The other day I head Petula Clark being interviewed in French on French radio. If you’d asked me I wouldn’t have been completely sure she was still alive, but age 79 she is still cranking out the music. And she speaks French! Now that is really unexpected. Another unexpected French speaker is Eddy Izzard, who, I believe does his stand-up routine in French. He’s one of the few comedians I know who is really funny. If you haven’t seen his Death Star Routine, I highly recommend it. He often talks about language, and here’s his take on Latin and the English language (pick it up around the 56 minutes mark – the Romans).
Every so often I survey the market of other translators’ websites. I check out how much they charge, how quickly they work, whether they’re offering something I’m not, etc. Usual stuff.
Each time, I’m surprised all over again by the fact that French to English translators almost always write their websites in English. If you want to attract French speakers looking for a translation, doesn’t it make sense to address them in their native language? Maybe use both languages, just to demonstrate that you can write in English, but at least have some French in there.
What am I missing?
I’ve posted before about how French speakers can identify a non-native speaker just from the one single word ‘bonjour’. One of my current quests in life is to perfect my pronunciation so that it will take a few more words than just ‘hello’ before someone detects that I’m a rosbif.
The other day I came across the very wonderful Cheryl A. Demharter (aka FrenchSounds) who looks like she may hold the key to the holy grail 🙂 Check out her fantastique YouTube vid.
What a difference a day makes. Today has been a big improvement on yesterday. The job I’ve been waiting for all week finally arrived, plus the next two chapters in a slow-time book project. Chewy’s back, and I’m perking up a bit.
I went to my usual French class this morning and that was better too. Last week’s session was a big of a drag, but this week was fun. There is one thing that drives me crazy in these classes – the irritating English. And what irritates me most about them is the nonsense they talk. Last week an allegedly native English speaker tried to maintain that there was no such thing as ‘exploding’ with anger in English. OH YES THERE IS. In the same session someone offered ‘sensible’ as a translation for the French ‘sensible’. It really doesn’t help!!!! And a few weeks before that, another compatriot tried to tell the French speakers that cows ‘browse’ grass. Not where I come from they don’t.
So Francophones beware. Next time an Anglophone tries to ‘help’ you to speak English, get a second opinion!
Today I went to my weekly French conversation class. I haven’t been for ages, but I love it. It’s an equally balanced group of Francophones and Anglophones, we have a set topic and everyone has to talk in their non-native language. What generally happens is that folk start out in their non-native language, and then, as they get passionate or involved in their topic, they slide into their native language. At which point another member of the group will remind them to speak in the other language.
Well, guess what happened today?
There I was gabbling on, asking intelligent and pertinent questions in an interesting discussion about the Algerian war of independence when my neighbour tapped me on the arm. ‘Tu dois parler en anglais’ she said. I was puzzled. ‘Mais je suis anglaise’ I replied. It was only as I was saying it that it dawned on me that she had mistaken me for a native French speaker.
Happy dance, happy dance 🙂 (Even if she was German).
It’s odd that The Artist won the Best Picture award at the Oscars. It shouldn’t have. Why? Because the Best Picture award is actually awarded to the Best Picture “in the English language”. Anything that’s not in English goes into the “Best Foreign Picture” category. The Artist, being a French picture shouldn’t have had a look in. It’s only because it was silent that it could even be nominated for the big prize. If anyone had uttered a word (well, maybe a sentence) it would have been relegated to the outer realms of the awards world. I guess next year we can look forward to more silent films from South Korea, Iran and South America.
Anyway, my point is that I’d never heard of Jean Dujardin (star of The Artist) until the film came along. It turns out he’s a piece of French culture worth knowing about. Not only has he made many other films, he also played Jean in the series Un Gars, Une Fille. Now, if you don’t know what this is, you must immediately go to YouTube and search for it. There are nearly 600 episodes so you should be able to find one or two.
