Fish out of water

The floor in this room where I'm staying slopes downwards and away from me. When I sit, my chair rolls forwards to the desk. It feels as though I'm on a boat. Which is apt, since I've felt a little lost at sea over the last few weeks.

It doesn't matter how wonderful people are, it's always alienating to be in a place where you don't speak or understand the language. It can, at times, be a very lonely-in-a-crowd-of-people experience. There's a round of laughter and then someone explains the joke to me in my language, and everyone waits expectantly for my reaction. Or no-one translates and I wonder whether it's better form to laugh anyway or to look away.

More than once I've been chatting away to someone, only to have them reply in French to another conversation - one I had been oblivious to. I need to be aware that what is background noise to me, may be fascinating stories/questions/anecdotes to my companions.

More than once I've felt as though it's hard work for those speaking to me. But along with that, there are several others who have made me feel as though I'm doing them a favour by being here with them, allowing them to practice and develop their English. And whether or not that's entirely true, they've made me feel truly at home with them.

I'm trying, with my French, and soon I'll be able to join in where now I'm isolated, cut out, cut off. I'll be laughing in the first round of the joke and aware of what's being said around me. I'll be pronouncing my 'R's correctly and slightly less confused about why the garbage is female in French, and a vagina is male. I'll say le instead of la and vice versa - when it's appropriate - and I'll answer "Bonjour" instead of "Hi" when greeted by a cashier.



karine leger said...

oh ! j'ai des larmes plein les yeux. : )
et je souris en même temps : )

x x

karine leger said...

i know how you feel....

when i went to Suisse, i felt like an alien !
My french is so diffent, i felt like i was not speaking well, and lots of people could just not understand, thought i was speaking another language.

i did felt a bit isolated.... sometimes.

: ) i sent you an email : )

the river said...

And I got it :)) thank you xx

Like I told you, it's better this week than it was when I started this post, and in some ways (in some circles) I'm always going to be a fish out of water - the only non-smoker, (otherwise known as the bag/table minder), the only one not stoned..

As long as I have other lovely fish in my pond sometimes I'll be fine..

saphael said...

I want to thank you for letting me practice speaking my English with you :) When in Italy I used to habitually make me people laugh when I spoke Italian...because the words would translate themselves into very inappropriate expressions..argh mirth to them as I shuddered. i once took some chocolate back to a shop saying "this chocolate..I am so very old"

karine leger said...

oh Greer ! haha !! i'm ALWAYS the only one not stoned ! so now we are two ! yay !! : ))

the river said...

this is (partly) why I love you both so much.