Monday, June 11, 2012

Speaking to people with accents.

Friday Luke and I went to happy hour with a group of FAO and IFAD volunteers and interns. There were people from the US, Finland, Italy, Spain, France, a few different African countries, middle eastern countries... it was kind of incredible to watch. Everyone else knew each other, so at least at first I just got to sit back and watch. When two people would meet each other, there was a really interesting interaction figuring out what language to speak with each other. Usually when talking with an American, non-Americans would speak English. But when the American could speak French or Spanish or Italian sometimes they would use that. I saw a girl from Finland and a girl from China speaking English together. It made me feel so incompetent! I need to learn another language, better than the meager French I have. Talking to people was difficult, even when it was in English. Trying to adjust to accents quick enough to have a conversation, and each accent being so different- I got lost quite a few times. And I'm a native english speaker! I can't imagine what it's like to be a Finnish speaker conversing in English with a girl who speaks English with a Chinese accent. I am so impressed by all these volunteers.

On Saturday Luke and I went to a party at the World Food Program to end the UN's Africa week celebration and it was SOOOOO far away. By so far I mean a 10 minute tram ride then a 10 minute train ride. I'm spoiled with only travelling short distances (other than the long flight here).

We got there a little early and sat around not knowing what to do. Almost everyone else there knew each other and was also just sitting around. There were a lot of African women in gorgeous dresses with big head wraps on, and a dj who played ridiculous things like obscure Mariah Carey. After about an hour the bar opened up and we grabbed a bottle of wine, and made friends with a frenchman named Georges and his wife Christine! He works for WFP and it was incredible talking with him- he was place dropping like crazy and managed to do it in a way that did not seem precocious at all. He's lived in east Africa, and west Africa, and Paris, and Marseille, and vacationed all over the place. Christine was half Italian half Dutch. They both spoke excellent English, and had really interesting accents. We talked a lot about how complicated it is to speak to someone even in your own language when they have learned it somewhere else. George mentioned a man from Laos who learned French from a north African French speaker. I had been struggling to understand even an Italian who learned to speak English in England- so my own language but the layers of accents are so strong!

When the party finally started there was a buffet of African food and a fashion show, where the participants mostly danced.

There was a drum and dance show, and afterward the whole party just turned into a dance party. It was a really surreal experience, we felt so out of place but everyone, including all the important people like ambassadors, just danced. It was wonderful!

We finished the night by clubbing in Monte Testaccio with two American girls who work at FAO, then had a laaaaazy Sunday.

1 comment:

  1. I hope you prove better at languages than me. It must be incredible to be with all these people.