I wanted to include this excerpt here because the lovely Stephanie Heymer is (like many of our readers) a very busy mum with two small daughters. Somehow she combines taking care of them with running a successful and blossoming business. A chance email that Angelique passed on inspired me to get in touch with her. I am so glad that I did - here's why:
It's not just about French Gesticulation, although the correct gestures may have helped
Three young French students stayed with us this week. Arriving on a cold, wet Monday evening, Guillaume, Macéo and Tanguy were clearly nervous and shy (we had never met each other before, so this was a first for us all). Which is where children come in handy. No. 2 talked with our guests for a long time, giving a deeply rambling tour of our house (including handy details like where the hot water boiler is). Speaking speedily in English (nerves?), he chucked in a few random school boy French words for good measure (ordinateur anyone?).
No. 4 (at eight years old) decided the best way forward was to stick French stickers on his chin. Thus he informed me that it was high time they were all fed. Ice broken, our guests giggled.
I loved the French boys’ honesty. “Did you sleep well?” I asked them the following morning. “No!” all three replied, one by one. “Oh dear!” I responded and checked that their bedding was adequate. So different to the British way of lying your way to “politeness” so that no-one knows that a bad situation requires mending: “Yes I slept marvellously well, thank you…[shivering the night away].” That’ll be no blankets for you, then ;-)
Impeccably polite, the boys bade us farewell at the end of their stay. My kids were delighted by their English:
“Thank you very much for your hospitality and staying with us.”
“Thank you for anything.”
No. 2 made the point that “Thank you for anything.” is technically as correct as “Thank you for everything.” He’s probably right.
I reflected on the less subtle linguistic mistakes that I have made on my own travels, and how forgiving (most) native speakers are. Once upon a lifetime ago, I spent some time in Germany. “Schwül” in German means humid. “Schwul” in German means gay. The ü sound is not easy for a native English speaker. Eventually, I learned that on a hot and humid day, I should omit one word and simply comment that “it is hot”. Not “hot and gay”. Particularly when conversing with someone of the older generation.
So where does Stephanie Heymer come in? She runs International Student Experiences, trading as Joujou Papillon Ltd. If you’d like to know more you can contact her here through her FB page: https://www.facebook.com/MonJouJouPapillon/?ref=br_rs&pnref=lhc
Oh, and for more on up to date French gestures, which I'm going to ask my husband to look at for next time, here's a cool little video: http://www.commeunefrancaise.com/common-french-gestures/
The fuller blog post touching on Christmas in Spain and Turkish Tales, as well as French gestures etc, can be found here: https://havepaprikawilltravel.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/french-gesticulation-and-humid-days/