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One of the best vocabulary tests in the world is urgently needing to explain something important. When there’s no time and no room for les fautes (mistakes), the reality of vocabulary limitations becomes inescapable.
Not too long ago mon lit (my bed) broke in the middle of the night. It was a pretty simple fix, but would mean going to the hardware store and finding the right tools. When the morning came I needed to get it repaired dès que possible (ASAP) if I wanted to avoid les petits yeux (small eyes)!
Le problème was that I had no idea how to say what I needed in English, never mind en français.
Une équerre – A flat angle bracket, shelf bracket
I knew it was something like une charnière (a hinge), but not exactly that. Après tout (after all), I needed to fix un lit and not une porte (a door), but I figured it would be a good place to start looking.
When I got to le magasin de bricologe (the hardware store) and asked un employé (an employee) where I could find them, I was instantly blind sighted by a surprise vocabulary test:
Excusez-moi, je cherche les charnières.
Ah oui, elles sont dans la section de quincaillerie au 3ème étage.
Excuse me, I’m looking for hinges.
Ah yes, they’re the the quincaillerie section on the third floor.
The dumb look on my face made it clear I didn’t fully understand so l’employé tried to make it easier to understand.
Allez au troisième étage et puis allez à la gauche. Vous verrez les charnières au fond du couloir.
D’accord, merci !
Go to the third floor and then go to the left. You will see hinges at the end of the hallway.
I then knew where I needed to go now, but I was still confused by the word quincaillerie. The word by itself sounded odd to me and when I got to the 3rd floor and finally saw it written out, it looked even stranger:
My confusion aside, I soon confirmed what I really needed was in fact not une charnière and I needed to ask for help again:
Excusez-moi, je cherche quelque chose comme cette charnière, mais très rigide.
En fait c’est un support pour mon lit. J’en ai besoin parce que l’ancien a cassé hier soir.
Ah oui je vois, c’est juste à côté. Suivez-moi, s’il vous plaît.
Excuse me, I’m looking for something like this hinge, but very rigid.
Actually it’s a support for my bed. I need one because the old one broke last night.
Ah yes I see. It’s right next to here. Follow me, please.
I followed l’employé to the next row of tools and there it was!
C’est bien ça que vous cherchez ?|
Alors vous avez besoin des vis aussi ?
Des quoi ?
This is what you’re looking for?
So you need screws as well?
It took me a couple seconds, but I suddenly realized I had the same conversation years ago and I should have already known the word for screws! Never mind the fact that avec le contexte (with context), it’s pretty clear what was being asked.
At the end of the day it was a successful trip to le magasin de bricolage. I learned des nouveaux mots (new words) and more importantly could finally sleep on a proper bed!
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