Today I want to talk about accents and language. I’m embarrassed that I can only speak a small amount of French – enough to get me by as a tourist in Paris but no more – and learning Italian and Spanish is very much on my bucket list. The main barrier I have is my embarrassment about sounding ridiculously English at all times.
I once went on a school trip to Boulogne and, piling all my courage up inside my ears like Roobarb from ‘and Custard’ fame, ordered a couple of soft drinks in my very bestest, politest French. The man behind the counter replied in *perfect* English and I wanted to die on the spot. In fact, every time I’ve tried a bit of a foreign language in a different country I have failed spectacularly. In Rome I taught myself a few key phrases and didn’t get the chance to deploy them as whenever we were in a restaurant the waiting staff addressed us in English. Perhaps the pale skin and bad teeth gave us away.
As a result I am always super-impressed by people that can speak not just one foreign language, but several. It’s not just their mastery of the languages, but the effort they put into getting the pronunciation and inflections right. Daniel Friebe is a master of this, as is Matt Rendell. The joy with which they hurl themselves into Italian and Spanish without a hint of embarrassment is infectious and admirable. Friebe speaking Italian into my ears each morning on The Cycling Podcast is really quite something.
It’s like I’ve just discovered Gifs.
Even more embarrassing to me is the ease with which riders from a variety of countries in which English is not their first language speak ours. There are always certain phrases that jar slightly – ‘for sure’ instead of yes or definitely is one – but then I’m not trying to think of the right words to say in a different language at the end of a stage when I’m knackered. So many of the riders speak brilliant English that I find myself being irrationally grumpy with those that tend to speak their own language. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Vincenzo Nibali utter a word of English in an interview and that’s entirely his prerogative. I’m just grateful that Rob Hatch and Carlton Kirby are on-hand to provide on the spot translations, although they could probably say anything that vaguely sounded like some suitable platitudes and I’d believe them. It’s probably for this reason that I’m under the impression that Nibali speaks solely in meaningless soundbites. I’m sure he goes down a storm in Sicily.
Today Andre Greipel won a stage designed for the more hardy variety of sprinter. He conducted his post-podium interview with Eurosport in English. So did Tom Dumoulin. Yesterday Ashley House and Juan Antonio Flecha interviewed Diego Ulissi in Italian, switching back and forth between to English to translate to the viewer. I remain simultaneously impressed and embarrassed.
I didn’t get much of a look at birthday boy Adam Hansen today *sadface* but here’s a classic Hansen moment:
Tomorrow we go to the mountains for our first summit finish of the 2016 Giro. Dumoulin wants to keep the Maglia Rosa more than I want to beat my current plank PB (4 minutes, in case you were wondering) but I suspect we’ll see some first shots fired by the GC contenders. Expect to see Marcel Kittel hangin’ in the grupetto like a boss.