Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Don't Panic! I Speak English!

I have to admit I have a really horrible addiction. It's accosting people in public places, just because they speak English. I've got to find a way to stop doing this. Go cold turkey, find a 12-step program, something before I get put on to some list published by the local police department.

It's just so hard not to accost a stranger when there I am, comparing prices on undershirts, when low and behold I hear a word said almost as I would say it. A magical lyrical cadence of phrases that I understand without having to think about it. Words that dance into my head and I just get it.

The joy of understanding conversation without having to think about it is almost like when you smell something baking that reminds you of home or your grandma's house or your favourite meal. The memories and the sensations fill you and you can't help but get all nostalgic as you inhale the aromas that you love. I'm like this with English.

Hence why I was shaking like I had just downed four lattes when I heard the little lady in front of me talking about Derbyshire. I've never been to Derbyshire (I don't think) but I wanted to pretend that I had just so I could talk to her. All I could think of was Tess of the d'Ubervilles and wondered if maybe this woman had read the book too. It's set in Derbyshire, isn't it? I didn't care. I just wanted to talk to her. To tell her I was one of them too. Tell her that I spoke English! Look at me! Talk to me! In English!

Finally, I blurted out in a voice much louder than I would have liked to use, "ARE YOU ENGLISH? I'M AMERICAN."

Now, saying this in any other English speaking country would have seen said English lady high tailing her tookus away from me as far as her sensible shoes could carry her. Here, she practically hugged me.

In the 10 minutes we chatted, I learned that she's from Lancashire originally (like my father-in-law) and her children live in London. They've been living in the Auvergne for several years and she thinks Rosebud is beautiful. She's also told me that she meets up with some other Anglo-Francophones on Tuesday mornings and if I want to join them, I'm more than welcome.

I could smell the scones as we stood there.

I speak French now after our 6 years here and I have friends around me that I enjoy being with. They forgive me my grammatical errors and find my accent adorable. I'm good with that. It's part of the expat experience and my daily life. For this woman who always danced to the beat of her own drummer, living abroad gives me a rhythm I thrive on.

But I'll admit, that as much as I love being one of the odd ones out in a foreign land, I'll never stop being so happy as I am when I stumble on other people for my 12-step program.


Ted said...

Oh bless you! Are you going to go and meet up with them?
A lady I have French lessons with her in TW is originally from Westgate - I found out yesterday!
Oh and Tess and most of Hardy's other works were usually set in Wessex - which is sort of Wiltshire/Dorset/Somerset....real scone country!

Kitty said...

At a golf tournament last weekend, the press interviewed a young golfer and asked about his round. He responded with a long explanation of his round that was totally unintelligible! He was from Australia!

RHB said...

Glad you found a fellow English speaker. It is way exciting when that happens in the Auvergne as it is not at all a common occurrence! Hope you go join them for coffee and scones. :)