Friday, 1 June 2012

Loving the lingua franca

I’m sitting in the bar of the hotel listing to an interesting conversation between a restaurant customer, the lady on reception and the hotel manager.
The conversation is a discussion over whether the hotel should be charging for parking for someone who is just dining in the restaurant rather than staying.

What’s most amazing is that all three are having the conversation in a language other than their mother tongue.

The customer is French (he has stated this fact on at least four occasions “at home in France we do not charge to visit the restaurant”), the lady on reception is Polish, the manager, judging from the accent (and the name on the duty manager board) is German.

Yet they are all having this conversation in English, which means I can listen in and enjoy a rather pompous customer being brought down a peg or two.

His general complaint is that in France you are never charged car parking to visit a hotel restaurant, and has finally escalated to the statement that if the hotel was run by a proper hotel chain this wouldn’t happen.

I’m trying not to laugh, as I’ll give the game away, as I can clearly see both the receptionist and manager are about to leap on this open goal.

It’s at this point I suddenly realise that perhaps English has become a little too pervasive.  The fact that it was automatically the language of choice for the customer when travelling abroad, and the fact that the hotel staff are fluent leaves me feeling a little thick.  After all, I can barely master please and thank you in Polish, let alone attempt to defuse an annoyed patron in another language.

And the punch line.

The hotel is part of the Accor chain.  France’s largest hotel chain

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