La trek tou-louse

Capitol building in Toulouse
Capitol building in Toulouse

For those of you who missed my lame attempt at clever wordplay with this post’s title, recently we went to the city of Toulouse, about an hour away. Actually, the artist Toulouse Lautrec is more associated with the town of Albi, where we’ve already visited the wonderful museum of his works, but his namesake city of 500,000 people has megashopping. Ah, there’s the real reason we went.

We still had a rental car so we wanted to make good use of it in case we picked up something too large to bring back on a future trip via the train. Bill had plotted out a routing to two different high-end audio/video stores because he especially was tired of listening to our music through the TV speakers. If you visited our house in Atlanta you may recall that the living room speakers were almost as tall and twice as wide as we are and in the theater, of course, you were surrounded by sound that could shake the room. It’s a good thing that the most popular house building material in France is stone is all that I can say.

While my current level of French is good enough to get us through most day-to-day situations, I start stumbling with technical terms like subwoofer, frequency, equalizer, amplitude, etc. Heck, in this store I didn’t even know what questions to ask let alone the words to use. The patient salesman helping us started showing us around but Bill just wasn’t getting enough information so he asked this gentleman if he spoke English. His initial response was the exact same answer we’ve almost always heard from any French person, “No”, but he did add that he understands English. Then the magic happened that also seems to come from most French people: beautifully accented, nearly perfect English. Once someone realizes that their command of our language is a whole lot better than ours of theirs, the floodgates of communication open.

On around the store we went listening to music, looking at projectors, sizing up speakers, checking out turntables; all the things that Bill knows so much about. When I could think of a question that I knew something about like delivery or installation I would ask that and to his credit, the salesman would reply directly to me in French. As we were leaving, the owner of the store came out of his office to thank us for visiting and to ask if we had any questions: all in English. Exasperated at that point, I asked in French if everyone in the store spoke English and he replied “Yes sir, everyone but you.” We’re still laughing at that.

One thought on “La trek tou-louse

  1. The language barrier continues to amuse me. Most of our local vendors have pulled out their best, or worst, English skills when they realize that our French is horrible. When that fails we always go to the back up of sign language, point at what we’d like and hold us fingers for how many, it’s juvenile but effective!

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