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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lost in Translation

Every job I have ever had (except possibly raking leaves for my father) has included some sort of training session involving something about communication. Perhaps this is because every job I have ever had has involved some sort of customer service aspect (except possibly raking leaves for my father). Every one of these communication training sessions has quoted some statistic that 80% of communication is non-verbal. There is no way this statistic is accurate.

Interesting thing about New Caledonia: Everyone speaks English. Even the people who don't speak English try to speak English. We had a waiter who asked if we would like a translation of the menu (it was a tapas bar; the menu a mix of French/Spanish, so we were mostly okay with it); we assumed he meant an English menu, and we're surprised when he read through the entire menu in his best English (making bleating sounds because he did not know the word for lamb).

Outside Noumea is another story. We spent two nights in the [former prison] town of Bourail. Our hosts Marion (spoke enough English to show us our room and sort of tell us what was for dinner) and Philippe (spoke only enough English to express disappointment that I could not converse with him in German) were quite welcoming at their little B&B a few km past town. At Dinner (a bargain at 3200 XPF for a drink, more food than you would ever want to eat, dessert and coffee) we sat at a large table of non-English speakers. I found the experience a good deal more enjoyable than Nicole (one would think she should be able to speak French and/or German)...probably because she was not allowed to partake of any of the French wines on offer. I can also tell you that at no time did I understand 80% of any conversation at the table.Later in our trip, I realized that I can pick up almost no spoken French, but if something is written down, I do pretty well.

There is a lot to do in Bourail...but with a big giant Nicole, your options are more limited. Bourail is known for 1) having the only surfable beach on the "mainland" and 2) some interesting rock formations.
The actual town of Bourail is not much to look at. Nicole used the words "failed colonialism" to describe it. I thought it looked a lot like Disneyland's New Orleans square if they stopped maintaining it for 50 years. This is a quaint little bakery, and it is remarkably devoid of graffiti.


Of potential interest to my Kiwi readers (Hi Misty!), New Caledonia's very own New Zealand war memorial/cemetery is just outside Bourail.

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