Defensive, moi?

In another attempt to be given some work to do, I have just been over to the main building to follow up a message that a colleague gave me as she went off to lunch at about 12pm. She told me that one of the team leaders needed some files copying, so with a view to tying myself to the photocopier for the best part of an hour, I ventured over to see her. On my first visit she wasn’t there, but I did succeed in passing a box full of miscellaneous paperwork back to the big boss. I think that t'other boss wanted me to do more with it, but I forgot to write down her instructions on Thursday. Still, all the paperwork is his, so with him is surely the best place for it.

A hopeful look around on my first visit (this afternoon) didn’t yield any way to occupy my time, so I returned to my (current) desk and decided to introduce myself to Microsoft Binder. After playing with that for a short while, I thought it was time to hop back over into the main building and see if Angela had returned. Initially I didn’t spot her, but that turned out to be because she was behind me. As I stood talking to her about file copying, from behind me there came a gruff "excusez-moi, s’il vous plaît".

Realising that there was insufficient space for the speaker to get past me, I turned toward him and said, "Ooh, sorry" while moving out of the way. Angela also moved, although her original stance was less obstructive. Whether or not I looked overly confused at this point, I am unsure. The speaker stared at me, and said "Oh, right" and continued, explaining that his confusion was due to him thinking that I didn’t understand French.

I am not the most eloquent of French-speakers, and never claim to be fluent, but I can muddle through a basic conversation over buying a piece of cheese or bottle of wine with a native. I have done so a few times anyway. I commented that I could understand enough French to know what he was saying to me. Angela answered him with "I am sure she understands more French than you", and the man took umbrage. Bizarrely though, he directed his following self-righteously indignant comments at me rather than Angela. As I tried to walk past him, he said, "Well, how many languages do you speak then?" I answered that I spoke one fully – English – but could muddle through the basics in French. "German?" he barked? Yes, I can speak a very small amount of German. "Spanish?" No, no Spanish. "Italian?" I thought 'Mi dispiace, non lo so' but restrained myself to saying "A bit."

I had manoeuvered passed him by this point, and decided that I would leave this conversation before he got any more irate. As I edged away, he asked "But can you count in any of those languages?" French, I said, increasing the gap as I did. "Oh, everyone can count in French" he scoffed.