Sunday, November 21, 2010

Perfect Strangers

Here's the thing about my French... it's coming along.
It is. I swear it is.

It may not sound pretty and be 100% correct (more like 72%) but I'm speaking it. And I probably sound like Balki from Perfect Strangers, but in French, but who cares, it's happening.

Some conversations are easier than others... like when Papa's Wife and I hang out, I'm conversing and laughing and I feel awesome. And with M, we can talk, and more importantly shop. Brother-in-Law, Child Bride and I do OK. Just last week The Husband and I had a great evening with them, and I understood all off the jokes.

But I still have one leap left, one major hurdle in Le Petit Village...
Mr Honey.

Mr Honey's accent is difficult, it's a hardcore south of France accent. And according to The Husband, if anyone in France listened to Mr. Honey they would know exactly where he is from (think southern U.S., Boston, Glasgow and Cork accents... distinct and completely unmistakable). He doesn't sound anything like my French podcasts. Mr Honey and my podcasts sound almost like different languages altogether.

So last night, after a long day shopping in Aix (bonjour Zara!) The Husband and I stopped by The Honey House for a quick hello and apéro.

Mr & Mrs Honey had been out foraging for mushrooms and since they had collected more than enough they asked us if we would like some.  With memories of The Mushroom Incident flashing through my head, I turned my French ears on and decided to pay extra close attention as Mr Honey took the mushrooms out of the sack and told us how to prepare them.

Maybe it was all the Merlot Mr Honey had drank, maybe it was all the Merlot I had drank, but as he spoke and picked up the mushrooms showing them to me, this is what I heard;

"These mushrooms, the sheep kick them and brush their teeth."

Now that's not right.

"uh, répétez s'il te plaît"


The mushrooms are called sheep feet.

And I'm pretty sure that sheep do not use them to brush their teeth. 

I hope.




  1. Your French sounds like my Japanese. I often think my weird version is much more interesting than the original.

  2. Tres bien ar making ow we say ze progress....funnily enough my post was about french language and mistranslation this week. Bon weekend!

  3. LOL that's a great idea that you write things you think you hear down. I've heard some strange things too and it leaves me with a ? whenever I speak with someone. Did they really just say that English can't have gay marriages because then there would be no couples left to have babies? Did they really just invite me over for dinner at 7? Did he say turn right or go straight ahead?

    But my French is coming along as well... :) Good luck as you prepare your sheeps feet mushrooms!

  4. I think so many people who HAVE to learn a new and challenging language have been here before! The things I've misinterpreted in Greek (husbands language)are ridiculous!
    My husband laughs at me. My mother-in-law looks annoyed at me. I cry.

    Glad to hear your French is coming along! I fear that even with my 5 years of jr/senior high school french classes I'd probably still be horrible! (In fact I KNOW it...)
    The sheep would be passionately IN LOVE with the mushrooms for all I knew!!

  5. omigoodness, haha! i have been learning french for one year now and i'm hardly fluent. it's so much harder than i thought it would be. still, i am enjoying the new language... hopefully one day i will be 72% fluent!

  6. Keep at it girl! If you can tell you're improving then you must have improved leaps and bounds and you're on your way to bilingualness!

    I just wrote an article about mis-intrepretation when learning French although more medical related. I love the thought of sheep using mushrooms to brush their teeth! How cute!

    I love shopping in Aix, did you go to the centre commerical or the centre of Aix? I quite often do my Christmas shopping in the city centre as I adore the walk around the town (except when it's windy) and it's not too far from my beaux-parents.

  7. Very cute! But mushroom vocabulary is not the most common. It's these little things that make you remember and progress.
    Good luck!

  8. The southern accent kills me too, it's really difficult. A guy came to fix the chauffage and was telling me some really important stuff that I wanted to know but I didn't get it all. There is only so many time you can ask them to repeat themselves before they get fed up with you.

  9. Ohhh, delightful! Delightful in the sense of "yes, I'm in the same (sometimes painful) predicament"! A colleague of my boyfriend's spoke about "falling in the apples" the other day...only for me to ask, which apples & why?? Turns out a French expression for "blacking out" - color me embarrassed :)
    Hang in there with your mushroom sheep feet & all - we're making progress after all!! & that's what counts :) xo

  10. Keep up the good work! It's so hard to be immersed in another language and especially to wade thru accents and idioms. Proud of your progress and hope the mushrooms were delicious!!

  11. Are you going to grow another science experiment with these, comme l'incident? If so, pics please! (I'll use them to scare kids into cleaning under their beds.)

  12. I am definitely certain your French accent does not sound like Balki (thank you for that- I used to watch that a lot!). You're coming along, hang onto those moments. Congratulations!!

    Btw- Maybe Mr. Honey was talking about brushing the sheep's feet?? ;-)

  13. Love the reference to Balki and I can identify with that. After a trip to Paris in which my daughter and I conversed only in (pathetic) French, I asked her if she thought that we had said anything like "We done did ..." and she replied, "Mais Oui, Maman" and rolled her eyes.

