Here’s a true story…
When you are speaking a foreign language , you can expect misunderstandings to happen from time to time. But even speakers of the same language can have breakdowns in communication.
A few months ago, my friend Danielle and I drove into the centre of Ravine des Cabris. She had an appointment at the dentist and I was heading for a cut-price household goods store. We’d arranged to meet up later at a cafe. She was running a little late and so, at the roundabout by the dentist, she pulled over to the side of the road and said, “Okay, I’m going to leave you here”. I decided she wanted me to leap out of the car quickly as she hadn’t time to drive me to the store. So I did. But what she wanted was for me to take over driving, and for her to hurry to the dentist. So she did.
An hour and a half later, I was sitting in the cafe, munching a croissant and reading Le Journal. Danielle charged in, looking furious. “Is that how you take care of the car?” she yelled. I was completely confused. I even replied, idiotically, “What car?” The car had been at the roundabout, windows open, engine running, keys in the ignition for an hour and a half.
When we realised how we’d managed to completely misunderstand each other, we found it very funny. So did everyone else when we told them the story. We decided that Reunion is probably one of the few places in the world where you could go back and find the car just as you’d left it. In London either you’d be in major trouble with the traffic cops, or the car would be stolen. Or possibly both.
For a while after that incident, whenever we made arrangements, we checked very carefully that we were both clear about the plan. Sometimes even in two languages. You can’t be too careful when it comes to communication.
breakdown – rupture
cut price – bon marché
running late – etre en retard
pull over – arreté
munching – maché
ignition – allumage
charge in – entre en pas de charge
yell – clamer