Posted by: vlibrizzi | February 14, 2009

Thumbs Up!

On Thursday, I had a lot of errands to run in Paris for my classes at the Sorbonne. First, I had to register for French social security insurance (all students under age 29 are eligible for health insurance from the country) in one building, and then had to take a phonetics placement test in another building. As I finished registering for the health insurance, I looked at a map I picked up at the Sorbonne and saw that  the two buildings looked to be only a few blocks away. So since it was a nice day and I had some time to spare, I decided to walk. 

After about a half hour of walking, though, I realized that the map was not drawn to scale and that, in reality,  the two buildings couldn’t be further apart. 

I finally rounded the corner of the building after a very long walk and not much time to spare before my classes started (in a completely different building), only to see a line in the building that spilled out onto the street. I thought, “I’m never going to be able to take this test in time to go to my class!” 

So, of course, I started to panic. 

Luckily, just as I was about to break into a cold sweat, a girl from my class emerged from inside the building. Hoping to get some answers from her about why the line was so long, I rapidly asked, “Did you just take the phonetics test? How did it go? Is that what this line is for? Do you think I should wait in it?”

Unfortuately, instead of responding, she slowly squinched her eyes, and made her mouth into a small “o”.

Then, she started speaking to me in French. 

I realized at that moment, that I was speaking in English to her, and she (an Asian girl) didn’t speak a lick of English. She started to ask me a question in French, got flustered, and then I tried to respond to her, and couldn’t get a sentence out (we’re still so new to the language, remember). So we were at an impasse and thing were getting more and more awkward , so I did what any true-blooded American would do in that moment.

I opened my mouth into a wide smile and gave her two “thumbs up”! 

For me, the sign translated to, “I don’t know what the heck you are saying, and you have no idea what I’m saying either, so let’s quickly go our separate ways.”

She got the message and responded by giving me the “thumbs up” in return, as she quickly said “au revoir” and walked away. 

Later that afternoon when I saw her in class, she asked me how my phonetics test went (in French, of course). Since I was less flustered this time, I was able to respond to her in French, but I finished my reply with a “thumbs up”….for good measure.

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