Un Gars, Une Fille is a marvel if you want to understand contemporary French culture and learn colloquial French. I’ve been looking for something like this for ages. While I can perfectly understand endless hours of documentaries, the news and any politician, everyday chit-chat often leaves me lost. If you are in a similar position, watch Un Gars, Une Fille and learn! In short (six minutes or so) episodes we follow the lives of Alex and Jean, a typical(?) young French couple who endure all the usual pains and pleasures of living with a partner. I’ve long held the theory that the reason Chewy (aka Mr S) and me argue so little is because we have different native languages. We can’t argue because we don’t know the words in each other’s language. That may be about to change.
Since watching the series, I’ve realised that I’m still fa-a-ar too English to pass for a typical French girlfriend. In fact, I see now why Chewy likes me. This must also change – and it’s not about the language. I need to develop some attitude. Proper French girls are far less accommodating and much more stroppy than me. Out with the search for compromise and harmony, and in with a straightforward ‘tu m’énerves’ and ‘non’!
The demise of Megavideo has had an unexpected impact on my life. Not that I used it very often, but I did use other, let’s call them ‘accessory’ sites quite regularly. They seem to have all (voluntarily) closed down. So I’ve had to hunt around for new sources of entertainment, and I’ve come across a little treasure – http://www.imineo.com/
Not only is it French, it’s legal! I love their “label PUR de l’HADOPI“. Their almost 12k stock of videos should keep me going for a while.
Hooray for imineo!
There was a time when I worried that my spoken French was getting so good that people might not realise I wasn’t French. Not that it happens very often, but in certain contexts when I’m talking about things I’m familiar with I can be quite fluent, yeayh 🙂
Then two things happened. First, I was at the airport and I was stopped by the security man who wanted to see inside by bag. I said one word to him, ‘bonjour’. The response? ‘Vous parlez très bien français’. With just that one word he could tell I wasn’t a native French speaker. Some time later I was at a social do and met some new people. Again, the only word out of my mouth was ‘bonjour’. This time the response was ‘ah, ce joli petit accent’.
I’m sure whether I should be reassured or discouraged. On the one hand, I know that so long as I start with ‘bonjour’ nobody is going to wonder if I’m French or not. One the other hand, I’d love a French person to mistake me for a native speaker.
I’ve been told it’s picked up in that bête noire of Anglophones, the r. I’ll keep working on it.
- beyond the WC: french you’ll actually use (yellsoftly.com)
I’ve never forgotten the day, many years ago, I was on the receiving end of a vehement diatribe from my then French teacher. The reason for such passion? English pronunciation. Her knickers were all twisted up because, she said, in English, you can’t tell how a word is pronounced just by looking at it. This was why, she continued, French was vastly superior to English because in French, you can tell how every word is pronounced just by reading the letters on the page.
I believed her. And I’d always felt a little bit ashamed that in this respect, English should be so difficult for non-native speakers (well readers). That is, until a few days ago, when a friend sent me this:
Nous portions nos portions.
Les poules du couvent couvent.
Mes fils ont cassé mes fils.
Il est de l’est.
Je vis ces vis.
Cet homme est fier ; peut-on s’y fier ?
Nous éditions de belles éditions.
Nous relations ces intéressantes relations.
Je suis content qu’ils nous content cette histoire.
Il convient qu’ils convient leurs amis.
Ils ont un caractère violent et ils violent leurs promesses.
Ces dames se parent de fleurs pour leur parent.
Ils expédient leurs lettres ; c’est un bon expédient.
Nos intentions c’est que nous intentions un procès.
Ils négligent leur devoir ; moi, je suis moins négligent.
Nous objections beaucoup de choses à vos objections.
Ils résident à Paris chez le résident d’une ambassade étrangère.
Ces cuisiniers excellent à composer cet excellent plat.
Les poissons affluent d’un affluent de la rivière.
Now let’s get back to the agreement of direct object pronouns when they precede the verb…