I really wanted to share a funny situation that happened to me the first time I lived in France during my Junior year abroad while pursuing my Undergraduate degree. This is a little tale about nuisances of languages and being ‘lost in translation’. I lived with the fantastic Balula family in Tours, France. They were a family of 6 with children ranging from 11-18 years old, three sons, Guy, Richard, Gustave and the youngest Camille was a lovely and lively young girl. The family was pretty close nit and a sheer joy to be around, the exact environment that you would want to be in while so far away from home. Each evening we all had dinner together no matter what the circumstances, so it was understood that was not only a basic expectation but also a requirement. I had only been in France all of 10 days (having spent a few days in Paris prior to arriving at their home). Being the French expert I was at 20 years old, as we all sat down for supper when I announced to Madame Balula that I was indeed allergic to “Perservatifs”. You Francophiles know where I am going, so feel free to laugh now, however ever for the rest of the world, let me explain………..
All of a sudden the teenage boys lost their proper French composure at dinner with boisterous laughter and the 11 little girl was giggling hysterically. I am looking around the table and wondering what the heck is going on. As I am trying to save the family and myself much grief over the fact that I am allergic to food items like MSG and I wanted to be able to enjoy the famous French cuisine but not at the burden of being in the clinic every week. That is when Madame Balula proceeds to tell me in such a delicate and gingerly way that only a mother can (in French of course), ‘that a “Perservatif” is a thing that a woman and a man who are very much in love use on a regular basis before they decide to have a family…’ I was mortified. ‘And perhaps what I am referring to is a Food Conserver, of which she does not use anyway.’
I really wanted to slink underneath the table and I learned a huge lesson that day. Never be afraid to ask a language question to native speakers, for you too can be saved from being Lost in Translation!!!!!