When is the next bus
to Paris? I asked an elderly Frenchman who
was sitting at the bus stop.
When le next bus à
Paris? I translated with increased volume
in a stereotypical French accent.
Pardon monsieur, je
ne comprends pas. He turned and called to a
man across the street. Pierre, comprenez-vous
cet homme de l'Angleterre?
Pierre joined us.
Hello Pierre, I
said, when is the next bus to Paris?
Pierre shook his head.
Non René, je ne comprends pas trop lui,
stressed, drawing the shape of such a vehicle in
the air with my index fingers.
Je pense que c'est un
film, René, n'est-ce pas? ventured Pierre.
replied René, Je pense que c'est un livre.
Encouraged by their efforts
to understand, I mimed the doors of a bus opening
followed by my boarding of the bus, my paying of
the conductor and then finally my alighting in
central Paris the latter being rather
cleverly illustrated, I thought, by standing with
my legs wide apart with arms raised above my head
and fingertips touching in perfect resemblance of
the Eiffel Tower.
un ballet? suggested Pierre.
René, il doit être un livre ou un film ou
une émission de télévision.
We were joined by a large,
bearded man. Och Aye its hot,
he said, sitting down and wiping his brow.
You speak English,
I said to the new arrival with relief.
Ah prefer tae hink ay
it as Scottish, he replied in a heavy
Glaswegian accent. He turned to the Frenchmen.
Dae ye ken th' time ay th' next wee bus tae
René answered, le bus arrive en cinq
minutes. René raised a palm with fingers
spread to confirm the number five.
said the Scotsman.
You understood him?
I said to René in amazement.
I pointed to the Scotsman
and then my mouth and then my ear.
Je suis certain que c'est
un film, proclaimed Pierre. Est-il
Bien sûr, ce film a
été sur le thème de les grands Écossais et
les Anglais stupide, noted René.
Ah hink it's yer
accent, suggested the Scotsman. Tae
be frenk, Ah hud tae kin' ay guess whit ye waur
But I speak with a
very neutral southern English accent, I
Yah sassenach disnae
hae mony common pronunciations wi' other
languages an' dialects, he continued.
Tak' th' way Ah say bus. It
soonds jist loch th' way th' French say
bus. Ye say baas. Soonds
loch naethin' but a wee lamb lookin' fur its maw.
This Celtic Professor
Higgins was about to expand further on these
finer points of linguistic difference when the
Paris bus arrived. He and René climbed aboard.
I was about to follow when
Pierre tapped me on the shoulder. Excuse-moi,
monsieur, he said, est-ce que le film