The real rides begin when the bike is taken home

©Barry Sandland/TIMB - A stroke of early season sunshine has more riders on the Belgian canals

©Barry Sandland/TIMB – Just standing on the corner, waiting for his friend to roll up.

“I leave on vacation for Portugal in July, and I ride all the time there. It is where I am from. I go every year. I don’t ride the bike there. I take the bike in my car. But now I am waiting for a friend to come.”

©Barry Sandland/TIMB - Friend arriving in time for a bike ride

©Barry Sandland/TIMB – After the first chat and photo, the anticipated friend rolled up in time for a second image.

Photographer’s notes: I struggled a little about how to use these two images, then, in that moment of ‘duh’ clarity, I opted to post them together.  They are friends, both Portuguese, who had arranged to meet at the local canal local before heading on for a ride.  I mean…. “Duh”.

The quote indicates the comedy of language when you are outside your first language – I am sure it happens with me a lot. Where a question is slightly misunderstood and the thread becomes a little frayed. I mean, they were Portuguese speaking French, I am English, speaking what is often interpreted as French. Neither one of use were in our linguistic comfort zone.

It can lead to comical exchanges – or just something, like this, giving a smile during the chat.

When the friend arrived, the chat was quick and in Portuguese. And it was simple. “Sign the paper, he is taking photos of people and their bikes.” Well, that is what I think happened. It was all done in seconds. Loads of smiles, handshakes and then we were off on our separate ways.

What I do like is, my French is good enough to talk with people about bikes. I have developed enough confidence to roll up to just about anyone and think I can survive. That I will not embarrass myself too much.

To be honest, it is often easier to speak French with a second-language speakers. They enunciate far more precisely, have a careful way of speaking. I will say this since I am a second language person. I am just as clumsy, just as aware that I am not bilingual. .. That said, I think I offer loads of entertainment to the French speaking people I stop. A big lummox who laughs at the wrong part of a joke. 🙂

There are a lot of people who say the French are arrogant about their language, that Quebecois are stubborn about protecting their voice. But, after having spent time in Quebec and loads of time in French-speaking Europe, if you make an effort, the acceptance of, and forgiveness for, limitations is enormous. Personally, I am thrilled to have a comfort level in French. Makes me feel like I can keep a foot in continental Europe.

But, please, nobody ask about my Flemmish – have to work on that.


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