Saturday, November 14, 2009

Exhausted. Or, Why Can't Communicating Be Easier.

Today, Emm and I went to Lausanne to have lunch with her father's relatives. Even under the best of circumstances, visiting family can require energy and being on one's best behavior. When we visit Emm's family, though, it requires colossal efforts in language, which can sap you to the core. Here's why:

Our hosts, Anna-Maria and Paul speak French, German, Italian, and English.

Anna-Maria's sister, Marie-Angela, speaks Italian, French, and English and her brother-in-law, Pietro, speaks Italian and French.

Emm and I speak English and German and Emm understands some Italian.

Paul is sitting to my left and Pietro is across from me. Emm is on my right. To Emm's right is Anna-Maria and across from her is Marie-Angela.

Paul's preferred language when we're around is German, which neither Marie-Angela nor Pietro speak. When conversing with Anna-Maria and Marie-Angela, the language of choice is English, which Pietro understands, but can't speak.

At some point in all of the conversing, I exchange thoughts and pleasantries with Anna-Maria in English, German, and a tiny, pathetic smattering of French.

Meanwhile, Emm is trying to converse with Pietro in English, while Paul keeps talking in German. This requires back and forth translations between the three with Emm talking in English and German, Paul talking in German and Italian, and Pietro talking in Italian and French.

Wars have been started over this stuff, people! And yet, a very fine time was had by all. We both enjoyed lunch with the relatives and visiting Lausanne, but Lordy what I wouldn't give for one of those Universal Translator thingamadoujies from Star Trek!

Photo source: Google Images.

1 comment:

Maya said...

No kidding, right? How do the Swiss do it?

P.S. I'm pretty sure her name is spelled Mariangela just for future reference.