You say you speak French? Think again

Even when you have a grasp of the language, no one may understand you.
(Muhammed Muheisen / Associated Press)

I was just back from vacation and catching up with The Times’ July 14 Travel section. As I read the Departure Points column “Pack a Bit of Humility,” tears ran down my face as I laughed with Jonathan Arlan about his encounter with a French woman and her dog. Priceless.

I’ve studied beginning French — even got to French 3 — but when in France, I am not understood. I stepped on a bus in Paris and asked “Rue de Rivoli?” Strange look from driver. It’s a main street of Paris, so I repeated the question, “ Riv-o-li?” Same look. Finally, “Ah, Rvgl,” he croaked, and waved me on. Three syllables (to me) equaled one strange gurgle.

As a sometime solo traveler, I commiserate with Arlan’s assorted humiliations. We’ve all been there. I once commented how well my Verdun tour guide could speak English. “I’m from Santa Monica.” she said. My faux pas might make good stories at home, but some I keep to myself, lest my children think Mom is too old to be let loose on the continent.


Carol Clark

Los Feliz

Words of whoa
Regarding “What’s Up,” July 28: Equestrian parades should be a thing of the past, and it is unfortunate that they are being celebrated alongside historical music and dance performances during the Old Spanish Days celebration in Santa Barbara.

Horses used in equestrian parades are forced to perform, often under the threat of whips and electric-shocking devices, often sustaining injuries.

There are hundreds of great ways to celebrate cultural heritage, including international food markets, handmade crafts, live music and family carnivals, so why not leave the 600 poor horses out of it?
Sara Hojjat
Los Angeles