Voice from the Pack appears to have missed the point:
Vox… proved beyond a doubt that Americans abroad are indeed the new English abroad. When a Frenchman in front of him had the temerity to not know where he was going, Vox spoke Italian to him.
I find it more than a little amusing that my little story about encountering a pack of idiots at the Metro station somehow managed to get turned around into a portrayal of me as some sort of clueless American tourist. First, I should probably point out that I do speak a very little French; my vocabulary is only a few social niceties, to be sure, but I understand a fair amount of it. One of my college roommates was French, another previous one was French-speaking Belgian, and I dated a Parisian for a while, so I picked up a smattering of the language from them. Second, I’ve lived here for a long time. Not even the English often take me for an American at this point; it’s particularly funny when Americans compliment me on my English. I always enjoy the opportunity to explain how I spent three years studying interpretive dance in Des Moines or whatever.
Third, and most important, Italian is, like French, a Romance language. Many of the Italian speakers I know speak fluent French, just as many of the French speakers I know speak at least some Italian. In general, the language divide among the multilingual is usually English/German and Italian/French, although more than a few of our friends speak all four to some degree; some even throw in Dutch for a fifth. So, while I could have chosen to use either English or German to address the befuddled old Frenchman, I assumed that he would understand more of what I was saying if I went with Italian. Which, in fact, turned out to be the case.