Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Language Barrier

I didn’t just get home from work. I was at work, but I’ve been home for a little while. Actually, I nearly forgot to post this, so things are going to be a little bit down to the wire this evening. Not that this is unusual…

So, as I said I was at work. At one point a group of people came through my department speaking French amongst themselves. This was fine, although it’s always a little disconcerting because in this situation do you greet them? Do you say “Hello”? Do they speak or understand English? There is no way to know. I just smiled and left it at that.

At any rate they were looking over the night lights that we sell, and they seemed to be moving on. Then one of the men from their group came over to get my attention. He had a question, and he posed that question in French. It became clear quickly that he didn’t speak any English whatsoever, whether he understood English I have no idea, but he certainly didn’t speak it.

Why didn’t I pay more attention in French class?

I assumed that he probably wanted a particular one in a box and asked him if that was what he wanted. He shook his head and said something in French. I of course was lost at this point.

Luckily his friend, who spoke some English, came over and translated for me. Apparently he was wondering something about adapters for European plugs. Beyond this I don’t know specifically what he wanted. I could only respond so far as to say that we don’t sell such adaptors and that I imagine that such an adaptor would be needed overseas.

It was interesting, and yet not all that uncommon.

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