Language Baby Steps


So there we were, finally checking out from the grocery store. This was easily our largest grocery trip we had done since moving here. While not looking forward to the half-mile walk home, the annual bulk-item sales were too good to pass up. As I am ready to insert my “banque-carte” it happens…again. Somebody talks to me in French. This time it was the cashier, and he was clearly asking me a question and expecting a response. He might as well have been an adult in a Charlie Brown special trumpeting out, “Mwa-mwa-mwaaaa-mwa.”  

“Pardon. Je parle très peu français. ”

The horrified look on his face immediately tells me that he either understood me in saying that I speak very little French or he did not understand me at all. We are going to need to get creative to communicate. He initiates by spinning his computer screen around and pointing to the corner. There it has something listed about points. I know that I have their loyalty card, but I do not know how it works. Even so, I am pretty sure he is asking me if I want to apply my membership points to the order. Clearly he is not able to do this without a very clear, properly communicated directive from me.

I try to construct one phrase for him…strikeout. Then I bashfully mutter something else…nothing. Finally I remember some English words that are actually also French words just said differently… “Utiliser les points?” As his face lights up we exchange multiple “Oui, oui!” chants with each other, and he proceeded to take a fantastic chunk off of our receipt by using our points. Now emboldened, I attempt to explain, “J’etudie la français pour un mois.” This statement is basically Tarzan saying, “I study French for one month.” For me, I am happy to say it, happy to have communicated, happy to have explained that this is just the beginning. To point out that in the not-so-distant future I will be applying grocery store points in French with STYLE!

The cashier…he doesn’t care. That was communicated well from him.

Oh well, bumps and bruises are the clearest signs of effort and the willingness to try. Even baby steps lead somewhere.