Thirty some years ago I spent 6 months living in Montreal, immersed in the French language. I followed that up with 6 months in Regina, semi-immersed in the language. I’ll admit, I wasn’t the best student for learning another language. And I’ll also admit that I didn’t appreciate the value of a second language until several years later.
People always told me, and I guess I believed it to some degree, that ‘you know more than you think you know’...and I mean that solely in regards to the French language...nothing else. Cause I’m pretty sure of what I know about other things, and more importantly, what I don’t know. But I assumed that in relation to French, that what they said was true. After all, I can almost repeat exactly the French version of the airplane safety demonstration. And I’m a crackerjack at reading the French nutrition guide on a cereal box. I stop at every Arret sign I see. Sure I can’t ‘parlez’ about anything other than the basics, but surely, in a pinch, I could get by. And then I came to Austria...
Now remember what I said when I arrived in Vienna about everyone being able to communicate in English? Well that theory was pretty much left behind when we left Vienna. The more rural we got the less English that’s spoken, or even understood. So when we finally got to our hotel here, and went to the first function with the hiking group, it became apparent really quick that we’re going to have difficulty with communication.
We are the only ones from North America. The majority of the group of 50 are from Germany, followed by Austria. There is one couple from Sweden and one couple from France. No real surprise who our dining table mates are! The Swedish and French couple because they don’t speak much German either. The Swedish couple can speak some English, but the French couple cannot. No worries, I figure! I can bastardized the French language pretty good. Surely I’ll have a reason to convey that there’s no smoking and the washrooms have been equipped with smoke detectors. Or perhaps that your chair tray and seat back should be in the upright position.
And then they start to talk. Well, WTF!!! I have NO CLUE what language they’re speaking, but it ain’t anywhere near the French that I learned. It sounds more like Spanish to my untrained ear. I...can’t...understand...one...effin...word...they’re...saying! I guess none of that French that I learned really did stick!! Oh well, sucks to be our Swedish friends. They have to play ‘go between’ all meal long.
Today we had a rather long tour of a place called Mystic Terra, which is basically a very old mineral mine. What made the tour even longer was the fact that it was all in German. So, the only way I can describe it would be to listen the the Muppets Swedish Chef talk for 2.5 hours and the only words I heard that I understood were ‘kilometer’ and ‘Maria Theresa’. Sorry...got no context for you in how those words were used. They were just the only ones I understood!
We did go for a bit of a walk about after the tour. We had 2 hours to wander the wooded area around the mine before returning to the hotel for a scaled down, 6 course meal tonight. Fortunately, we finished eating at a more reasonable hour and were able to take a wee stroll...to Italy!!! Yup, 10 minutes walk away and we were at the border. Tomorrow we get to the top of one of the big Italian Alps. Stay tuned!