[LMB] OT: Switching speech-patterns/language, long...

Kirsten Houseknecht kirsten at fabricdragon.com
Tue, 25 Jun 2002 11:38:35 -0400

hello evil twin.....
(or am I the evil one this week.. I forget)

oh yeah.. I shocked the living daylights out of my German teacher in High
(who also taught Spanish, nice guy! very talented)
I was looking through the third or fourth year Spanish text, and he
challenged me to read it.. so I read one of the exercises (badly, I am
sure.. but I got through it) and he said "not bad, you sound pretty good,
but I bet you have no clue what you just read"  I gave him the synopsis,
dead on......
no I don't speak, read, or understand Spanish.

Toward the end of the whirlwind tour of Europe, I got back to France and
tried to ask for directions....... I figure I must have asked for directions
using one word, each, of about five languages. the poor guy looked at me
like "what the ???" took me a good nights  sleep to be able to speak any one
language coherently.

my best story about accents is from when my family first got to France on

I got in the habit of buying flowers every day from this one vendor.. she
had no English, and my French is terrible (especially money and counting) so
we had a funny time trying to figure out how many Francs for that bunch of
flowers.....mostly pointing and handing money back and forth....we got along
pretty well, but I bet we looked funny...

one day I was there more at "rush hour" than usual and there was a
this.. this... Tourist... American <unfortunately> barges to the front of
the line and starts badgering this poor woman in increasing volume of
(directions I think.. I was so shocked by her behavior I had trouble
believing in her)
big hair, loud clothes, obviously felt that shouting would improve the poor
flower lady's comprehension....

everyone in the line is furious (especially me) I mean she didn't even start
off being polite, she just barged in and started yelling in English (not
even an apology)  and I *know* this poor vendor speaks no English at all.

finally ugly tourist lady turns around and yells right in my face (I was in
front of the line at this point)
"doesn't anyone in this God-forsaken country speak English?!" at the top of
her lungs...
to which I replied, in French
"I don't speak any English, Lady..."

the flower lady, who knows darn well I am an American, with limited French,
gets this.. stuffed.. look and manages not to giggle until after the *&^%
tourist stalked off...
my accent must have been pretty good, because  when I started trying to
negotiate my flower purchases....... in my mangled French and English.. and
everyone else in the line realized I was an American , half the line stared
at me, and a few of them applauded. there were some real giggles by the time
I left.

I had just pulled the patented Parisian trick of not knowing the tourists
language until they leave.... except I wasn't even French.....

after the way she treated that poor flower vendor I had no choice you

(actually I had no problem in France, I always asked "do you speak English"
in French before I started in to English, and usually at least got directed
to an English speaker.... or we wrote and drew diagrams at each other....it
was the people who just started in on English  with the assumption that
yelling would help that got the " no one speaks English here"  routine.  ...
the main problem I had was that my accent was too good and they tended to
start talking full speed in French at me until I managed to explain that I
didn't really speak any French........)

kirsten at fabricdragon.com

----- Original Message -----
From: "Kirsten Lenius"

> speak bits and pieces of about twenty languages and people tend to think
> that I'm fluent, when I only speak a few (polite) words... Not only
> I can mirror speach patterns.. not the accents but the rhythem of the
> which I think is less common...  I have had people be  absolutely sure
> I was Chinese, Phillipena, Spanish and from one of the Islands in the
> Carribean (I forget which one, but it had a combination of the musical
> carribeann with east indian thrown in..)
> To make matters more complicated, I sometimes understand other languages
> no apparent reason...  I used to work in International Customer Service
> (which is why I chose to aquire greetings and thank you's and etc in many
> languages:  I thought it was polite to do so)  and if I had a non-english
> speaking customer, I'd get a translator to aid the conversation.   But...
> I'd be sitting there listening to them speak..  and I'd know what they
> talking about or what question they were asking...  so I'd break in and
> answer in English...  I can't count the number of times that interpreters
> asked:  "Um... do you speak (Russian/Arabic/Chinese/etc.. etc..)?"    To
> which I would answer, "no.."