Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Lost in translation

My mother and father were both Italian immigrants who met and married in Boston in 1956. For their honeymoon they drove to Quebec. At some point they stopped at a local gas station.

Quebecers have a good second sense of whether to address a stranger in English or French. The gas station attendant walk out, looks at dad behind the wheel, assesses (correctly) that he is not an native English speaker, and speak to him in French.

My father was a more recent immigrant to America and his English was proportionately poorer. He turns to my mother, curses in Italian and adds, “I didn’t know there is another language in this country! I’m having a hard enough time learning English!”

My mother gently pointed out they were not in the U.S. and indeed, in Canada they also speak French – to his great relief.

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