When I was at school, they told me universities wouldn’t take you seriously without a language. Obvs a load of crud but hey, hindsight is a wonderful thing. Didn’t even go in the end, did I?
So, I begrudgingly took French (previous articles for how much of a twonk my teacher was) and was pretty good at it. Don’t get me wrong, you won’t catch me having a full-blown conversation, but I could mumble my way through a bakery and come out with something I probably didn’t mean to order but it tasted alright.
My uncle speaks it better than he does English so I thought maybe it could be a family thing. I get an overwhelming feeling of jealousy when people can speak more than one language. If only my mum forced me into it when I was younger. Never mind.
As a 20-something year old, I have downloaded Duolingo three times and got annoyed after a weeks worth of push notifications reminding me that I’m a half job Harry who didn’t get past day four and deleted every time. My old manager used to call me Arthur because I’d always do half a job and move on. Apt. Not something I mentioned in my interview for OX Seven, mind.
All I want to do is dart about southern Italy ordering Pizza properly. One time I ordered a pizza in Barcelona (quaint and very Spanish). This was before the days of EU roaming (wave bye to that soon, cheers Boris) and there were no translations on the menu.
I watched all these delicious pizzas reach other people’s tables. Couldn’t wait.
Turns out I’d picked a marinara (no cheese, dry AF) and had also requested what I recognised as the word olive to be removed. It was olive oil and quite a fundamental addition to taking the tomato edge off. Never mind. Lesson learnt. I’ll point at someone else’s plate and say ‘me gusta’ next time.
It doesn’t half make you feel ignorant though, does it?
I’ve been quite lucky that when I’ve been in other countries, often it’s been with someone who speaks the language. During my most recent trip to France, I didn’t get the chance to exercise my GCSE conversational patter because my friend was from a small town near Marseille and probably found it quite painful to hear me try to order something when he could just do it himself.
I just spent the week playing card games with his family and shouting French expletives I’d picked up off his sister whenever I lost. So it wasn’t all bad.
Then I was looking through my phone the other day and found an old picture of a card I got when I left one of my jobs.
I had a great relationship with the two kitchen porters (I was the only one who gave it my all to hold a conversation with them and I think they just felt sorry for me). Mariusz understood I was leaving and wished me luck.
Jan on the other hand, well, Jan and I struggled. We’d speak in eyebrow raises, weird ‘ahhhh’ noises and arm pokes. Hard to arm poke in a leaving card.
I googled what he’d written as I thought it’d be sweet. So, he got the wrong end of the stick, but he meant well. I like to think that to this day he sits at home and wonders why I never came back after my birthday.
Being an adult can mean you put an end to learning new skills or doing something you’ve always wanted to.
Priorities change and if you’re like me, ya get lazy. I haven’t got the patience to learn gendered nouns in French so I’ll pick something else.
Nothing strenuous though.
For those interested: Jans message in my leaving card.
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