As Simple as a Thumbs Up

Well, I guess it was only a matter of time.  Apparently, everything in this life and that of the next can now be classified as either ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’.   I guess I’ll have to be very cognizant of not turning into a yes man ‘thumbs up’ gal. 

I haven’t the foggiest idea if ‘thumbs up’ and ‘thumbs down’ are considered to be common and understood hand gestures all around the world, but I’ll bet somewhere that someone will be totally peeved and start calling it an act of blatant ‘Americanization’.  Perhaps, that undies-in-a-bundle person can simply give the idea a ‘thumbs down’ or ‘frowny smiley face’ to indicate his or her displeasure.

Will the idea of ‘thumbs up’ and ‘thumbs down’ become some sort of global recognition system that everyone everywhere begins to use for everything?  And if that were to happen, would the use of such symbols become like the current use of English as the universal business language?

As a fan of the English language (‘thumbs up’), I am extremely thankful that English is considered to be the ‘universal’ language.  But then again, even the use of the word ‘universe’ to denote the word ‘global’ sniffs of world domination by those rascally Americans. 

Aren’t we all too busy worrying about the Chinese taking over the world to notice piddly things such as a truly global language being in constant play or a potential new global classification system using ‘thumbs up’ and ‘thumbs down’ creeping across the internet.  Or are we?  Let me stuff another piece of pizza in my mouth and think about that one for a minute, but only for a minute because my attention span only lasts that long for any one given topic at a time.

I’m fresh in the midst of attempting to learn the French language by taking a Monday through Friday, four hours per day language class.  And after discovering that French has 14 verb tenses plus l’imperatif (‘thumbs down’) – really, guys?!  15.  15!  Why and how can you possibly use 15 tenses to be or become or somewhat become something?  Wow. – I’ve decided to keep my great big stick of self-expecting standards rather close to the ground.

Thus far, the class has been nothing but wonderfully interesting for a few reasons:

  1. the massive amounts of confusion I have claimed extreme craziness over have actually proven to be rather useful (read: I know more than I thought I did due only to the necessity of basic survival),
  2. listening to all those French people go on and on at dinner parties without really having a clue has given me an edge-up with my French accent, and
  3. being fluent in English and having lived and worked amongst people who know English as a secondary language, allows me to communicate pretty easily with almost everyone in my class when French fails us.

But, while it is very cool that everyone in the class can communicate in English if necessary(‘thumbs up’), this fact also has me thinking that Americans really do need to pick up the pace (and no, hungry Americans, not the sauce, the speed/the gusto/the desire) when it comes to learning other languages. 

Yes, we get points on the gravy-train (mmm…gravy) for having English in our back pockets, but then what?  We certainly aren’t going to gain any ground on the metric merry-go-round (‘thumbs down’).

I actually did study another language during my official school-going days.  It was German.  Darn you Frenchman and your Frenchiness!  If you had been German, I would be ROCKING my secondary language right about now (‘thumbs down’).  There happen to be two native German speakers in my class, and sometimes during class there are moments where I find myself speaking English, French AND German.  And even if I’m not absolutely fluent in German or French and may never be, is pretty gosh darn awesome (‘thumbs up’) in the global spaciousness of everything that I can at least utter a few complete sentences.

But, it kind of troubles me (‘thumbs down’) to see the look of shock and awe in the faces of people when I dare to utter some German or French.  The expression reads kind of like, “Holy cow.  This American can actually speak more than one language (‘thumbs up’).  Wow.  How about that?  Neat.”

And when the 23-year-old Chinese woman in my class switches from speaking Chinese to French to English to Japanese…um…o.k…maybe everyone should look deeper behind the Red Wall of Made in China,  thank the verb conjugation exercises that I can at least, kind of, sort of muster through three languages.  I would look like a total i-d-i-o-t if I only had two language cards in play.

Everyone in the Frenchman’s family speaks English, including his grandmother, a fact that I love (‘thumbs up’).  I often remark in a sassy way that maybe I could personally become responsible for English becoming the dominant language in France.  Obviously, this will never happen (‘thumbs up’ from Académie Française); but it’s a fun thought to have on the days when I am struggling to remember the French word for week-end. 

If ‘thumbs up’ and ‘thumbs down’ do become globally recognized symbols and words, I would be o.k. with it and not only because I am already totally fluent in clicking the ‘like’ button.  But, because in my current, crazy magic-8 ball shake of life existence, simple understanding and basic comprehension are concepts that I highly crave and endorse (‘thumbs up’).


About Minnesota Pilgrim

A GenX Xpat who moved from Minnesota to Mauritius to France with her Frenchman lover. Multiple cultures, total bedlam, absolute bliss.
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5 Responses to As Simple as a Thumbs Up

  1. Hello Minnesota Pilgrim,

    It seems like we have a lot in common–we live in Minnesota (six months of the year) and I lived for 6 months in Mauritius teaching at the University of Maruitius in Reduit. Loved the place and had a fabulous time. Would love to go back there someday.

    Are you still living in Mauritius? What part? We lived in Orchard Towers in Quatre Bornes. I taught for 26 years at Macalester in St. Paul before retiring a couple of years ago.

    Will enjoy following your blog. Feel free to check out mine.

    Best, Michael Schneider

    • Minnesota Pilgrim says:

      Hello Mr. Schneider –

      Of all the possible connections and places in the world: from Minnesota to Mauritius! Amazing, isn’t it?! And I’ve always thought Macalester was a great school. I recently left the island, and am now living in France. Another country, another culture!

      I have read all the posts on your blog and think that what you have started is a great and unique idea; but, who are these people that keep asking you to include other methods for overseas assignment and/or work? Did they not read your ‘about me’ section? 😉

      Eagerly waiting to hear your thoughts about teaching in Mauritius especially since I was an IT Manager there and managed teams of young programmers, many of whom came out of the University. Working on the island, while frustrating at times, was one of the best experiences I have ever had for my professional career.

  2. beachvolleymu says:

    Hi again,
    It’s amazing how you really take the words out of my mouth with your blog. I just recently moved to France to train for beach volleyball and I am experiencing a bit of the same with the language. While I did take French as a second language in school, since Canadians are suppose to be bilingual in English and French, I have been unable fully communicate in French. I think it might be a bit of stage fright, a fear of sounding silly. Given, I am very fluent in body language (I guess I’d rather look silly than sound silly) and knowing creole helps.

    Always a pleasure to read your blog.

    • Minnesota Pilgrim says:

      Hello –

      How large and yet small is this world? We’re both currently in France, but have both come out of Mauritius…and the States…and Canada. You have to enjoy and realize how incredible both of our experiences have been thus far on this journey throughout our lives.

      And speaking of journeys, your journey to France was quite the adventure, wasn’t it?!

      If any reader of this little ol’ blog is curious about following two young Mauritian women chase their dream of representing Mauritius in the sport of beach volleyball at the Summer Olympics, check out the following links:

      It’s always cool to have a goal, a dream, a wish and to actually go for it. All the best! Train hard!

      • Elodie says:


        Tell me about it. It is a small world and yes our experiences are priceless. I will be going to Rome soon for our first world tour tournament and I’m reading up on it on your blog to find out a bit more :).

        The journey here was a bit of an adventure but nothing beats the journey IN France.

        Thank you for your continuous support. Bon courage avec le Francais

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