One of my personal hobby horses if you go to live in another country – or even go there regularly on holiday – is that you should at least make a stab at learning the language. Even if you get no further than the essentials, have a go, because the locals will respect you for it. I’ve been so diligent at taking my own advice that I can order beer, wine and vodka – the essentials – in a number of languages, as well as saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’
I seem to have an aptitude for languages – unlike Tony, who has been learning French for at least 25 years and still can’t get past beer, wine, please and thank you. Even then, his pronunciation is so – shall we say creative – that even I can’t understand him, and I’m more or less fluent in French. The Spanish is still a work in progress, but I’ve probably reached the intermediate stage. Tony’s Spanish is excellent – he has ‘La cuenta, por favor’ off to a tee, so he takes care of all the bills. He doesn’t really need any more Spanish as long as I’m with him, does he, boys and girls?
With my command of French and Spanish, you’d think travelling through the two countries to visit the friends and family in England would be a doddle, wouldn’t you? And mostly it is. However, I’m the wrong side of 60, and after a long day’s drive – 400 – 500 miles is doable on the roads in Spain and France – I can get a bit confused.com. This happened to me yesterday, on our way back home to Algorfa.
After driving 300 miles in the heat, I was really pleased to find a camping ground just 5 minutes off our route. When you’re driving 1,100 miles, the last thing you want to do is rack up another 10 – 20 miles finding somewhere to stay for the night. The camping ground – Camping Les Jardins de L’Adour, in Saint Vincent de Paul, just outside Dax, in the Atlantique region – looked really peaceful and welcoming. And although it had a swimming pool, library, bar and other facilities, it was just €10.50 a night, including electric. Unlike some sites, we didn’t have to pay extra for Paddy either, and they even supplied free poop bags, les chiens for the use of. We decided to stay two nights and chill out before we tackled the final 500 miles.
I must have been more tired than I thought I was, because after the usual ‘Bonjours’ – it was still daylight, so that worked – I got a teensy weensy bit mixed up. As I said, I’m pretty fluent in French – so much so that I actually think in French when I’m in France and about to speak to French people. What was in my head was, ‘I’d like a pitch for two people and a dog for two nights, please,’ and I had all the French words to say that, in exactly the right order. However, what actually came out of my mouth was, ‘Je voudrai une emplacement for two people y un chien por dos noches, please.’
The French site manager – who spoke about 5 languages fluently, including English and Spanish – didn’t know whether to be amused or amazed. Being French, he just shrugged and filled out the receipt. I, on the other hand, wished the ground would open up and swallow me. Sometimes I wonder whether speaking more than one language is such a good thing after all. Or is that just me?
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