french fail

There’s a reason this blog is called “Amost Bilingue”. I mean, I am bilingual. I can get by in any situation in French. I successfully completed a Masters in French. But as most bilingual folks will attest, there are some moments where you just don’t have the vocabulary, or you completely misunderstand something. I definitely had one of those moments recently.

I received a phone call from the secretary of the Masters from hell. To be fair, it was the morning, so I was not really at full speed anyway. You see, I skipped the graduation ceremony, because it just wasn’t worth the effort or the cost. (Case in point, they tried imitating an American ceremony but missed the mark by a long shot.) That is why the secretary was calling me.

She stated “Vous êtes major de promo MCI” and that she needed my address. I had never heard the phrase “major de promo”, so like any foreign language speaker, I made an educated guess from the context. I figured that as it was in relation to the ceremony, “major de promo” must simply mean that I had successfully finished the program. So I just said “Okay…” and gave her my address. And that was that.

Needless to say, I was wrong.

I received an envelope in the mail. It included a rolled up attestation that I had finished the program – they were trying to imitate American diplomas seen on screen (I never had anything important rolled up like that), so thanks for the destroyed official attestation. There was also the following paper and a gift card to Fnac (think Best Buy that also has a large book section). Also, they couldn’t be bothered to spell my first name right.

alostbilingue_promo

 

I was confused. In and of itself, this paper doesn’t mean much. As the theme for the ceremony (yes, there was a theme) was “cinema”, I started thinking “Master d’Or” might be a play on the Cannes Film Festival’s “Palme d’Or”. Add onto that the gift card to Fnac…. That got me thinking.

I flashed back to the phrase “major de promo”. I quickly hopped on Google. It took less than 5 seconds to discover that it means first in the class.

I had the highest average of anyone in the graduating class. I suddenly felt like an idiot for my nonchalant conversation with the secretary.

I don’t actually feel like it’s that big of an accomplishment as most of the Masters involved memorization and regurgitation of the material instead of thinking on our own. I have a freakishly good visual memory, so that sort of thing never posed a problem for me. Plus, other than temporary lapses in vocab like this one, doing things in French doesn’t pose a problem.

So now, what to get with my gift card?

For foreign language speakers, what was your last biggest misunderstanding?

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8 thoughts on “french fail

  1. Congrats! That’s a pretty good result for a misunderstanding.
    When I was 16 and living with my cousins in Verdun, I had a really hard time remembering the pronunciation of cheveux. I would constantly tell people that I liked their chevaux. One day my cousin Elodie finally sat me down to let me know I should probably stop complimenting people’s horses.

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  2. Well, congrats on your moyenne! To be honest, I paused for a second when I heard “major de promo”. I heard that expression before but each university has its own rules and quirks. I would have been the one skipping the ceremony too actually 😆

    Mmm… No major translation oops comes to mind, but as a reviewer I corrected the typical “pubic relations” typo again today in a document for a client!

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  3. I’m coming late to the party, but one of my spectacular fails was asking my french friend why one of the prizes at a Loto was “dried goat”. After all, who would want to win that? I was told (through a lot of giggling) that in fact the prize was a hair dryer. I’d completely mixed up chevre and cheveux. Or (dammit) is that “horse”?!

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    • Haha! That’s funny! And cheveux is hair, horse would be “cheval” or “chevaux” in plural. Though I have seen “saucisson sec” that has dried goat meat in them, so you could have very well been right 🙂

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