 'ahh, vas dehors'!

laparesseuse said...

bah ouais, I know exactly what you mean. I spent much of my first years in France grasping at syllables I thought I understood in order to piece together meaning. My understanding often did not match the communication. Example: With the common question "C'est de la part de qui?" on the telephone I would only hear "depart" and assume that the person I was calling was not there. Many a confused receptionist must have wondered why I said that I'd call back later rather than giving my name!

nate beaty said...

I have to see things written down for them to stick in my head, and I'm often schocked by how little it matches what I'd learned (or thought I learned) by listening. has happened with Spanish, French and Korean! haha. however I definitely don't have the aversion to dictionaries. I am constantly checking them, now even for my flailing English. le sigh.