Thursday, June 05, 2008

Linguistic gymnast

I haven't been feeling all that positive about work lately. With le Petit sleeping so poorly, it's been hard to arrive early and well-rested and as motivated as I'd like, and with my project of four years recently canceled, I haven't been making too much of an effort anyway.

But today I finally gave myself a much-needed kick in the pants. I had to do a little bit of technical sleuthing to understand how a piece of code was implemented, and that involved calling three colleagues in two different cities. (Luckily, my telephone which had mysteriously disappeared during my maternity leave was recently reinstalled.)

I was pleased to discover that I could jump right back into over-the-phone business French with no problems after a year's break. One colleague understood "library" when I had asked about a "libellé" (label), but otherwise everyone understood me and I got my questions quickly and efficiently answered.

Then there was the little problem of saying goodbye.

For some reason, I can never elegantly conclude a phone conversation in French. I know the right words, at least theoretically, but between choosing from a formal "merci beaucoup, au revoir," a "bonne journée," or an "à bientôt" or the casual "a plus," "salut," or "ciao" and knowing when and how to combine them into the denouement of replacing the receiver, I get all tripped up. I inevitably end up mumbling something, sometimes an English "goodbye" as I sheepishly hang up the phone.

Happens every time.

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I may be dreaming, but I think I just noticed today that the RATP, Paris' transport service, has changed their last stop message.

It used to be a long-winded "Terminus, tous les voyageurs sont invités à descendre," which they often translated in English to the equally wordy "Last stop, all passengers should kindly leave the train." It is now the simpler "Terminus, vous êtes invité à descendre," a simple "Last stop, you are asked to leave."

I just wonder why this detail seemed important enough to go to the hassle of rerecording all of the announcements.

Does it add more of a personal touch? Does it give people who've fallen asleep on the train that much longer to wake up and jump out before the sliding doors close? That could be particularly important to, say, German-speaking passengers whose translation is repeated last, just before the closing door buzzer.

Clearly if I'm worrying about such things I'm spending way too much time in public transportation.

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Le Petit is still sleeping badly. I won't devote a post to it right now, but... ugh. Groan. When will it end?

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