The End of Language

“Il y a un petit animal dans le maison.”  These were interesting words  to hear as I  ate dinner the other night.  According to my host family, there was some variety of creature living about the house.  Mon “pere” was going to take action against this invading force sometime the next day.

Being the inquisitive one that I am, I engaged the family (and their friends who were visiting) in a dialogue to determine what exactly was living in the house.  One of the friends spoke a little English, so I naturally began with him.  “Petit animal”, he said.  “Très petit animal”, I replied.  He did not know the English equivalent.  Back and forth the friend, the family, and I went in my quest to identify this insurgency.  Hand gestures, facial expressions, and exaggerated movements were employed to aid our broken French and English. 

Eventually one reaches the point where one can no longer “expliquer en Francais” in such a way that one can directly approach the issue.  You find yourself dancing around the subject and the conversation never quite reaches its destination.  I retrieved a dictionary and the mystery was finally solved…fleas from the cats!

When one does not know an answer, the wise course of action would be to research it, learn it, understand it, and build upon it with further study and analysis.  This was practiced here and it proved effective.  If only all of the world’s problems could be approached with this methodology.  For now though, with the enemy force identified, and their doom on the horizon, I can sleep well.  It is interesting to note that I engaged in a dialogue using French, English, and body language and still could not reach a definitive answer.  Are there possibly limits to language as spoken, written, and understood.

~Ollie Garland  ’12

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Filed under Daily Life in France, Language Identity

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