Monday, 14 May 2018

Vous speekings French?


                                 Résultat de recherche d'images pour "french textbook"

Once you get over the fact that 'My Uncles pen is NOT on my Aunt's desk' (and is never likely to be) the task of learning 'useful' Non-O-Level-School-French can begin.

Personally I arrived in France with reasonably good vocabulary, but without the ability to string much of it together into coherent sentences. Occasions to explain that 'My pen knife was in my brother's pocket' were few and far between, and I soon found that I had much more need to say 'My septic tank stinks', or 'I have leaking roof', or 'My beans are covered in aphids'.

French anomalies are everywhere, laid like traps for the unwary foreigner; here are a couple of amusing favourites.

Nouns in French are either boys or girls; yes, they have a sex. A window (La fenetre) is female, and a carpet (Le tapis) is male. But just to confuse the unwary foreigner, a man's beard is female (La barbe), and a lady's handbag (Le sac a main) is of course male. Well it would be, wouldn't it.

And whilst I'm on the subject, I was reminded recently of an ancient popular French 'bonbon' known as Sucre brulé, which was translated by some English linguistic clever-clogs as 'Sugar Barley' (or Barley Sugar). Visiting Frenchmen to England then re-discovered this British delicacy, and it was re-exported back to France as Sucre d'orge. 

This simple sweet contains not the tiniest trace of Barley, but is now named on both sides of La Manche as if its Barley content was unquestionable!

We foreigners hardly stand a chance.

p.s. I've had 45 years in which to get to grips with Français, and (I'm pleased to say) my usage is now 'acceptable'.



42 comments:

  1. What about Lady M? Can she give you a good telling off in fluent French?

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    1. Lady M's first language was Russian (Russian nanny), then probably Swedish (Swedish mother), then Spanish (Lived in Venezuela), then American (lived in Washington), then eventually English. She occasionally confuses her Spanish and French.

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  2. I am fluent but the French don't seem to understand a word I say.

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    1. I have a neighbour with a speech impediment, and I can't understand anything HE says; so I am obliged to follow a continuous one-sided conversation.

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  3. I used to speak far better greek but seem to be losing it lately. I learnt to read and write helping my children with their homework. Those males and females are fatale. Now my grandchildren laugh out loud at my gaffes and terrible accent. I tell them I speak a language called 'nana' and they are privileged to have learnt this terribly important language from birth.
    I think I'm fluent anyway and have long 'intelligent' conversations with locals.

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    1. You must have had much more difficulty learning Greek, than I did with French. At least our alphabets are the same. The only thing I ever learned in Greek was how to order food and wine in a Taverna!

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  4. I have a friend who lives in France and speaks fairly fluent French but his scouse accent is so strong even I can hear it.

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    1. That sounds rather nice..... As long as he's understood!

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  5. You have my every admiration Cro, as does anyone who can learn a foreign language enough to get by and converse with the locals.I think it's essential to try, I can't stand it when I hear about all these Brits in Spain and elsewhere who live in English ghettos and don't attempt to learn the language.

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    1. When I first arrived here there were no other Brits.... Just us. Nowadays there are loads of them and they form little cliques, and probably never speak to a 'foreigner'.

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  6. The anomalies are , as there are three genders, profuse: Male, Female, Neutral.
    Additionally if you talk about groups or classes of people, for example school children, you have to feminize the noun. So it becomes Schüler and Schülerinnen for example. Even words for TV viewers, radio listeners, theater audiences, must suffer a similar fate. It's completely crazy. It sounds absurd and it is.

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    1. In German, for comparison, this is.

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    2. Mixed groups are always difficult, we have to find a way around it.

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  7. I am bivocal and fluid in both.

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  8. I am bilingual. I speak English and Norfolk dialect. I can even speak both at the same time.

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  9. I can also say gen dobry which is Polish. It means hello. I know other Polish words and like to show off with them but the Poles all speak English and use a mixture of Polish and English. I started learning to speak Polish 10 years ago, as opposed to writing it, which is much more difficult.

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    1. Polish must be handy when you visit the library. Back in the late 60's I desperately tried to learn Italian, but it just wouldn't stick. After several months I couldn't even say 'good morning'. Hopeless.

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    2. The only polish I know is Mr Sheen.

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    3. It means I am not a stranger in the Warsaw Library.

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  10. Would it be acceptable in Paris though?

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    1. In Paris you have to pretend to be arrogant and rude; otherwise it's just the same.

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  11. I must have French blood. I have always seen things as male or female - the letters of the alphabet, cutlery (forks are female, knives and spoons are male). There's no reasoning behind it.

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    1. I like the sound of that, it would interesting to see if your idea of gender corresponds to the French idea.

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  12. In Canada, you learn French in school because it is our official second language. I know my "vocab" but after having French from grade four to grade 12, I still couldn't carry on a conversation, especially if someone is speaking quickly. Immersion is the only way to really learn a language. -Jenn

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    1. Canadian French is a little different to French French. I remember working with a French speaking Canadian, and we had to translate. I think your version is more authentic.

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  13. I have schoolgirl French at my disposal .... I work out what I’m going to say and then they come back at me very fast then I’m lost and it all goes to pot !!! I do like to try though ( that though reminds me how difficult the English language is as well ..... rough, bough, though, through etc !!) XXXX

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    1. I learnt English when I was just a small child. I found it very easy!

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  14. I took French, Spanish and Latin in school. I can read some Spanish, but when I try to speak the little I remember, I do it with the French Le and La.

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    1. I did French and Latin. They wouldn't have trusted me with Spanish

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  15. Just after I left school, after six or so years of French lessons, I went to Paris and -wishing to know the time - asked a passing Frenchman 'Quelle heur est il, si'vous plait?' All I got was a quizzical look. And Englishman sitting nearby on a bench looked up, pointed to his wrist and said 'avez vous l'heure?' and realisation dawned on the Frenchman's face as he showed me his watch.

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    1. In Paris you're lucky to get a shrug. They're not used to being helpful!

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  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. I have heard it. It's almost a completely different language, but I do manage to understand.

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  17. I can't speak French, but Amanda can, and to 'train' me, she doesn't assist when we are in France. On our recent motorbike trip to Versaille, I ended up with the same dish as hers at a street cafe in the middle of nowhere. I hate mussels, and love chips, and ended up with a bucket of both. It was difficult to say the least, made worse by the fact that I couldn't swig copious amounts of wine as I was riding the bike. Coca Cola just didn't help. The experience was wonderful though, even if the lack of language wasn't. Brit's can be lazy with language.

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    1. So, did you eat all her chips, and she eat all your mussels? I love Moules/Frites!

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  18. I suspect barley sugar was so named because the twist resembled the barley twist on turned wooden furniture legs rather than anything to do with the cereal.

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    1. I was always told that the word 'brulé' was heard as 'barley'; but who knows. History is filled with nonsense.

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  19. I always though that the plume de ma tante was sur le bureau de mon oncle rather than the other way around.

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    1. That was in the Uncle's office; I was talking about in the Aunt's office.

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    ReplyDelete

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