The phone's not walking anymore

2012-06-19 12:59

The hardest thing about learning a new language “live” is the blow to my pride and credibility.

As a journalist, I’ve made a living out of being a good communicator. In France, it can be a struggle to buy the right bread, never mind get anyone to pay me for my bon mots.

I began communicating with various local tradesmen via email rather than by phone, as the phone is surely the most difficult medium for a novice denied the visual aids of pantomime shrugs and grimaces.

Email, I decided, would allow me more control over my message –often an urgent one involving an infestation of wasps, a putrefying septic tank or dead TVs.

In the beginning, I composed these emails myself, using dictionaries and Le Bescherelle’s indispensible guide to conjugating French verbs.

This was OK as far as it went, but it could take me a morning to ask the plumber to come round.

Then I got lazy and Mathieu, the gardener, introduced me to an Internet translation site.

During a bout of blogger’s block this morning, I distracted myself by digging up emails I’d sent to various artisans in Internet French, and translating them back into English.

Now I know why nobody takes me seriously.

April 3, 2012: message to Monsieur Fabre, electrician

Dear M Fabre

As I was afraid of it, since the new Livebox is without functioning, the telephone does not walk any more.

It is demand that organizes it of the telephone appropriate of Livebox is connects on the connections.

If I make it, nothing walks

You can maintain the appointment of tomorrow, because without telephone, they are lost.

April 9 2012: message to M Fabre

Thank you to revive my Livebox.

Can we make a meeting to come this week to look at the TV and at the lamps on high? The main house has no TV of the whole. And there are guests arriving on Friday, thus it becomes press.

April 12, 2012: message to M Fabre

Can you come to repair the lamps on high before Friday?

It is the day when my guests arrive and we need it to walk.

All the rest can wait until you have more weather.

April 15, 2012: message to M Fabre

Somebody will be here all day today if you have an opportunity to pass to watch TV and, the most mattering even before the soiree on Saturday is the lamps on high.

If you have time, we also need the settled electricity (the point of grip, I think?) we have discussed last year.

So much for M. Fabre, who is not always the most punctual person, but is charming and even kinder than I first thought, now that I’ve read my mails to him. Still, I haven’t seen him since he fell off a ladder on another job. Or that’s what he says.

Mathieu, the gardener, must regret the day he introduced me to Internet translation.

May 9 2012: message to Mathieu

My husband, Split, arrives next Wednesday and I want that he is impressed!

If you have time before it, the priority list would include:

- Out weed around my small house and derriere, by the door of cooking.

- Cut the dead man being in the head of the rosebush around the door of the main house and, if possible, training him to go 'left'.

Two things must be explained about this mail.

“Split” is the web translation of “Clive”.

The dead man in the head of the rosebush means “deadhead the roses”.

What remains beyond explaining is how Mathieu translated this rubbish into appropriate action.

Indeed, he did the job so well I decided my French must be almost fluent. So the following week, I mailed him again. Feeling more on top of my game than I had in a long time, I even attempted humour.

May 16 2012: message to Mathieu

I hope that you could come today, but if not I shall be in journey from tomorrow till next Monday.

Here is ' a check list ' of the fact that I would want that you make in the garden.

- Cut please the enormous grass by the clothesline. My mother-in-law, who will stay here, is too short and I am afraid she could disappear!

- Vaporize weeds

- The rose fell. Can you fasten her?

-Plant Virginia creeper to replace the jasmine that died on the ugly derriere.

Do you guard an account of your hours?

This was all friendly fire. The building contractor required a firmer hand.

March 18 2011: message to Serge, builder

We look forward to receiving your estimate for the stone wall.

Thank you also to recognize that your workers will make, before my return on Wednesday:

-Remove their tools of the garage and the chamber of the swimming pool

-Remove the shovel

-Reconstitute the gravel

-Make the distribution of the ground around the septic tank.

You to see next week.

This mail had little impact. Buoyed up by the knowledge that Mathieu understood me perfectly, I mailed the builder again, this time more forcefully.

March 27 2011: message to Serge

The worker of you was here this morning and he removed most of the tools of the chamber of the swimming pool. Thank you indeed.

But the following articles must be always kidnapped:

-Tools in the garage, scaffold, wheelbarrows, etc.

-The shovel

And make the distribution of the ground around the septic tank

The builder and I are no longer email buddies. Or, as we say in French, the manufacturer and I, let us not be any more on such friendly terms of Inbox.

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