“Lesa, I know French!” boasted Melissa to our IU professor who is staying with us in London.
And that about sums up the French speaking ability of most everyone on our trip, from our British tour guide (who said “Loov-ra” for the famous museum and took us along the River “Sane”) all the way to me, who’s French vocabulary is limited to the words in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
I have never been in a country where I do not understand or speak the language. My foreign experiences so far have been to Canada and Hungary where I am comfortable with the major languages –Canadian and Hungarian. So in France, I felt very vulnerable and kind of backwards.
After a few incidents at restaurants where we received poor service after the waiters realized we were American, I decided it was time for a social experiment.
I wandered over to a street vendor selling little paintings of French landmarks. He looked at me and started speaking English.
“On-lee twent-ee euro!”
I looked at him blankly than said, “Sajnálom, de én nem beszélek franciául, és csak egy kis angolul tudok beszélnem.” (Sorry, but I don’t speak French and only know how to speak a little English).
I then proceeded to ask questions in a heavy Hungarian accent and broken English.
Within seconds of realizing I was not American, the price went down to 10 euro.
Maybe. But maybe not.