The student-run news site of Le Moyne College.

The Dolphin

The student-run news site of Le Moyne College.

The Dolphin

The student-run news site of Le Moyne College.

The Dolphin

Social Media and Self-Esteem: How to Manage Social Media Use
Mai Al Janabi, Staff Writer • December 1, 2023

Social media usage is often linked to self-esteem issues and mental health concerns, but given the advent of social networking sites, avoiding...

The Launch of the New Gender, Women, and Sexuality Center
Danny Mondelli, Assistant Editor in Chief • December 1, 2023

On October 18th, Le Moyne unveiled its new Gender, Women, and Sexuality Center in Reilly Hall. The event was organized by Dr. Farha Ternikar,...

Le Moyne College's Counseling Center: Your Gateway to Holistic Well-Being
Danny Mondelli, Assistant Editor in Chief • December 1, 2023

College is a whirlwind of new experiences, challenges, and personal growth. While being successful in college is of major importance to students,...

#DolphinsLiveWell: Making the Most of the Holiday Season
Maria C. Randazzo, Director, Wellness Center for Health and Counseling • November 27, 2023

We know that everyone is anxiously awaiting our the winter break: time to rest, regroup, and spend time with family. We also know that holidays...

Samara Chowdhury (25)
Tenacity in the Face of Adversity: Samara Chowdhury’s Experience as an International Student
Kamilla Shahzad, Staff Writer • November 19, 2023

Twenty-two-year-old Samara Chowdhury is a junior at Le Moyne College majoring in Biology, with a pre-health track. She was born in Atlanta, Georgia...

Dolphins Overseas: Tongue-tied and toilets

Switzerland is a land of linguistically talented people. It’s not uncommon to see street signs or food packaging written in four languages (sometimes five if English is included) and many Swiss citizens are fluent in at least two or three.

The official languages are French (spoken in the regions closest to France), German (the most widely spoken language in Switzerland), Italian (in small areas near the Italian border) and Romansh (a derivative of “rough” Latin, spoken by only about 1 percent of the population).

Alas, I am not so linguistically talented. I’m studying in Geneva, which is in a French-speaking region. I’ve taken French for about six years in school so I have a good handle on the language, but only up to a point. I’m definitely still learning.

During the beginning of the semester, I was at a restaurant with some people from my program who don’t speak French at all. Eager to show off my (somewhat limited) French prowess, I asked where the bathroom, or salle de bain, was. The waiter looked at me disdainfully for a second then asked, “Les toillettes?” I  was confused for a second, then realized my mistake.

Because of the European bathroom style (toilet in one room, sink and shower in another) there is a French word for each room. Salle de bain — literally “room of bathing” — sounds correct to an English speaker and seems more polite than asking for les toilettes, but it’s actually referring to the room with the shower or bathtub. So I had basically asked if the waiter if there were any showers in the restaurant I could use.

But overall, my “language shock” hasn’t been bad. I’m living in a very international city with about 30 other American students, and I can speak enough French to get by. I thought that I would probably feel a little bit confused when I went to German-speaking areas, but the toughest trip for me, language-wise, was actually the weekend I visited a friend studying abroad in Paris.

Her program is extremely language-intensive, so everyone takes classes in French and lives with French families. They also sign a pledge saying they won’t speak in English for the entire semester (with a few exceptions). My visit apparently did not count as an exception, so whenever I spent time with her and her friends I felt a little overwhelmed. They are all essentially fluent (or native speakers) so I just smiled and nodded a lot as I listened to them jabber about their host families or classes.

I understood 99 percent of what they were saying, but I felt like I was almost inconveniencing them by talking because I still speak pretty slowly, especially if I don’t want to make mistakes. I ended up just using a few stock phrases, and resigned myself to the fact that all her friends would probably think I was the dullest, most unimaginative person alive.

After we left dinner on my last night, my friend asked me if I knew what chouette meant — the word I had been using for basically everything.

“Doesn’t it mean ‘cool’?” I asked, my heart sinking a little bit. I was pretty sure that it didn’t mean anything offensive or really weird since I remember learning it in middle school, but I’ve always been sort of suspicious that my sixth grade French teacher taught us French words of his own invention.

“Well, it sort of means that,” she said, laughing. “But it’s really more like saying ‘groovy’ or something. People don’t really use it anymore.”

Great. I was embarrassed for about ten seconds, but then I looked around us — at the crowds of people laughing in the street, at the man playing “La Vie en Rose” on his accordion, and at the street artists capturing it all on their canvases. How could I be bothered by something so little when there was so much beauty and liveliness all around me?

“Oh, well,” I said. “C’est la vie!”


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