Lost in translation….

So its not hard to feel thick here when you only speak one language. At school I was good at french, I even did well enough to do a year of German. Which was so memorable I actually forgot until my Dad bought over a discovery from his attic of one of my old text books. Covered in 80’s wallpaper and doodles of Garfield and who I had snogged.

We moved to Luxembourg in 2009. Like so many here it was only meant to be short term, a stepping stone to other things but here we are 12 bloody years later. Luxembourg just 82 kilometers from North to South is landlocked between France, Germany and Belgium. Luxembourgish is their official language but in town its very french and on the outskirts where I am its very German.

Language is important here, all people switch effortlessly back mid sentence from one to another. In supermarkets the cashiers have flags beside them displaying how many languages they speak. Petrol stations, bars, shops are all full of people who don’t see language as a problem. Well most anyhow.

Years ago I went on a couple of work trips to Paris. “Un bière svp”but what more did I need? Shame on me. I didn’t eat anything then so didn’t need to order food for Christs sake! My hedonistic 20’s killed most brain cells and Im sure my memory too. If my kids brains are like sponges mine is like a sieve. Incapable of retaining information so learning a new language well it was like climbing Everest in flip flops!

On arriving in Luxembourg it became apparent I needed to try at least. One day a flyer came through the letterbox for french lessons in your home. ( thank you Google translate) As I had a 2 yr old and a young baby in tow that was perfect. I contacted the lady who spoke english with a heavy accent and we arranged the date and time. She advised me of the textbook I needed and where to buy it. So full of energy and enthusiasm there I was the week after complete with advised textbook, exercise books new stationary and pencil case. Yep all the gear. Now it has to be said I was a good student, enthusiastic ( if I enjoyed the subject) yep I knew what needed to be done and did it. She arrived the first week prompt at 9am. First impressions confirmed she’d never married, loved comfy shoes and hated going to the hairdressers. Obviously a fan of total immersion she started talking in french about her journey and what we were going to do. My blank expression and vacant smile gave me away and she realized straight away what she was taking on. In fact Im sure she was debating whether she should recalculate the hourly rate…

So its really not easy having a private one on one language lesson with 2 young children. One on my lap, rocking the other with my big toe in her chair while I desperately tried to roll my “R’s” All the time she would have a desperate expression on her face. Fixed grin almost lunatic asylum look. There we would be trying to read the Metro her correcting my pronunciation after almost every word all while a two year old asked questions “Mummy watch me!” “Mummy why ?” baby cryed or cooed and tutor looked on.

My enthusiasm began to slip. Not even my new stationary bought me joy. It was harder than at school had i lost brain cell’s when pregnant?

Tuesday mornings I began to dread. Then one Tuesday morning she didn’t arrive. I sat poised with my pencil case and book. Daisy and Megan seated with suitable refreshments ready for a marathon Peppa Pig run.

She didn’t arrive. I ran to try and find my phone and there was a text from her “RETARD!!

Loud and angry in capital letters. I sat with my phone in my hand stunned. What could I say. I wasn’t very good but blimey that was abit harsh. What a b***h. I started to write back an emotionally loaded response. Witty, clever something to really put her in her place. Yep it took me a while in fact too long. Then the doorbell rings, i answer the door its her.. So, I have to say I am all mouth and no trousers and usually avoid confrontation like the plague. Complain about food in a restaurant? Nope. So she comes in rambling ten to the dozen in french not a word about the text. Very strange I think. I am functional, shite as ever rolling my “R’s” but very cool with her icy in fact during the lesson.

She clearly notices and we say a cool Au revoir and she walks away in her comfy shoes. Im annoyed with myself for not tearing into her. But I have my dignity I tell myself. Later that day she sends me a message to say its too difficult getting the bus to mine blah blah blah. Oh well I think she shouldn’t have called me a retard.

It wasn’t till later much later that I learnt the word Retard meant LATE. She had texted me to say she was late……. Oooppppsssss

Omg there have been so many moments like this over the years. If you are a fellow expat you might be able to relate or if not I hope I made you smile. More lost in translation tales to follow x

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