Liam’s glasses broke yesterday. Thankfully we packed a back-up pair, but they are not his favorite green pair with Ninja Turtles on the inside. Logan suggested I get some superglue and he would git 'er done, but I wanted to actually have them repaired. In the States, this would not be a big problem – I would drive to Wal-Mart, stop in the Eye Center and they would fix them, or replace them – all while I shop for groceries! But here in Albertville, France, I must find out where an optical shop is, figure out how to get there (train, bus, on foot) and try to resolve this – in French.
I started to think about every question I would need to ask at the eyeglass shop. Since our language classes won't start until next week, I pulled up Google translate to help me.
I typed in: “My son’s glasses are broken. Can you repair them please?”
Seems simple right? But I found lots of possible ways to say these two sentences! Well, actually I found out there are quite a few words for broken, and even more for repair! Broken, crushed, cracked, split, injured, punctured, demolished, ruined, etc. And then there is fix, mend, repair, restore, rebuild, renew, arrange, program, install, etc.
I researched a little, did the best I could to figure it out and jotted down:
Les lunettes de mon fil sont brisés. Pouvez-vous les réparer s’il vous plaît ?
And we must not forget the follow-up questions:
When will the glasses be ready? Quand les des lunettes être prêt ?
How much will it cost? Combien ça coûtera ?
I practiced the phrases again and again, threw a dictionary in my purse, grabbed the glasses, and Liam and I headed out the door! Thankfully the optical shop was an easy walk away.
I already had my first line rehearsed: “Bonjour monsieur! Nous apprenons Français, désolé” (Hello sir! We are learning French, sorry!”)
A young man with a name-tag that said “Martin” smiled. Liam handed him the glasses while I said my second line. This was going like a well-rehearsed play! I asked him if he could fix it. He was looking down examining the glasses, so I hoped he couldn’t tell I was using a cheat sheet. He looked up. French quickly flowed out of his mouth for a few seconds. "Something something Lunettes … OK that means glasses … something something something."
I only understood one word. I had meticulously planned out what I would say, but I didn’t have a plan for understanding his answers to my questions. After a moment of silence, and a puzzled look on my face, Martin said with a thick accent, “Do you speak English?” “YES!” I think I said that a little too quickly. I was surprised because it’s rare to hear English in this area of the country. But he knew a little, so we were able to communicate – both of us slowly translating the other one.
We talked about our options for Liam. One is to make an appointment to see the eye doctor so Liam can get a new pair here in France. Liam loved trying on the different frames.
Martin was very patient and helpful. In fact, he saw my cheat sheet and was impressed that I was trying to learn French. “French is very difficult,” he said sympathetically. I laughed, embarrassed, and asked if I had written it correctly. He shrugged. “Well, not for someone speaking French.” Hmm... That seems like a polite way of saying I was completely wrong. He picked up a pen and asked if he could correct it for me. Of course, I’m happy to learn! Indeed, I had chosen the wrong word for “broken”, and had a few parts out of order. He even helped me write the sentence I will need to make an appointment with the ophthalmologist!
I like how “appointment” translates as “rendez-vous”. That sounds so much more fun and exotic than a doctor’s appointment! We haven’t decided yet if we will rendez-vous with the ophthalmologist, or resort to Logan and his superglue... but either way, I have decided that I can not always depend on Google translate. Clearly it is “not for someone speaking French"!