Sunday, June 26, 2016

French phrase book's important omissions

The primary languages spoken in Rwanda, a former Belgian colony, are French and the local language, Kinyarwanda. Although English was made the third official language in 1996, most people didn't speak it. My French vocabulary consisted of "merci," "merci beaucoup," and "voulez-vous coucher avec moi." The French phrase book I brought was of no help either. I ruffled through it on the flight, but "I'll have the fondue" was meant for someone going on a glamorous Swiss holiday. There was no translation for "The goat stew is full of gristle. I am unable to eat it." The index unhelpfully had no entry for "explosive diarrhea" or "convulsive vomiting."
Jessica Alexander, Chasing Chaos: My Decade in and out of Humanitarian Aid (New York: Broadway Books, 2013), p. 23.

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