Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Lost in Translation

My family's conversation in the car today reminded me of two of the funnier language mishaps we had while on our vacation in France:

1). While in the Loire Valley, we toured a vineyard named 'Moncontour', just outside of the quaint little village of Vouvray. After a trip through the wine museum, which was surprisingly complex and long, we got to do some wine tasting. The girl who was pouring the wine seemed nice, and after the people before us had left, I struck up a conversation, as I don't seem to have as much trouble speaking in French to people I know I'll never see again anyway. She mostly understood me, and we went through basic stuff, like whether she liked working there, if she was from the area, etc.
We finished our first taste of wine, a white, and my dad asked me if they had any red. I didn't think they did, the Loire valley is known for its whites, but I asked anyway -- but when I did so, the girl shot me a horrified and offended look and said, "Of course not, this is France!". I was a little puzzled at first - there are many good french reds! - then repeated what I had asked, very distinctly...and it turned out she had thought I'd asked if they had any Russian wine, confusing 'rouge' for 'russe'! After I hurried to explain, she was mollified and we ended our visit on a good note -- but eek, never ask a french person at a vineyard about wine from anywhere else!!

2). Fast foward to the very end of the trip, our last night in Paris. We had had a rather exhausting afternoon hauling all of our luggage through the city to find the hostel, and had selected one of the bistros nearest to our lodgings. Unfortunately, our haste to sit down had kept us from really perusing the menu first, and we had a bit of trouble finding something that the more picky members of the family could eat. Finally, my sister settled on a a random addition to the menu, a hamburger with with the very french addition of a raw egg on top. She, of course, did not want the egg, so as I ordered, I asked for "l'hamburger (that was actually the word on the french menu!) sans oeuf" - without egg, which I thought might be slightly bizarre there but certainly possible. The waiter, however, gave me a strange stare and repeated in wonder, "l'hamburger sans boeuf?" -- he thought I had asked for the hamburger without the beef! No, even though we are American, we are not THAT weird, and we soon straightened him out, and everyone, including the waiter, had a good belly laugh.


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