Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dakkota Huber: French and a cruise in the Caribbean

Dakkota Huber, FRE 114 Accelerated Beginning French student, comments on her trip to St. Martin, her experiences with the French language and with the people. Thank you, Dakkota, for sharing your beautiful photos with us!

Dakkota Huber

Cruise Experience
                  In early March, I went on a Royal Caribbean cruise with my family to the Caribbean Islands: St. Thomas, St. Martin, San Juan, and Labadee, Haiti.  I had been so excited just to go on vacation to places I had never been and to just sit and relax.  I knew that St. Martin or St. Maarten (if you’re on the Dutch part of the island) was a francophone country and I was totally excited to use some French I had been learning.  As soon as we boarded the ship, I could hear so many different languages but I kept my ears open for French.  When we had a “prep-for-the-Titanic” drill, my grandpa and I sat next to a French family.  I could pick up on several words little words and phrases such as what time they were going to eat lunch.  I was so surprised that there were so many French people on our ship!  Each time we heard a foreign language my family would look at me and I would nod my head if I knew they were speaking French.  In fact, each day the ship provided an itinerary that told guests what was going on each day on the ship!  I went and got an itinerary listed in French and could read most of it. 
                  On the fourth day of our cruise, we ported at St. Martin.  This was it: my chance to play translator for my aunt, uncle, and grandpa.  We took a 4x4 jeep tour around the island.  As my uncle drove, I pointed out different signs that were in French and read them aloud to my family.  My aunt was impressed that I could tell them what times that a store opened and closed—they couldn’t tell because it was listed in French. The views were beautiful, but the island itself was very dirty.  It was surreal to see the amount of poverty that engulfed the island.  It became further apparent when we visited a marketplace on the French side of the island.  Merchants sold souvenirs such as t-shirts, magnets, bags, and hats, but they also sold the French headscarves that are worn in the Caribbean because it is so hot there—It was only March and it was blazing hot!!  It is really sad because I didn’t want to barter too much with the natives because I knew that selling these products is their only lifeline to survive.  It’s how they made a living.  I bought several things including a magnet and hats for my little brothers.  I looked at some of the island dresses they were selling for my little sister.  The woman who ran the stand hurried over to help me—and to try to make a sale—we went through several sizes but I couldn’t decide which size would fit my little sister.  The woman kept holding up larger dresses, but didn’t understand that they were too big.  I thought quickly about what French I knew that would help me in this situation. Aha!  “Trop grande!”  It may not have been the most correct way to say that the dress would be too large for my sister, but those few words conveyed the message and the woman understood what I was saying.  I didn’t end up buying a dress from that shop, but in order to thank the woman for her efforts in trying to help me, I did buy hats the for my brothers from her.  After that, we left the merchant area and looked around a shopping mall—which was listed in euros not in American dollars!
                  Even though I may not have been able to carry on a full conversation with any French people I encountered, I could understand and respond with the vocabulary and the knowledge I did have.  It was fun to be able to use what I had been learning, and it was even more fun to share that knowledge with my family. 

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