07 December 2007

Faux Pas? Oui!

WHAT IS IT about learning a language that sometimes makes you panic? I suppose it's the fear that you will sound like a complete idiot, something I've certainly become accustomed to in the past several months. But the panicking sure doesn't make things better. In fact, it sometimes makes you say things that you just can't explain That happened to me yesterday...twice!

On two separate occasions, I was involved in a brief, casual conversation in French; one with a colleague from work and one with one of Patrick's friends at his soccer practice. In both conversations I found myself in a situation where I needed to answer a question with the word 'yes' -- or 'oui', in French. Now, I have known what 'oui' means since I was about 6 years old and the word is even a bit of a comfort word for me in the sense that I often nod my head and say oui when I don't really understand what is being said.

But yesterday I understood the questions that were being asked pefectly, but for some reason -- perhaps the conversations were on the verge of being too complicated -- I panicked when the questions were asked and instead of saying oui I said...Dah!

Dah is Russian for 'yes'. Where in the heck did that come from? Imagine how stupid I must have looked nodding my head knowingly and saying Dah! Now, my first job out of college was at the International Monetary Fund where I worked in the Russia Division and had a few weeks of Russian lessons so maybe my subconscious was reverted back to those days for some odd reason. Of course my wife doesn't care why it happened, she just thinks its hilarious that happened at all. She desperately hopes I'll make that faux pas again sometime when she can be around to hear it.

Do I need a psychologist to analyze this for me?


Penny said...

My french is dreadful under pressure. I'm at my best when I have time to warm up. But I think your russian faux pas is a result of interference. I'm sure I remember reading somewhere that when you are learning a new language, often a previous language you have learnt will get in the way. Still, very funny though :)

Poppy Fields said...

No psychologist needed. Something in the complicated conversation must have triggered the place in your brain where your russian vocabulary is stored...Me, I blurt out stupid things without any brain triggering at all...

katiez said...

Happens all the time! My spanish is often excellent in France and my French does very well indeed...in Spain.
I once very nicely ordered 'un bouteille de agua' in France. The waiter, as is fitting, didn't even blink. After he left the dining room and mon mari applauded...and laughed!

cjscriven said...

Perhaps, but I never really knew very much Russian -- just a few phrases and some basic vocabulary. Oh well.