why i will respond to you in French.

by - 5:37 AM

It is a day like any other. It is a Friday afternoon waiting in the line at Starbucks. It is a Monday morning at the post office. It is a quick coffee with a friend on Thursday before school lets out.

I ask for the check. I could really use a napkin. I need some stamps.

I do not forget to use "vous" nor do I forget to invert the verb + subject, as I have been taught to. Inverse over inflection, when asking a question.*

Maybe it's my makeup or my denim shorts that tip you off. It's probably my accent and my order that lead you to realize that I am also an "Americano." No matter how hard I try, it will be obvious: in the past 9 months my hair has physically rejected bottles and bottles of chestnut brown hair dye, a la française. My hairs have collectively decided that they will not be disguised. I cannot pull of ankle boots, I cannot fit into skinny jeans, I cannot smoke a cigarette without looking stupid: I am not French.

I understand that when you realize these things, you think it would just be easier to respond to me in English.

It's not.

The thing is, I used to live in America. Then I moved to a French-speaking country. I live here -- I have a french address, a french bank account and a carte Navigo. Those may not seem like important things to you, but they mean that I am established here, that I am not a visitor. There is a reason I moved to Paris and it wasn't to speak English. I like your culture, your language and your history. Why won't you let me participate?

I understand l'argot and I employ verlan any chance I get. I realize when it is appropriate to use "prenne" rather than "prends" and I know the difference between "serai" and "vais être." So when you respond to me in English, I will continue to speak to you in French. If you find my accent cute or charming, get in line. I've dated French boys who have no problem understanding me. I can successfully hold phone conversations with customer service officials, tele-marketers and anyone else who calls. I understand everything Kyan says on Bref. Boom.

I'm a customer, patron, someone in need, and that need is to become fluent. Maybe you want to practice your own English. That's cool. I've got a 0-6, let's have language exchange sometime. Sometime off the clock.

*I like the sound of that, so I am officially copyrighting it's usage. Cool.

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  1. I get this. While in Spain, even while walking down the street I lived on, with Spanish friends, speaking in (pretty darn great) Spanish, people spoke in English to my American face. It would frustrate me, and I had to just learn to not feel insulted and instead chalk it up to an attempt at customer service or to a desire to practice English. (Even if the intentions were actually more insulting...)

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