    My worst faux pas with the language was in posting on a blog and I used an idiomatic expression that was... oh, another time.


  14. ha! awww that sucks. good effort for you though.. would be nice to be in a situation where i HAD to learn french. then i might actually give it a whirl. and i lOVED Balki from Perfect Strangers.

  15. Soooo....

    I might have spent the better part of today reading your entire blog start to finish. In my voracious search for expat info (expatriating to London with the Canadian husband in a few months) I've been reading blogs. I came across yours and haven't stopped reading since this morning.

    It so reminds me of 'A Year in Provence' -- I love it. Plus I'm a Texan - it makes me happy to read about other Texpat adventures. And I'm 34. And I love shoes. And I'm married to a foreigner. (what? Canadians count right?) And I'm a Sara(h).

    Just wanted to say thanks for, you know, occupying my entire day. But now I'm caught up so I need more!!!!

  16. Sara - You just made my matter how far along I believe I have progressed with my French, I find myself a deer in headlights in an actual conversation. It makes me relieved to know if you live there and still struggle with the language, there may be hope for me yet ~ whether sheep brush their teeth with mushrooms or not!

  17. The thought of actually speaking French with a real French person makes my stomach hurt. Sounds like you're past that stage though. Good for you :)

  18. Thank goodness we can laugh at ourselves! Funny thing about wine-1 to 2 glasses have a curious way of improving French language skills...but after that, it's all downhill.

    Last week, I told the bus driver, who I was required to talk to without benefit of wine, that my donkey son would soon be graduating from college.

  19. haha i prefer your interpretation of what he said! it's not everyday you hear of mushroom kicking sheep :)

  20. Bahahaha. I Balki everybody. Unfortunately, the two kids (my husband's) just eyeball me now with their mouths open wide. Nope. No laughter. Just stunned. Meh. Let's go kick some sheep. I mean, mushrooms. (Especially one's with maggots).

  21. hi Sara,
    you made me smile, i'm the same learning Deutsch. I had fun.. Funny but true.
    Thank you for dropping by. Yes i found serenity in Brittany.
    I'm sure you will like that place too.

  22. Sara - you are hilarious!! at least it is coming along. when we were in switzerland, it was the german speaking area. ughhh... atleast french is pretty (: love the adventures that come along with learning a new language - like this story! keep em coming.

  23. Congrats on the progress. I have not seen any mushrooms in the market with that name. Were they tasty?

  24. Yea for making progress! I took French in school for 8 years and still don't know the language, so ya know... no judgments, haha!

  25. That's OK - I'm pretty sure I told a guy on a train from Monaco-Monte Carlo to Nice the other day that I "wanted him", when I was really asking if he wanted me to move my luggage from hell so he could have the fold down seat next to me. Malheureusement, that lesson was the next one in my iPod the next day going from Nice to Montpellier. Le Oopsie. This is how we learn - experience, screw up, experience, screw it up again, voila`.

  26. Hilarious! Reminds me of those books A Year in Provence, etc. where the author talks about the accent in the south of France, where people add a syllable to the end of words, almost making them sound a little Italian, to my reading anyway. Great for you that you are conversing in French from not speaking it at all! I have fantasized about moving to France and learning the language after a year or two, but I also know that I would be super frightened when I first arrive, knowing only how to order food and shop for food, etc. But what fun. And what a way to develop the mind!

  27. One can get away with a lot by just pointing.

  28. LOL So cute! One of my coworkers is from Belgium. I love his accent and when he converses with another french-speaking someone. He's only taught me a few words, but I love to use them as often as I can, and I'd like to learn more. It sounds like a complicated language though. And I always get a good giggle when this coworker can't remember certain words in english so he says, "How you say... (mumbles something in french)??" heehee It's a fun game trying to guess what he means.

  29. I can only imagine how difficult it must be trying to live in a country where you don't speak the language. I mean, I hardly understand Canadians most of the time, and they're supposed to speak English...!

  30. Um, Can I just tell you how jealous I am that you live in France!? Thanks for visiting my blog :)

  31. Sheep feet is a cute name for a mushroom. But dastardly for a learner of the language. You must be getting very good though to pick up sheep and feet.

  32. and this is why i love your blog. you should know its one of the few (as in like 3) that i actually READ all the way through. that's sayin' something.

  33. Salut and thank you for leading me back here with your sweet comment on my blog! x

    I can so relate.! When I moved to Angers (Val de Loire) as a 20 something all I could really remember from my 'school French' was 'valise rouge'.. It was really all I could say to my sweet and polite host family (elderly couple) who were to pick me up at the train station.. So there they stood and pointed at my suitcase with their big friendly smiles 'Valise rouge! C'est toi Charlotte, n'est ce pas?!?'.. Qui, it was me alright and the start of several months of never really putting down my dictionary.. That was before I was struck by an idea of genius and took a job at a very popular bar/cafe. As I kept on pouring the Richard and watched my dear customers get tipsy, I practiced, listened and eventually learned to speak this stunning language. Not perfectly, not fluently but without shyness and with so much joy.

    xx C


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