"Who is this Savadear I keep hearing about?" Two years ago, Mr Wild Dingo whispered that very question, which had been burning in his mind for too long, to a Francophone at work. Bemused, the Francophone laughed. "Not 'Savadear,' 'Ça veut dire,'" he replied. The expression literally translates as "it wants to say" but actually means "it means."
Since then, Mr. Wild Dingo has done really well in learning French and even gave a small presentation at work in French a few months ago. Admittedly, I haven't progressed or even tried to progress, as much as him. Ten years ago, it would have been easy for me to at least try but not so much now.
Learning a new language sometimes means changing a part of your personality or character. "Super!" and "Magnifique" replace words like "awesome!" and "cool!" "C''est logique" replaces "it makes sense" and so on. A few months into my French lessons, when I was still having a lot of trouble with insomnia, I said to my French teacher: "Elle est heureuse parce qu'elle va manger un os." (Juno is happy because she is going to eat a bone.) My teacher corrected me and said, "elle est content." I'll never forget the resistance I felt when I heard that. I knew that it was one of those ways of communicating that wasn't literal and that the French didn't use the word 'happy' in that way. Still, 'content' was not a word I'd use to describe Juno about to get a juicy bone. She's not content! She's over the moon! She's elated! At that time, I was struggling with sleep, and not in any place to change my style of speaking and the types of idioms I used. I just wanted to learn vocabulary so I could understand the radio or shop without a dictionary. Our French teacher often sensed that and gave us exactly what we needed.
A few weeks ago we went to a party where there were French, Swiss, Austrian, Brazilian, Chinese, Cuban and Iranians. French was the common language. Only the Iranians spoke Persian and English but not French. Everyone else spoke French, some English and perhaps either German and/or Italian. We held our own in some French conversations, dipping back into English when we got stuck. And we often missed the punch lines of jokes, like Sarkozy calling France from Hell, but it was a local call. Everyone laughed, except us because "local call" doesn't translate literally. But for the most part, it was all good. Sometimes it's fun to be the foreigner. People look at you as some exotic creature. Especially if you tell them you're from California. Or if you're the only one wearing Danskos.
But it sure was nice to have the Iranians there, to speak English to when I needed a break from French. Believe me, the irony of speaking English to Iranians at a French-speaking party was not lost on us.
At least that dude Savadear never showed up.
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