It’s been a strange semester for el Gallo. (That’s yours truly; my nickname means rooster.) I’m currently in Toronto, but I’ll be back in Lausanne, Switzerland, where I live, in a couple of weeks. It’s very strange the way the human brain learns languages. I started using Rosetta Stone TOTALe a few weeks ago and have been too busy to spend as much time with it as I’d like. In general, I have no idea what the French-speaking Swiss try to tell me whenever they speak, with two remarkable exceptions.
The first was during a date with a French girl. She knew so much about wines and food that after a few minutes of conversation with the garçon it was clear that the chef’s presence was required. I could follow the whole conversation between my date and the chef, even when they made fun of me. I must say, the food—salmon with bacon—was almost as impressive as the chef’s attitude. Kind of surprising.
The second time I could follow an entangled conversation was when I was on my way to Paris. I almost missed the train from Lausanne, and the train officer informed me that my French ticket I’d bought on the Internet was not valid at that station. I explained that my mother tongue was Spanish and I could speak a little English, but he kept talking to me in French. The man looked like the Swiss cousin of a character from a Jean Renoir movie from the ’30s. I was able to discuss with him for more than ten minutes without having to stop to ask him to repeat anything. I was speaking in English and he was speaking in French, and the conversation was quite involved, including legal terms and moral attitudes against wrong laws. I wonder if the officer didn’t speak English either and we had some sort of metaphysical connection? Of course, in the end I had to buy another ticket, though the joy of comprehending French was larger than the anger I felt over losing my precious francs.
Learn more about Guillermo Jones’s adventures in language learning.
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