My cat is French. By “birth” country. Of course, all cats belong to the Great Cat-dom, the invisible repository of their nature and habits. However, he understands French. And English.
Now, my husband is French. Also by birth country and culture. As do all men, he belongs to the universal human-dom, which is also the invisible repository of all human nature and habits. However, his language and culture are French. Though he is perfectly bilingual (French/English), and writes all of his professional papers in English.
There is a reason for this little correlation between cat and man as it relates to the microcosm of our home life. That is, I speak to both my husband and my cat in French – most of the time.
But my husband and I have found that there are some words in English that do not exist in the French language and vice versa. And, when speaking, he or I will automatically replace a word with the choice that best “fits” the situation or the idea being expressed.
One example is the word “challenge”. It doesn’t exist in French. Yet it is essential when describing the many difficult and demanding opportunities that are part of daily life. The word used in French is either “problème” (problem) or défi (defiance).
We find that this substitution of words between two languages enriches the conversation and results in a deeper understanding of the subject being discussed.
So, are we saying that we are both bilingual and bicultural?
What do you think?
By the way, I have found that my cat remains, quintessentially, a citizen of the Great Cat-dom. Although he understands perfectly well all that is being said to him in either language, he chooses his own time and his own way of communicating with us.
See you soon – A bientôt!
Last week, during the first week of March, we had one foot of snow. This was the first time it had snowed in and around our village for four years. This is not too important, in itself. I’m sure that the Ohioans and the Norwegians would yawn and roll their eyes after all of the snow they’ve seen this winter.
No, the really important thing was that our near neighbors, who are primarily winegrowers but who also have peach, cherry, and apple orchards also plant strawberry plants that they sell to market distributors. They plant the strawberries in December. A bit early, you say?
No, because the first seasonal fruits to reach the markets in France are called “primeurs” (“firsts”). This means that these fruits and vegetables command a premium price, so a grower is motivated to plant at the earliest possible moment. Which leads me to the subject of this post.
The plants were coming along fine, in rows, sheltered under low plastic tunnels that protect them from wind and cold weather. But – nobody counted on it snowing. So, the night it snowed – all night long – Monsieur, Madame, and their son who is in charge of the family business, took their brooms and continually swept the snow off of the tunnels to keep them from collapsing on the plants and, by extrapolation, ruining the strawberry plants and their chances of making a profit from the sale of these primeurs. And there were a lot of rows and a lot of tunnels.
We had invited our neighbors in for a visit (the apéritif in French) and they told us about it. You know, that event really made an impression on me. We are so very far removed from the actual act of growing the food that we buy and eat.
But I’m sure I’ll think about them sweeping snow off of their strawberry tunnels the next time I eat strawberries.
A bientôt – See you soon.
First off, I’m going to go “off subject” to make a quick comment about writing a blog. And the comment is: It sometimes feels like I’m writing for a newspaper, with a deadline hanging over my head.
Of course this is entirely a self-manufactured feeling of pressure. Nobody is paying me a salary to deliver an article a day, or paying me by the word like they used to do with writers in the 19th century like Dickens and Balzac. Still, when I haven’t made an entry I have this nagging feeling, which translates to something like “You SHOULD write an article (sorry, blog post) at least once a week. Otherwise, people won’t visit your blog.
Not that people are visiting it in great numbers in any case. But, okay, if they were visiting regularly they would notice that I haven’t written anything since December. But hold on a second, I can explain! Yes, I really can. In fact I have a great reason for not writing anything in two and a half months. We were in the U.S. on a family visit with a side trip to Mexico. So, I was officially “off duty”. But I’m back now. So the posts will again start to flow, beginning tomorrow.
Whew, I feel better already.
A bientôt – see you soon!
When you go into a store or a small shop in France, remember to say Bonjour!
This is another important part of the cultural code in France that should be number one on your list – whether you are a tourist or a newly arrived resident from “other parts” as we say in Texas. Y’all don’t want to be considered rude, or worse, lacking in “savoir faire” (knowing what to say or do at the right time, or the right way to act in any given situation).
Believe me, they know you’re not French by your accent, but using this one word opens the way to a positive exchange with the vendor or salesperson.
Turn this around and look at it from your own view of the French cultural code. You walk into a shop, and don’t say anything. Then, when you try to buy something or ask a question, you get a sort of stonewall response. You think “I heard the French are rude, and I believe it.” What’s happened? They don’t understand why you haven’t been polite enough/cultured enough to say “Hello”. The Hello/Bonjour acknowledges them as an individual. Think about it.
By the way, if this sounds “teachy”, let me just say that I learned the above by making the mistake.