Exploring languages and cultures
Exploring languages and cultures

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Exploring languages and cultures

1.1 An encounter in a shop

In the BBC Bakeation series, two celebrity bikers with a passion for travel and cooking, known as the Hairy Bikers, visited several European countries to discover their baking traditions. Hairy Biker Dave studied French at school and worked in Luxembourg for a few months. In the following video he puts his French to the test to buy saucisson lyonnais (a type of sausage).

Activity 1

Watch the video and write your answers to the questions in the boxes below.

Download this video clip.Video player: Dave tries out his French
Skip transcript: Dave tries out his French

Transcript: Dave tries out his French

Shop assistant:
Bonjour, Messieurs.
Dave and Si:
Bonjour, bonjour, Madame.
Shop assistant:
[laughs]
Dave Myers:
Madame, Je cherche la saucisson lyonnaise pour fabriquer une grande saucisson-brioche.
Shop assistant:
Yes. Alors, here.
Dave Myers:
Oui.
Shop assistant:
Ha ha ha.
Si King:
Now, fluent. See that? What he just said is good morning, Mrs. Have you got the sausages for my brioche?
Shop assistant:
For how many person?
Dave Myers:
Cinq saucissons, s’il vous plaît.
Shop assistant:
Yes, all right. Three, with truffle?
Dave and Si:
Oh.
Shop assistant:
The best one.
Dave Myers:
This tastes of France, doesn’t it?
Si King:
It does.
Dave Myers:
Merci, Madame. C’est le produit magnifique.
Shop assistant:
Thanks very much. [laughs]
Dave Myers:
Whoa.
Si King:
That means, thanks very much, Mrs. Your produce is fabulous.
Dave Myers:
Oui. [interposing voices]
Shop assistant:
Thanks very much, and I give you the bag.
Dave Myers:
Merci beaucoup.
Si King:
Ah, truffle saucisson lyonnaise! [laughing] Et voilà!
Dave Myers:
Et voilà!
Shop assistant:
Bye.
End transcript: Dave tries out his French
Dave tries out his French
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1 How does the shopkeeper respond to Dave’s efforts to address her in French?

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Answer

The shopkeeper consistently replies to Dave in English.

2 Why do you think the shopkeeper answers the way she does, despite the fact that Dave addresses her in French?

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Answer

We can only speculate why people like the shopkeeper respond in their own language, but such behaviour is very common. If you are making great efforts to address people in their own language, it can be frustrating to be denied the opportunity of engaging in a two-way conversation in the target language. Here the shopkeeper may be answering in English for a number of reasons:

  • She may be trying to be helpful.
  • She may be keen to practise her English.
  • She may want to appear professional and good at English, able to address customers in their own language.
  • She may prefer communication in English rather than in broken French. This does not necessarily imply a negative judgement on Dave’s linguistic ability. She may simply feel that the conversation will be smoother and easier if it is conducted in English.

3 Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? If so, how did you feel?

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Answer

If you have experienced such a situation you may have felt frustrated that the person didn’t respond in the same language, or annoyed about the implication that your use of the foreign language wasn’t very good. Conversely, perhaps you felt thankful that your use of language had obviously been understood.

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