Scrambling for Words

These days I have more frequent episodes of those “senior moments” – the ones where you can’t think of the word you need. Yesterday I was reminded that it could be much worse.

Years ago the Federal Government tested me and declared that I was “bilingue”. My french had reached that exalted level and so communication in that language should be a breeze. Right? No. I went to work for a company which had its headquarters in Montreal and didn’t anticipate any difficulties. Then I realized I didn’t have the vocabulary I needed to speak about tech subjects. I even had to look up the words for computer and software. 🙂

I live in the sole officially bilingual Province in the Country. However, I think I’ve used that ability twice in the 5 years since I arrived. Most of the french speakers are in the north.

Yesterday I met a lovely couple of tourists from Quebec and we talked for a while. When I responded to something they said in french they got very excited and continued the conversation in that language. I explained that it had been a LONG time since I’d used those particular mind muscles but that wasn’t the biggest problem. I have no experience talking about fishing in their language. I don’t know the words.

I was frustrated – they were patiently amused – and it was exhausting. At one point they asked about the pile of half-burnt crumbling mess that used to be a fish plant (remember the big fire last year?). I tried to explain and said that it’s supposed to be cleaned up at some point – we hope.

At that point a big machine started to push around some of the debris – they thought this meant cleanup had begun. I guessed (correctly) that it was, in fact, workmen making room for an impending house move.

This is the house – just a short distance from the mess at the Breakwater. At some point in the next two weeks it will be re-positioned up the hill. This has been a big job, lasting weeks. The foreman told us that one of the problems they’re dealing with is that it is really “out of square”. That distortion in the photo is only partially because of my stupid lens.

So, I had to describe the herring fishery, fish plant, arson, mess, clean-up, and house relocation, with a variety of inaccurate words. I might as well have been doing charades. Still – we did manage to communicate.

Oh and I had one other conversation of interest to those here on the Island. The Mayor showed up a little while later and informed us that cleanup of the mess is supposed to start on the 1st. I’ll get out my dictionary. 🙂

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