Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Agoraphobia, acrophobia, claustrophobia, arachnophobia…hmmm…No, can’t find it. I’ll have to make it up. PhoneNumberPhobia. Have you ever been afraid of your own phone number? Yeah, me neither. At least not until now…in French! “Come on”, you say, “it’s just numbers. You learn 0-9 pretty early on in a new language!” Well, that would work if, in France, one just used 0-9 when saying a phone number.

Here’s how it works…

The French phone number is five pairs of digits and one says each pair as it represents one number. Add to that the method of representing the digits 70-99 and it can get pretty squirrelly for a poor foreigner such as I! 70 literally translates as “sixty-ten” and goes on to “sixty-eleven”, etc. 80 translates into “four-twenty” and 90 into “four-twenty-ten” This continues on up to “four-twenty-nineteen” (99) until the sanity resumes at 100, “cent”. Even Belgian French doesn’t put up with this tom-foolery from what I understand! ;c)

So, our phone number is: 04.79.31.85.57 and one says “zero-four”, “seventy-nine” (excuse me, “sixty-nineteen”), etc. So, knowing your individual numbers is not nearly enough for everyday life here. Angela made a sign on our bulletin board with our number written out in words, and when I listen to a phone message, I have to listen to it about five times to make sure I get the number right!

These sorts of cultural/language challenges permeate our life right now. Even Olivia plays “Tomato-Tomato-Ketchup” instead of “Duck-Duck-Goose” on the playground at school, and translation between French and English is filled with words that are spelled the same but have subtly different, or even completely different meanings. They call these “faux amis”…literally “false friends”…and they can really lead you astray when you’re trying to understand or say something! For an idea of what an English-speaking French student is up against, check out the following compendium of “faux amis” here: http://french.about.com/library/fauxamis/blfauxam_a.htm

My French professor here, continually tells us to put translating behind us and try and think and speak in French all the time. That certainly works with numbers. In the end, it’s much easier to just associate the French words with 73 or 95 than to repeat the mental gymnastics listed above! And, if we don’t know an exact word, we’re encouraged to “find our way” with the vocabulary we know instead of continually looking up words in the dictionary. Translating back and forth is full of pitfalls and, while it gives us a start and is sometimes necessary, it is also a hindrance to really communicating.

As a fun exercise (which many of you have already done), you can see the pitfalls of “automated translating” by taking a bit of text in English (a poem, a song, etc.) and running it through one of the several internet-based translation pages (e.g. http://babelfish.altavista.com/). Select to translate it from, say, English into French. Then take the translated text and select to translate it back into English. What comes back can be quite hilarious and maybe even complete nonsense!

You may think I’m leading up to some profound spiritual point from this. Sorry…nothing profound yet. But, for us there is much translating from old to new in our life. We have the new phone number and address, of course. The kids each have a new school (and Noah’s situation has not been very effective for him so he may have another new class in January!). We think we’ve finally found a new church home (in Annecy, a 45 minute picturesque drive). Grocery shopping is a new experience with new store hours (What, it’s not always open?!) and new food choices (365 different cheeses and we can’t find cheddar or mozzarella?!). And finally, if we progress satisfactorily, we will eventually have a new language! The list goes on and on… I think if we can begin to put “translating old to new” behind us and start living more naturally in our new French world, we will be making some positive, stress-reducing steps.

Speaking of stress, right now we’re in the middle of our much-needed Christmas break. Even in this break though, we quickly remember that we’ve not had a Christmas that we’re used to in 3 years. I think that right about now, we’re dreaming of future French Christmas seasons in a house big enough to have a decent Christmas tree and maybe a fireplace (Noah mentions that each time we talk about a house in France!) Our poor little “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree” was pretty cramped in this apartment. ;c)

But, one thing we’ve managed to get done during this break is to finally get some new pictures up on our web site. Check out https://leighweb.com/gallery.htm for the latest stuff (be warned, it’s fairly complete and has a goodly amount of pictures that are more “grandparent-targeted”!)

Until next time, may God truly bless YOU!

David

P.S. – Several people have e-mailed wanting our address in France. Here it is and here is a tip as well. You can always find ways to contact us (addresses, phone numbers, etc.) on our web site on our Contact Us page: https://leighweb.com/contact.htm

50 Chemin des Galibouds

73200 Albertville

FRANCE

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