The Importance of Landmarks

Thoughts about landmarks and the French language.

A few years ago I led a group of MBA students on a study abroad trip to Strasbourg, France.

It was an amazing experience.

Let me get a couple things out of the way here:

  • I don’t speak French
  • I have a very bad sense of direction

How’s that confidence in your tour guide, kids?

Anyway, one thing I do remember was a huge, unique building with the word Printemps on it.

If you don’t speak French or have never heard of this business before, just keep calling it “Print-temps” like I did, at least in my head and sometimes out loud. Silly me.  

I’ll show you the proper pronunciation at the end.

Too late to learn French, and to overcome my terrible internal map, I just had to learn where a few things were in relation to Printemps.

Using Printemps as the center of my circle, I was able to find places to eat, the bus stop, and yes, my hotel room.

Lucky for me, it is a very distinct building.

So the lesson here (besides the one about me being a burden of a  guest) is that when you feel lost, or a task seems out of hand, is to find a landmark. Something you recognize. Something you can handle without getting lost, literally or metaphorically. And then build out from there.

And now, bonus learning:

Printemps. Say it kind of like this: prahtom.

Even if you say it like that, you’ll sound less dumb than I did. Not print-temps.

(My French-speaking friends, please tell me how to pronounce this better)

It means springtime.

See you tomorrow!