Saturday, February 12, 2005

New York (I) -- MOMA

New York, New York. The city where "Liberty" is a statue. I'm at the MOMA looking at some great art and some not so great art. It is Saturday afternoon and the place is mobbed despite the stiff $20 entrance fee.
My friends have disappeared in the big galleries and I am enjoying the place at my own pace. I notice the guide and the group around him. He is about 40, with thinning hair and a pointed face. He is speaking to a group all looking at him with wide opened eyes, and I suddenly want to hear what he has to say about the piece right behind him (a painting by Malevich).
I get closer and hear "That's when I knew I would not go to art school, and I still think that I could have become an artist." He is not talking about the painting. He is telling his life story to a group of 20 bored youngsters.
I stay and learn that he didn't want to pay $20 K to go to Columbia University, ended up at City University, has done odd jobs and works part time here and there. One life.
I step away from the group fascinated but wanted to see if any one has had enough. I see a young guy coming and joining the group in a casual way. I suspect that he is doing what I did earlier and wants to listen to the guide so I lean over and quietly tells him "He is telling his life story, run while you can!" The young guy turns around. He is about 20, blond hair, blue eyes and a big smile. His first question is not what I expected. "You're French, aren't you?" Yes, I admit, I am French. So he switches to a rusty, somewhat hesitant, but correct French. He lived in Rennes for a year during his Junior year in college, and is now studying business in Michigan. We talked for a while about France, French people, French women and French food. Then the conversation gets to the MOMA, the museum, the art.
I'm poking fun of the guide and his life story talk when the group starts moving, following him to another painting. The conversation stops instantaneously as he tells me in English "I have to leave, I'm with them." He turns around and disappears quickly in the crowd.


Blogger Solomon2 said...

So he switches to a rusty, somewhat hesitant, but correct French.I want to go to France, and I know some French, but in no way am I fluent. I know the French do not like to hear their language poorly used, yet I consider it impolite to address someone in their own country in a foreign language.

So if I go to France, when am I expected to speak bad French and when am I supposed to speak (American) English?

11:39 PM  
Blogger Just said...

"I know the French do not like to hear their language poorly used" is not completely true. I love to hear an American speaking French (their accent is charming) and I don't mind their mistakes.
It is rude, though, to assume you can speak in English without asking first "Do you speak English?".
I would suggest you just ask (in French or in English): "Can we speak French? I like to pratice while I am here". You should no have any problem.

11:37 PM  

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