by Stephanie Newton
This picture is me in Paris with my husband, Spring 2008.
When I was younger, I studied French for six years and spent a semester in college there, so I used to speak French really well. My experience with the language on our last trip went something like this: I would begin speaking. The person I was speaking to would stare and her eyebrows would draw together in confusion. Within a few seconds, he or she would either laugh and kindly switch to English, or gently correct my French until I was saying the right thing. Generally our conversation was accompanied by blushing (me), lots of hand gesturing (the French), and a few chuckles (my husband).
Language is important for one reason. Communication.
• If you’re not sure you understand, ask for clarification. Répétez s’il vous plaît became my favorite words in France, but in day to day life, asking for more information also helps make misunderstandings avoidable
• Pay attention to nonverbal cues--words may be different around the world but facial expression and body language isn’t.
• Mind your manners--being polite is always in good taste.
• Be patient--in fiction, characters say whatever the author wants them to. They always understand what the other is trying to say (or not, if that’s the way the author wants it). Characters can sometimes even read facial expressions as if they were paragraphs. But let’s face it, in real life, situations often call for more patience
With some communication, we figured out the secret for a successful vacation. Our trip to France was the best.
I did great with the language, by the way. I only ended up with raw fish on my salad once.
I’d love to hear your stories about miscommunication or overcoming miscommunication!
You can read an excerpt here.
You can find Stephanie at http://www.stephanienewtonbooks.com/
Thank you for spending the day with us, Steph.