Monday, January 22, 2007

the language lottery*

As I mentioned in my last post, something as simple as running errands can go a long way in making me feel more at home here. The truth is, interacting with those around me often does turn out to be something of a crap shoot. Days like Friday, where everything goes smoothly, are becoming more frequent, but there are still days where I'm left a trembling mess, because either I haven't understood a word or I just can't find the words to say what I want. Worse yet, I know what I want to say and the words just won't come out.

And then there are moments that pass into the bizarre. I ran another errand last week and the proprietor who usually helps me was busy with another customer, so her assistant came to help me out. Now, the proprietor knows I'm American, always teases me about my accent, and since I usually order the same thing she knows what I'm going to say before I say it.

The assistant didn't know what I was going to order, but she finally got it right after a series of hand gestures accompanying my bad pronunciation. As she was ringing me up, I smiled apologetically and muttered, "Oui, je sais... mon accent..."

She perked up and smiled and said, "Ah oui? Vous ĂȘtes belge?" Suddenly, it was everything I could do to not burst out laughing.

You see, I've never been mistaken for being Belgian before.

*I wish I came up with this phrase, which sums up my predicament perfectly, but it comes to us from the amazing Karla, who mentioned it in the comments of my last post. Hope you don't mind, K!

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