I guess I am always amazed at how some people (usually those living in Europe) can be fluent in multiple languages. I have studied several ancient and a few modern ones, but I am not “fluent” in any of them. As I try to translate Hebrew or Greek, I still need a lexicon by my side. So, I really admire people who are completely at home in another language.
Such was the case of many of the French Canadians we encountered in Montreal. We would walk into a store and be greeted with a hearty “bonjour!”. I would say it right back to them, thinking I said it exactly the way they said it, accent and all. Darn it, they would catch me every time, knowing that I was English-speaking. And then…you could almost see a little “switch” go off in their head, and they would immediately start talking to me in perfect English!!!
I think the craziest thing I saw was a Middle Eastern woman who was the clerk at a souvenir shop. She spoke to her husband in Arabic or Persian or something like that, then switch to French with a customer, then without taking a breath she spoke to me in flawless English!!
Dang, how do they do that?
Americans really are “sheltered” from conversing in other languages. And that is a real shame.
Maybe someday I’ll get that good in French and Italian. In the meantime, I had better keep practicing!