Friday, May 26, 2006

Reason to go to Africa #327: Learn the Language.

I was sitting outside the lovely Grand Rapids establishment The Kava House earlier this week, sipping my caramel latte and working on my Application for Volunteer Mission Services for the RCA when what should my little ear hear but another language. Amidst the noise of passing traffic, it was hard to dicipher which language this was, however. Spotting a moped that obviously belonged to one of the two men who were speaking, I decided quickly that they must be European. Hyped on caffine, I strained my ear like a trained detective to discern which foreign tongue they were communicating with. Certainly not Spanish, and not enough "zi, ie, or ti" sounds to make it Italian, I was thinking, when suddenly, I was sure I heard the word "quatorze." (French for 'fourteen')
"Praise be to God!" I thought to myself, "they are speaking French!" Fourteen of what, I had no idea. Of course, being French, they were not speaking very loudly in public. The French do their best to keep their mouths as close to closed as possible when speaking. Do not ask me why.
In any case, I was forced to continue to strain to hear words, only catching a few "tu" and "vous" in between passing cars. (My application was a complete gonner by this time.)
All of a sudden, the men were standing up. My thoughts (partly a cause de the caffeine) were racing. "This is my only chance! I haven't spoken French since school got out! I need the exposure to the language. What would my French professors say? They would be ashamed if I didn't speak to them." Sure of my hypothesis, throwing caution to the wind, with my coffee to back me up, I approached one of the men:

"Est-ce que vous etes Francais?" I asked
"What?" He replied
"Est-ce que vous parlez Francais?" I asked agian, thinking I must have mumbled the first time, or that perhaps he was Canadian.
"You speak French?" He said
"Yes, and you?" I asked, growing less sure of myself by the second.
"Oh, we were speaking Dutch" He said. ... Or so I thought.
"So you're from the Netherlands, then?" -I, slightly embarassed.
"No. We are from Turkey."
-My mind, putting things together: Turkey. He must have said Turkish not Dutch. Either way both not very close to French. Way to go, French major.
Bravely, I forged on. We had a very quaint conversation about how he ended up in Grand Rapids (he came for school, and then stayed), the importance of learning a language, how hard it is, and then he advised me to live in France to learn it (No kidding, I wouldn't be impressed with myself either) so I could better learn how the natives speak; their slang, etc.
We shook hands and went our separate ways, the caffeine quickly draining from my system.

I suppose it's about time I start learning it first hand. My hopes were slightly raised this evening when I saw the DaVinci code and only had to look at the subtitles once or twice to figure out what they were saying. I noticed I was especially good at picking out the swear words. I also knew when Paul Bettany was speaking in Italian, thank you very much. (By the way, for a movie about worship of the sacred feminine, I thought Sophie Neveu was portrayed very poorly. She lets the man do all the code breaking for her.)

When it's all said and done: One week and one day until I depart from the States. I intend to spend some more time studying the subjunctive, in particular, before I leave.

Still looking for laptops.

I received a phone call today from my pastor asking if they could pray for me in church this Sunday. That made my day. Central has been very supportive of me as I've grown up, and has continued to support me through this experience. If you would like to be there, the service is at 9:30am this Sunday. Central Reformed Church on the corner of College and Fulton in downtown Grand Rapids.

Tom recently e-mailed me a photo of the proper portayl of the African headscarf. Thank goodness. I think Aichatou will have to help me when I get there however, as I'm clearly not the most adept headscarf tier in the world.

A bientot!

P.S. I have spent about two hours trying to widen this blog so it becomes more readable. If anyone is good with html, please let me know. I know where to fix it, but not 100% how...


Miss Christine said...

Haha, I'm just impressed you even went up to them! And then on top of that, you kept talking to them on top of what would have been, for me, extreme embarassment. Lol. Kudos.

Amanda said...

Chris-How couldn't I continue to talk to them? That would have just made it more embarassing!

Miss Christine said...

Yup, I'll do that as soon as you actually remember my birthday without me saying something about it.

alida said...

Hi Amanda! I guess you know I'm on vacation when I stumble on former classmate's blogs. =D I think I had heard before that you were going to Africa, but it didn't really sink in. I think that that's amazing and I'm so very glad that you get to go and speak French and learn a new culture and help people and countless other wonderful things. Go you Amanda. We wouldn't expect any less from you. I sincerely hope you have a wonderful trip and I'll be sure to keep track of you with your nice little blog. Bon voyage!