I am now fluent in an odd “franglais” hybrid that makes sense only to us. Our conversations sound like one end of a phone call, the other gibberish to anyone who doesn’t speak both. I often catch people giving me sidelong glances in the metro; I forget how strange it sounds. That’s how our fights sound, too—staccato and strange, punctuated by changes in language and pauses when we’re not sure that the other party has fully comprehended that last jab.
I sometimes feel alienated by the fact that he has never seen the TV series “Daria” or heard of the Dave Matthews Band. He has become exasperated by the fact I speak too loudly on the phone and still sometimes use “le” when it should be “la.”
His friends have told me, no holds barred, that I’m better than “la dernière,” the last one, but they still keep me at a distance. I’m not part of the core group of high school “amis” that French men hold onto long into adulthood. I am different, “étrangère.” It’s no coincidence that the French words for “foreigner” and “stranger” are the same.
When he met my expat friends, I provided an Americanized nickname, as most of my friends do—Chris instead of Christophe, Tom instead of Thomas, Zav instead of Xavier. When he met my parents, he said “focus” twice in conversation, even though I told him not to; given his accent and complete inability to pronounce short vowels, it sounds far too close to another, less appropriate phrase.
Speaking of which, French men are excellent in that department. They call it “making love,” which struck me as strange and far too intimate, at first, because I wasn’t sure I was in love.
Now, I say “Je t’aime” for his benefit. I say “I love you” for mine. After all these years, there are still some things that just don’t hold the same weight in any language but my own.
Curated by Erbe