Do you speak … ?

It’s a lovely day in the Ardèche in France. There is small village, built on a bridge made out of yellowy cobble, covered by plants, spanning a valley several hundred metres wide. Under the bridge in the shade from the hot summer sun there is a market. It’s a lovely market, all stalls selling produce made and farmed by the locals. Candy, honey, the freshest of fruits, meats and all other things imaginable have their places in the shade given by the bridge. In a corner between a cobble bricked wall and the cliff’s edge there is a stall managed by a tall, large man wearing a white apron and brown leather boots. On the table in front of him there are several nougat cakes on display, pink and white, beige and brown. With nuts in it and without, honey free and some luxurious ones covered with chocolate and nuts. Full cakes and slices sandwiched between sheets of plastic are for sale, and all smell delicious.

A man wearing a fedora and a long black coat and a newspaper rolled up under his arm and who looks woefully out of place between the French locals walks up to the man managing the stand and asks him confidently ‘Do you speak German?’, in bad sounding German with a horrible British accent. The man at the stall looks at him questioning, uttering nothing but ‘Que?’, meaning nothing but ‘What?’.

The British man asks his question again, still in broken german: ‘Do you speak German, sir?’ and looks at him with a friendly and sincere smile. The man behind the stall looks somewhat relieved and replies in equally bad German: ‘No, just French.’

The British man replies excitedly in his broken German ‘Good! Me neither!’ and asks, mostly pointing and quite happily, if he can buy one of the beige, chocolate covered slices of nougat. The French man, who is now smiling greatly at the British man struggling with his lack of words, plays along and only speaks with single, badly pronounced German words.

As the British man walks away from the stall to enjoy his cake, he waves at the man at the stall and says him goodbye, and both smile at each other, as the British man turns away from the market and mumbles to himself: Better on lower equal grounds, both compromised, than both on our high horses, not being lenient and sticking to what we’re comfortable with, yet only ending up erecting barriers between ourselves.


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