Sunday, July 29, 2007

When is it rude to NOT speak French (and how did my wife get so smart)?

On Friday, a group of 5 young ladies came in to the shop, speaking with a pronounced French Accent. I looked at Mrs SudsMuffin while the ladies looked around the shop, and said to her tentatively "fran├žais?" I figured she would take the hint and jump in to rescue me, using her native French to help the girls. But much to my surprise, my wife did not step up and change language. She kept speaking with the ladies in English, as they obviously struggled with the words. I kept looking at my sweet Mrs, nodding my head towards the customers, wondering why on earth she was still not speaking French with them.

Then when we asked the ladies where they were from, they said Fredericton. I knew that couldn't be right but my clairvoyant wife nodded knowingly. I then asked where they were FROM from and received answers that pointed to some very French-speaking locations in Quebec and New Brunswick (even one was from Syria...). Mrs SudsMuffin spoke up and asked if they were enjoying their ESL (English Second Language) program and they all said that they were and told of how there were participants there from around the world.

My incredibly smart wife told the ladies that she also speaks French but she knew that they were not allowed to converse in their native tongue or they could jeopardize their place in the ESL program. The ladies all agreed vehemently and were VERY relieved that Mrs had not spoken French to them.

I later asked my Mrs how she knew. She said that she noticed that even though they were struggling with the English language, they continued to converse with *each other* in English, which they would not normally have done amongst themselves.

It pays to pay attention. The girls all walked out with purchases too.

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