“To listen to this message in French, press 1″…go ahead, I dare you!

15 Jul

Courtesy of Google

We’re all familiar with the customer service prompts, “Press 1 to hear this message in English or presione 2 para escuchar este mensaje en español.” I never really thought much about it until recently, but after I read a post from a friend and consequently, saw all the “likes” for the Facebook group: “Press 1 to hear this message in English, press 2 to learn English,” I felt my blood begin to boil!

After reading the post and feeling my blood pressure rise, I thought, you know, I’m not going to dignify that with a response. Well, my good intentions were spoiled again, as I couldn’t keep quiet about a subject that was so near and dear to me as a visitor and now resident in France. It has taken me everyday, a minimum of 2 hours a day for the past year and a half to learn basic French. This is not to be fluent mind you, far from it! Only now, am I at the point where I understand the larger part of conversations when someone speaks to me and at least the gist of those I don’t. Passive understanding (comprehension without having to concentrate) is still (hopefully) yet in my future, but if I continue, by the end of the year (a mere 2 years later) I should be close to academic fluency. To become truly fluent (e.g. nuance, colloquial understanding), will take many more years. I am so grateful, that this opinion is not shared by my French neighbors, as they have been very understanding and helpful with my language mistakes and have tried to help me any way they could. They seem to inately understand how difficult it is to learn French and have complimented my efforts.

The point being, I’m not sure that those who are so insistent that we learn the language of the said, mono-linguist, truly understand the monumental task they have placed upon the heads of others (themselves, obviously excluded by default). I did in fact respond to the post and here is the excerpt;

POST: Happy Memorial Day!  Press 1 for English, Press 2 to learn English

me: Ouch, that’s a tough one on my end! My French has improved, so guess I pressed 2 to learn but am glad the French have been kind while I was learning. Maybe ‘Press 3’ for patience with those of us learning a new language? ;).

monophonic friend: When in France, speak French. When in USA, English baby! Enjoy France. Miss ya.

Well, I do miss him too, he’s a great guy, but I have to say, I was very stunned that someone who I thought to be intelligent, kind and considerate would still feel this way. Deep down, the devil in me one day hopes, that he will go on vacation or live in a place where he will have to learn a (at least some) foreign language to get by OR run into someone who speaks perfect English, who loves to correct him. I can dream, can’t I?


Posted by on July 15, 2011 in Culture Choc


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5 responses to ““To listen to this message in French, press 1″…go ahead, I dare you!

  1. madd0

    July 15, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    Ha ha, groups like those are funny because for some reason they fail to see the obvious: Spanish is just as American as English. It probably has something to do with the whole buying and/or “winning” former Spanish colonies. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s only in those parts of the country that you’re likely to get the “presione 2” after all.
    I met a school teacher from Texas once who accepted reality and ended up learning Spanish to better communicate with her American students’ Spanish-speaking parents. It was as hard for her to learn Spanish as it was for the parents to learn English, so they were both in the same situation. In the end, all she got was a better relationship with the parents, a better résumé and a better job. I think we can all agree that choosing to learn Spanish in Texas was a really bad idea—or not 😉

    • expatriotgames

      July 15, 2011 at 6:36 pm

      AH! Touchee Madd0! Actually, the recordings are everywhere (in all states) and even the packaging in supermarkets is bi-lingual and has been for some time now. I studied Spanish for 6 years in high school and college, because my dad saw the writing on the wall over 20years ago and uh hem…’suggested’ I take Spanish instead of French (should I be mad, madd0?). Not really, now, with a bit more determination and hard work, I will be tri-lingual in no time (crossing fingers!). Thanks so much for commenting and for reading! Tweet you soon my friend ;0).

  2. Michi

    September 15, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    This is such a good post. I’ve seen a lot of the same jokes float around on FB as well, and maybe I’m a bit sensitive, but I find it unkind.

    Though I do find it a shame that there can be people who live in a country without bothering to learn the language for years, and sometimes even decades, I feel that most really do try, and are in the never-ending process of learning. WHY can’t we be more patient with them?

    • expatriotgames

      September 19, 2011 at 7:58 am

      Hi Michi! You’ve said it all and said it well. All we can do is be good ambassadors and do our individual bests’. As always, I so appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment. Cheers! ;0)


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