Learning a new language isn’t without hazards, let me tell you. It turns out I’ve been telling everyone I’m expecting a baby ... in French.
Throughout the past three months I’ve peppered dozens of conversations and e-mails with the phrase “je suis expectant” (pronounced eggs-peck-tont) which I understood to mean, “I am excited”, as in, “I’m expecting something good”.
No. It means, “I’m expecting”. As in, a baby.
Thanks for the heads up, guys, but could you not have mentioned this sooner? Before, erm, I said it proudly to a famous French musician moments before she took the stage? (The reaction: utter confusion – I just thought it was just my accent).
I think that was the moment that inspired “friends” to finally speak up about my error.
Or rather, to point and laugh. You see, I’m a man. So rather than an awkward social faux-pas, I’ve basically been the butt of a long, ongoing private joke.
Once the cat was out of the bag, the joke went viral. Within moments, French people at neighbouring tables, who I’d never met, were invited over – just to make fun of the stupid Brit who’d been mangling their language to such hilarious effect.
Messages were excitedly exchanged “with Quebec” to share the joke (and check whether it was some kind of Canadianism I’d adopted – it wasn’t. So just where did I hear this “expec-tont”?).
One table-visitor took the time to explain by telling me a long story about how, when she was a girl and visited her English pen-friend, the friend kept using a nonsense word in her company until eventually she adopted the made-up word and kept repeating it for months, even though it was indeed nonsense.
What I wanted to scream: “She was 12 years old! You’re all grown-ups, and should have grown some maturity, humility, etc”.
Still, now I had sufficient evidence there had been a plot. There’s no way I could have been allowed to tell people I was pregnant dozens of time without an agreed consensus not to tell me.
“Where did you hear this anyway, Rob?” Well, if it didn’t come from Canada ... from you, perhaps?
• Rob Garratt is studying beginners’ French at Alliance Française Dubai, a non-profit language and cultural institution established in 1982 that teaches the language to more than 2,500 students every year. Find out more at www.afdubai.org