People. Today I had a meeting… in French.
The first thing the man I was meeting with asked was, “Français? Anglais?” I chose the latter because though I’m seizing every opportunity to speak French, a business meeting is no place to practice. I then proceeded to lose all professional decorum when he offered me espresso from his Lavazza machine.* It was like Beatlemania applied to a coffeemaker.
So to be fair, there wasn’t much farther to fall. But I was alarmed when the man called over one of his staff, seemingly to introduce us, but actually to join us for the rest of the meeting – in French, because I had said that was fine when I thought we’d be doing five seconds’ worth of, “Je m’appelle Ruth. Enchantée. À bientôt.”
For the next twenty minutes I had three parallel streams of thought running through my mind. One was, “Holy shit, I’m having a meeting in French and I can understand!!!!” One was, “Holy shit, I’m having a meeting in French, what if I can’t understand????” And then of course, one was the conversation itself.
Perhaps it’s due to this overcrowding that my brain seems to skip over some fundamental processing component when working in French. I’ve noticed that I’ll follow along with a conversation, respond accordingly, and conclude with some mutually agreed upon forward-facing plan, but afterwards I’ll find myself unable to recap what was said in anything more than vague general terms. The specifics don’t seem to get banked, even in my short-term memory.
Anticipating that I might have this problem today, I scribbled down notes in English immediately following the meeting. It felt a little like I was cheating the (language acquisition) system, but in this case I couldn’t afford to get anything wrong by writing in French. As it is, I’m terrified that when I email them to follow up they’re going to be like, “Why is she going on and on about X when we asked her to talk about Y?”
That’s not the point. The point is: today I reached a new personal level of awesomeness because I had a business meeting in French. I just gave myself a literal pat on the back, because such things are important.
*It takes capsules just like Nespresso but it is as delicious and potent as the real thing.