Foreign travel... How fluent are you?

Truly bilingual people are few and far between. Some can get away with a few minutes of simple chat sounding like a local, if you’ve got a genuinely musical ear... others last a while longer if they have spent a very long time in the country in question. Mostly though, international spy movies with the hero able to fool residents that they are from downtown Paris or Moscow are pure fable. It just can’t be done!

A good test of your fluency in French is a trip to the local McDonalds anywhere in France (and I mean anywhere, unfortunately, these days). The French have adopted many Anglo-Saxon words into their own language, much to the disgust of the Académie Française. However the pronunciation is another matter – neither Anglo, nor American, nor indeed French. McNuggets anyone? “nerGET” seems to be the consensus amongst ‘MacDo’ staff – anything else and a blank look of incomprehension comes your way. Oo ees zis eediot oo cannert speek ze ingleesh? Deed ee nert ger to zee skoole? Hopefully I have the kids with me if a trip through the McDrive is absolutely unavoidable. They are then persuaded to shout their orders across the car while I sit there smiling inanely. Complicated ice cream orders I absolutely draw the line at. Macfleureee with odd unpronounceable flavours? Forget it. If you want one, order it yourself. My limit is the Beeeg Mac. I seem to able to get the message across with that one. Un MacChickERN? At a pinch. A Royal Cheese avec Deluxe Potatoes? Forget it.

The Thais have their own word for it. But they’ve used their brains, unlike the French, and have numbered menus with pretty pictures and the name of the dish in both languages. Number 4 please. Yes sir, one minute sir!

Of course the answer is to stick to real food wherever you travel. Then neither language nor digestion problems need arise.

A pic, kindly provided by Carol of the
Chiang Mai Photographic Group triggered this train of thought...
McDonalds, Khaosan Road, Bangkok

Love the way fast food around the world is sometimes adapted to the local taste buds. In Thailand at least they refrain from adding half a dozen chili peppers to a McDonalds salad. Much against their better judgment, no doubt…

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Mike said...

You never know Peter a few chillies might help.

Personally I can't stand Mac's or KFC's but I suppose they have a place somewhere?

Funnily enough the last Big Mac I had (because I was desperate to eat) was in Kuala Lumpur while waiting for an overnight train to Penang.

Tasted foul and kept me awake all night!

Hoo Don said...

Sounds to me like the head of France Big Mac is a fan of Rene and Allo Allo the brilliant BBC comedy. Are all the staff dressed as World World II RAF airman.

The FrogBlogger said...

Me neither Mike, but faced with starvation or rebellion from kids, a Beeeg Mac is sometimes (rarely) the best option, if only just... I hate them myself - but then again, I wish I'd thought up the concept!

HD, how did the policeman put it? "I admit my Fronch cod be butter."

Susan said...

Indeed, and we are very aware that our Fronch cod be butter :D. Officer Crabtree is a genius creation.

Is the ch in chicken and cheese pronounced tch or sh by the MacDo staff?

The FrogBlogger said...

'tchicken', 'tcheese'. 'Royal' is 100% French-sounding, so you might expect cheese to be 'sheeze'. There's no consistency at all! But then, the French are a fickle lot.

Susan said...

How curious. I once tried to teach a head gardener friend of ours how to say Chelsea (as in Chelsea Flower Show, which we were discussing at the time). It remained stubbornly Shelsee.