Sunday, November 16, 2008

Chi Fan

Chi fan...I think that has something to do with eating. I need to ask my 3 year old niece. Last time I tried to speak Chinese to her, she corrected me. Apparently thinking I said, "thank you", I really said, I need to go to the bathroom. I was close. You know it's tough when a 3 year old has a better command of a language, any language than you.

You see....I used to pride myself for my ear of languages. That was when knowing how to pronounce tortilla in the heart of Spokane, Washington made me bi-lingual. Growing up in California, you learn actually get to speak some, and if you have a car, a sarape and enough pocket change, you can try your hand at bartering in the language. So, my knowledge of Spanish is passable. But my accent...well that's about as authentic as you can get. Like anything, it's all in the presentation.

My Italian...legitimately good. And I am extraordinary at fishing for compliments with it. I start out with a little, ho dimenticato tutti (I forgot everything)...which cues the lovely Italians to say...oh no, no, I wish my English was as good as your Italian....which cues me to say...oh would you like to speak English then? So you can practice? Which naturally moves me into the expert category and no one is the wiser.

Where I become the laughing stock is my French. Remember the part where I said I have an ear for languages? Well, word to the wise...don't say stuff like that. Because, friends are always at the ready to disprove the theory, and then remind you of it whenever ANY foreign word comes out of your mouth.
I was in Paris with my "friends" and we went to a perfectly wonderful cafe. Actually a place I love and have been to many times. I'd like to think we discovered it many moons ago, and now it is someplace the cogniscenti frequent. It's called Cafe Marly and it sits at the entrance to the Louvre. So...we were there, my "friends" and I. Everyone ordered a croque monsier...which they prounounced Croak Mons Sure (insert your best bad American-French accent here). So I, with my incredible ear for languages, placed my order for crudite...(insert your best gutteral phlegm inducing expulsion here). It sounded great, and I looked great with the wave of my hand and the tipping of my beret topped head. Very French, very French indeed.

All was going well, until the watier delivered my perfectly toasted sandwich...same thing everybody else got. I tried to tell him that it wasn't what I ordered, but he just waved me off, and tipped his beret topped head. Apparently my French ain't so good. Which brings me back to Chinese.

My husband and I are learning it because Michael Phelps said it would be a good idea. Okay, that's not true, but I understand he does think it's a good idea. We are learning it because we are going to China next spring and thought it would be nice if we could speak, understand or smile a little bit of it. We are using the Rosetta Stone, because Michael Phelps said it would be a good idea. Okay, I'll stop with that joke, I imagine I am the only one who thinks it's funny...or even know what it means.

Let me tell ya...Mandarin is hard...really hard. I'm not so confident in my presentation...and for some reason, I think random hand gestures might actually be offensive in China. What plays in Paris doesn't necessarily play in Peking.


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