Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mme. Fickes would be proud

Well, maybe.

First off let me apologize for being so slack with my blogging. With two jobs and kids, there is not much time to sit journal for souls perusing the internet to find. However, when I get those moments, I do still like to share.

This post comes about a week or two late.

I kid you not, half of the customers this particular night were from Quebec, most from Montreal (yes I asked) and all were coming home from Florida. (I want to go to Florida, but I digress)In spite of the masses of Canadians moving through our doors, there was no mapel leaf convention nearby. They were all isolated friends/family groups all coming home from vacation and no group knew another group.

For a span of an hour it was every other customer and some must have been from border towns because their English was practically non existant.

However, all that aside, we have discussed my obsession with accents and my adoration of the Quebequois accent. The result of this evening, although slightly stressful, was like a tiny peice of glee for me.

Like any good employee, I try to accomodate the customer request, which first comes by way of ensuring I understand their order. This proved quite difficult in English with many of them because, they had a poor grasp on the language. So I took a deep breath, blocked out the noises around me and eaves dropped on conversations hoping desperately to understands *something* anything to help these poor hungry souls find sustenance and then I hear what sounds like "freets"...wait...freets? I know that word...FRIES! "Frites grande? ou um...errr...medium?" as I hold up my hands to gesture large or medium hoping my hack job at franglais was making it's point...and suddenly I am in an onslaught of "oui! oui! medeeeeooom" Oh I love that accent. So then I hear "poolay" and I'm like...snap! that's poulet and that means chicken and I am definitley remembering things so I attempt a few more phrases in french and start pulling out the numbers of the value meals and voila...smooth ordering from the wee canadians that were struggeling just moments before.

I actually got into a niche and blurted out "c'est tout?" a few times instead of "is that everything?" and they just responded as if I knew all there was to their language, and of course I began to stutter and had to explain it's been almost 20 years since French class and I can't remember it all, but could someone please bring me some poutine next time they are in town?

I felt pretty good about things and always remembered my "merci" as they departed. And although it was just a burger or a chicken sandwich I feel like I did my part in that little Mc Donald's motto of "we love to see you smile". Perhaps I should learn that phrase in French as well.

Actually, I appreciate a language barrier. It's not easy going into a foreign country and attempting to communicate in a language you are not strong with. I remember doing it as a kid growing up on Army bases in Germany. I did eventually learn "Danke", and "knie aus" (knees out from ballet class, which I never really mastered by the way).

I have learned, however, that in spite of the largest language barriers, that a simple thank you goes a long way. As a result, I've tried to learn what I can in the languages that frequent our store. American sign language I'm pretty stupid with, but I can get a few toddler neccessary phrases out. Not sure "socks" is going to help a customer, however that "thank you" will put a smile on their face and make their experience better, and so I learned it the first deaf customer we had. Now they all come to me. I guess I'm special that way. I can't speak ASL, but I can hand them a paper and pen and a list I keep nearby for them to point and pick. And again we follow up with the thank yous.

I love that little phrase, and I'm determined to learn it in more languages. I think I have french of course, and german, ASL, spanish and italian for the thanks phrase. I could have learned it in Indian and Finish. Sadly, I forgot to ask the Hindu convention how to say it as they came through and the finish au pairs I met last week, were too absorbed in conversation to want to be interupted when things were slow enough to converse. Oh well, I will learn more as I age. I hope at least. In the meantime, mayhaps my French teacher from so many years ago will be content knowing that I've actually found a use outside of tourism for the language she so adored. Thanks Mme. Fickes. I guess you taught me well...or should I say "merci".


  1. "nous aimons vous voir sourire" <- We love to see you smile

  2. This is so awesome Susan!! It makes me smile every time I see people try to help close the language barrier, I don't know if you know but I have a second major in spanish as well and i just love it and think it's so important to make a bridge to that barrier.

    You're so awesome!!!
    Colleen from school