Two Conversations in French

It’s been a strange semester for el Gallo. (That’s yours truly; my nickname means rooster.) I’m currently in Toronto, but I’ll be back in Lausanne, Switzerland, where I live, in a couple of weeks. It’s very strange the way the human brain learns languages. I started using Rosetta Stone TOTALe a few weeks ago and have been too busy to spend as much time with it as I’d like. In general, I have no idea what the French-speaking Swiss try to tell me whenever they speak, with two remarkable exceptions.

The first was during a date with a French girl. She knew so much about wines and food that after a few minutes of conversation with the garçon it was clear that the chef’s presence was required. I could follow the whole conversation between my date and the chef, even when they made fun of me. I must say, the food—salmon with bacon—was almost as impressive as the chef’s attitude. Kind of surprising.

youneedaticket2 The second time I could follow an entangled conversation was when I was on my way to Paris. I almost missed the train from Lausanne, and the train officer informed me that my French ticket I’d bought on the Internet was not valid at that station. I explained that my mother tongue was Spanish and I could speak a little English, but he kept talking to me in French. The man looked like the Swiss cousin of a character from a Jean Renoir movie from the ’30s. I was able to discuss with him for more than ten minutes without having to stop to ask him to repeat anything. I was speaking in English and he was speaking in French, and the conversation was quite involved, including legal terms and moral attitudes against wrong laws. I wonder if the officer didn’t speak English either and we had some sort of metaphysical connection? Of course, in the end I had to buy another ticket, though the joy of comprehending French was larger than the anger I felt over losing my precious francs.

Learn more about Guillermo Jones’s adventures in language learning.

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Guillermo “el Gallo” Gayoso Jones

Friends of Guillermo Gayoso Jones call him “Gallo Gayoso,” and he’s quick to note that gallo means rooster in Spanish. He was born in southern Texas and moved to Colombia when very young. Gallo is pursuing a biotechnology degree in Lausanne, Switzerland—a French-speaking university city on Lake Geneva. Gallo’s favorite movies are Terminator 2, La Dolce Vita, and Badlands; he loves the poetry of César Vallejo and the prose of Vladimir Nabokov; and he enjoys sunsets and bikes. The first thing Gallo does every morning is write down his dreams. Recently, he recalls, “I dreamt I was at the movies, and instead of Jessica Alba the main character was played by my ex-girlfriend.” “I wish I could speak French better,” laments Gallo, who’s pursuing his goal with the help of Rosetta Stone TOTALe.
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