Lost in translation?


As much as I enjoy my life in France its not without head shaking moments.

Now I am progressing well with learning French so I am told. I often have a crisis of confidence but I push through and am understood normally.

The hairdresser speaks so quietly and is muffled by the hair dryers and other noise that I ask her to repeat.. rather that than say ahh oui or nod and come out minus 2 inches of hair!

The lab where I go for blood tests are all friendly and I only went completely blank once on Thursday! I reached a point last summer with almost enough verbs under my belt, 3 or 4 tenses (some better than others) that I began to gain in confidence. I am fortunate that I am married to Mr Quite French, who has taught me so much and believes in me and truly keeps me going.

At my appointment with a consultant in Tours in December, the lady spoke absolutely no English and told me this in rapid fire immaculate French, the Touraine is known for a very clear accent fortunately. She asked me lots and lots of questions, I was keeping up then she asked something I really couldn’t figure. I looked at Martin he told me in English. She then said to him why did you marry an English girl?

He replied well I am English we have been married 17 years nearly.. she was astounded and replied but you are French Monsieur?? Er no, English he replied. She fell about laughing and we all had a chuckle!

A few days ago we were almost leaving the supermarket when Mr Quite French decided to dash into the magazine shop and I stood with the full trolley looking at the advertising boards. I was in my own world reading the posters when I heard a commotion and a loud voice behind me, I caught the word “bras” as in arms.


I looked around saw a lady struggling to carry boxes then she shouted at me in English “oh you didn’t understand me!” I replied no I was reading these posters and just heard arms!! What she actually needed was someone to grab the boxes of chocolates that she was trying to put under her arm as she didn’t have a bag. I re arranged the boxes and bid her a bonne journée.


It left me feeling really unsettled. Was I rude? Or was she just in a panic about her boxes and smashing her chocolates up?!! Or were we just lost in translation?

Finally, and this did make me smile, my friend was telling me she had gone to the Sous Prefecture to collect her Carte de Sejour. An hour and half drive each way. The lady said oh here’s your extra photos back. My friend picked them up and looked and replied, these aren’t mine, not my photos! The Carte was produced, showing my friends name and details, but the other person’s photo!

We discussed what could have happened and came to the conclusion someone had accidentally dropped a few applications and they had tried to match up the photos with the right papers!! Its possibly not uncommon as the forms always state do not stick or clip your photos to the application form. More photos were taken and my friend drove home still without her carte.

So here’s to learning more French this year, believing in ourselves and keeping smiling!

À bientôt, Clare X


picture credit; talkinfrench.com

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