“Je ne parle pas Francais” Why couldn’t that be enough?

This happened a while back and I was thinking about on the train this afternoon. I can think of a few people who may get a chuckle out of it.

It was one of my first days in Paris and I had just ordered a cappuccino. This was the first stop in non-English speaking country, of my trip and even something as simple as ordering a drink was still a bit nerve-racking. So, as you can imagine I was a slightly hesitant to respond when the “gentleman” behind me tried to start a conversation. It went something like this.

As I turned to leave the counter, the gentleman looked directly at me and said “ca va?”.
I responded with the same expression, hoping that was the extent of his inquiries.
It was not.
He responded with a long-winded chain of words of which I recognized two, bien and Paris.
Yes, Paris is good I thought to myself and responded with what I thought was an appropriate response. A simple “oui”.
This must have been an odd response.
He followed with a few very simple phrases.
“Parlez vous Francais?”
“Vous en vacances en Paris?”
“Vous en American?”
“Je American, oui”, but it is more likely that I used a simple “oui”.
Then he introduced himself “Je suis Antoine” and gave the international me, you gesture.
I respond by pointing at myself and saying “Scott”.
We enjoyed a brief moment of semi-awkward silence at which point I ended our conversation with a simple “au revoir” and walked away feeling pretty good.

I continued on admiring my surroundings stopping every few minutes to snap a photograph. Ten or fifteen minutes passed in peace. I hunched over to rest my camera on a fence post and suddenly, sensed someone invading my personal space. I gave a very slight glance to my left, just in case the intrusion was justifiable and sure enough it was Antoine. Now; I was a little annoyed, but not to the point of being rude. He obviously knew I didn’t speak French. What enjoyment could he possible get from our indecipherable exchange of words. Regardless; he was back for more and somehow, I still remain clueless of his intentions. At this point he became very gesticulate, letting his hands do the majority of the speaking.

Its funny how much you can communicate with a few simple gestures. There are a few simple hand signals that are universal. Its almost as if they are hereditary, passed down from our most primitive ancestors.

His hand signals quickly became quite vulgar in a very obvious way. It was at this point that the indubitable intention of his unceasing efforts, finally became transparent. To me anyhow.

This is not the first time I’ve found myself in this position. I like to think that it is just because I am nice. Which may not be the case. I could just be quite slow at picking up on a hint.

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2 Responses to ““Je ne parle pas Francais” Why couldn’t that be enough?”

  1. Ah oui, tu ne parles pas français ! Et oui, en France, c’est quelque peu embêtant car non, ce n’est pas un pays anglophone effectivement. Et en général, les gens de plus de 40 ans ne savent pas parler l’anglais ! C’est juste la dernière fois que je t’embête avec mes commentaires, mais là ça m’a fait rigoler cette situation du mec qui vient te parler et que toi tu ne comprends pas ! Dans 15 jours je pars à Prague et c’est pareil je ne parle pas du tout la langue, juste un petit peu anglais, alors ça m’a fait rire ton article car j’ai pensé que j’allais être dans la même position que toi d’ici peu !!! Yes, i wrote this text in french with aaaall my love for french just to annoyed you a little bit ! Please, don’t be affraid, i already know that you ll use a translator !
    Mes bons souhaits pour la suite, enjoy your passion of photo. : )
    Au revoir d’une française !

    • Yeah, it has been slightly embarrassing at times. I wish I had included Prague in my trip. I have heard nothing but great things from nearly everyone I’ve met on the road. Have fun!

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