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Zander Willoughby

  • French People Are Rude, Right?

    by Zander Willoughby | Feb 23, 2017

    I will preface by saying that I’m fairly confident in my French speaking ability at this point; I can work my way through most any situation I need to. That being said, any word containing -uill- is next to impossible for me to say. E.g. Accueillir (to host), Mère d'accueil (Host mother), Feuille (Sheet or Leaf), Réveiller (To wake up), Ecureuil (Squirrel), and Aiguille (Needle).

    To    set    the    scene,   I   walk    3-4    miles   a    day    in    Strasbourg    and    my on-sale-from-Marshall’s jeans are not meant for that. Needless to say (pun intended), a hole or two will show up which need mended. I came to discover just how hard aiguille   is to say the first couple of times I asked my host mother for a needle and thread (Marshall’s socks are also not meant to be walked in that much). *Disclaimer: Ivanka Trump did not pay me to trash Nordstrom/Marshall’s, it just  happens that I buy cheap clothing from them* Anywho, I felt bad for always  asking my host mother for a needle and thread, so I went to the store to buy my own,  then I could fix all my socks and my bag, etc.

    Bref, I searched the whole store, twice, to no avail. Once all hope was lost, I decided to ask someone who worked there where they were. Seeing as I can’t say aiguille correctly to save my life, I decided to search for the word on my phone, then I’d just show the lady the word, apologise, and tell her I’m looking for that. I’m sure I’m definitely not the first foreigner to do this, but it’s a good idea, eh?

    So, the plan was set, I went up to the lady and said (in French), “I’m really sorry, but I can’t say this word to save my life, I’m looking for this (gesturing towards the dreaded aforementioned word).”

    Aiguille,” she said, not unlike one of the Knights who say, “Ni!”

    “Yes, that,” I said expecting to have to go find a shrubbery or to cut down the mightiest tree in the forest with a herring.

    “No, repeat after me, aiguille” “Aiguiyya,” I said like Bedivere…

    Aye - gwui - ya,” she said more like the King of the Britons “Aiguille,” I said with 50% confidence


    Aiguille,” I said confidently, hoping it wasn’t about to change to Ekke ekke ekke ekke ptang zoo boing…

    Ok, you’ve earned it, I’ll show you where they are,” she replied with proud relief. She led me to an end cap I’d somehow managed to miss the first few times I’d searched the store. “Voilà, les  A-I-G-U-I-L-L-E-S!”

    I doubt you’d see someone working at Meijer’s taking the time to help immigrant (or migrant in my case) trying to learn English in that way; I sure hope they would. I don’t know if this story is that exciting on the other side (or if you now hate me because of the attempted Monty Python jokes), but this is one of the memories that will really stick with me. She could’ve rolled her eyes and gestured in the general direction of the needle and thread as per the stereotype, but instead, she took the time to help me improve.


    Zander E. Willoughby ’18 is a Political Science & French major & Peace Studies minor, and a former Multicultural Affairs Programmer, Student Senate Vice-President, Model U.N. Secretary-General and more. He is currently studying in Strasbourg, France at the Institut d'Études Politiques at Université de Strasbourg. His future plans include working in International Relations or International Law, hopefully within the U.N. system.