Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Japoński samochód

In France I met up with two fellow Bath mafiosi, who had graduated the year after me, and we exchanged war stories. They had both followed the year-long 'intensive Polish translation course' run by the university.

- I only remember two words; said one of the girls: 'Dzien dobry. No wait, dziękuję. And one more. About walking yourself.... 'car'... what was it... samo...
- That's the one.
- Brilliant! You know that was one of the first words I learnt in Poland? I have this great story...

I launched into the tale of my first conversation in Polish. After two weeks of camping in a friend's relative's flat, I finally found the place on Starowiślna, and one of my new flatmates came to pick me up in the car. To make conversation while we were stuck in traffic on the Aleje, he asked how much Polish I knew.
- What things can you say?
I'd just been to my first Polish class and we were learning nouns and their genders and the corresponding adjectives. For example, a Japanese car, a charming dog*, a red pepper and so on.
- uhhh... masz japoński samochód!
I observed, conversationally.

My flatmate-to-be was astounded by my prowess.

He was driving a Honda.

(This story is considered very funny by my Polish friends.)

After I delivered the punchline, there was a pause, and polite silence.

- uhh... we don't understand you...
said one of the girls gently.

It's exactly as I feared. In Poland, while I'm trying to stutter my way to the end of a sentence in polski, I'm a comedian. Amongst anglophones, my stories just fall flat! How will I make sense of my Polish experiences once I get back to London? Who's going to understand the importance of grammar and noun-endings back in Blighty?! Who will know what kapusta kiszona or kabanosy are, or why it now takes me half an hour to pay for anything because I can't find the change?!

It feels sort of lonely...

* Or 'what a charming dog': Jaki miły pies.
Although in reality the following are more likely:
Uwaga! Zły pies!
Pies bywa niemiły...
Szczerze mówiąc, to 'Pies de résistance'...

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