Accents and pronunciation

I'm a bit of a polyglot. Well that's perhaps something of an exaggeration, but I can happily mangle my way through three other languages other than English.

And over the years I've tried to disguise the obvious Britishness of my accent when speaking French and although I'm obviously a foreigner, many are not quite sure where I'm from.

That's until I get to one of those words that I simply cannot pronounce properly. Never have been able to, and probably never will.

source Wikipedia

"Vous" has been my personal bugbear for donkeys years.

"Mille feuille" always, I mean ALWAYS, comes out as "me-y foy" (or something similar) even though I know it should be "meal".

And as for "tilleul" - well just don't go there.

What dead giveaways does everyone else have? Or what French words constantly make you stumble when you try to say them?

And just to even things up a bit, what about those of you with French partners? What words or phrases, in English of course, make you smile when you hear them drop from the lips of your beloved.

Mine has to be "ducking" a biscuit or croissant in coffee. Actually I think that's quite cute.

"Arbitary" - marvellous ! ;)

I'm lucky, I never learned French in school (good for accent reasons) plust, my OH came to Ireland with no English, and therefore, now that it's the other way round, every mistake she made in grammar, I reverse, to get things right. Like, she used to say "hairs" instead of hair, so I know to say it in plural, and talkie walkie/code bar, too funny when saying them, because I remember the first times she had said them, and how funny it sounded.

thinkgs like "thank you to open the window" remind me to say it the right way around in French. We often laugh that the things I didn't have to learn were the old mistakes she was making.

@ Marijke,

the others I got, but the Charogne???

I also love the accent from the south, one of our chefs is from down there, "à demannnnngggggg", merci biennnggggg'

Being Flemish, from where exactly??

talking about accents and words ---- when I lived at first in the UK coming from Belgium and with only my school knowledge of english , I ve made some real cock ups lol ... I know now , never to talk about my organ but about my barrel or monkey organ --- willies are Wellies --and free range eggs arent exactly for free ... I learned a lot in the five years i was in the Uk ... I still make mistakes writing ... I hardly ever speak my own language since about 10 years and drop french and english words in the conversation when I do --- apparently, according to hubbie the only time I still have no probs with it is when i m talking in my sleep

haha , I love to hear hubbie say Gerard Depardieu ... zerar ok that s understandable but he pronounces depardieu as de padoe which makes me always giggle -- another english man in the area has one word he cannot get lol ---dechetterie ... he just calls it the dysenterie .

Me I just switch languages with no probs , i m flemish [ belgian ] and speak apart from that five other languages , but if people ask me to tell my husband this or that in english ... I just tell them to tell him in french slowly , he understand s enough and can answer in easy french words --- I always tell them I m not his guardian angel ...

ever heard of la gadouille ??? that s local french and yes that s the hardest to grasp when living in France --y' a de la flotte dans notre pattelin --- la casse couille --- la charogne --a lot of french words don t get thaught in school lol

I was driving into Cluny this morning listening to France Musique when I heard an announcement of a piece by thomas Tallis sung by the choir of Glowchester Cathedral, Gloucester to you and me.

Genders: Well it's been forty years now- and despite looking and feeling in between all 4 legs , I've never been able to decide if it's "Un " or "une" Table !

DeGaulle said France was un-governable because it had more than 360 different cheeses,

but -how do you do correct grammar " dans une langue qu'a 'Une Bite" et "Un Clito" !

It's French ! Querky, quarky - avec un Je-ne-sais-quoi !

Finaly - for me , the Hardest , is writing and Singing in French:-
St.Dolay - in French

Hi Katrina, it all sounds very familiar and even after a languages degree, maîtrise français langue étrangère and a number of years here with my french OH and kids I still have the off moments when I'm tired. As for your bf, try to keep him speaking only french - it'll help you no end. if he starts speaking english you'll find a drop, small but a drop, in your everyday french. Now we have kids I try to speak to them in english all the time (my oh doesn't speak english or speaks so little that she never bothers however after 3-4 years of hearing me talking to the kids all the time in english she understands ok). As for origins, yes the italian side comes through for me from time to time - I'm not italian but it's my third language and I'm dark skinned etc. In fact no one comments on my colour here (I'm in the south and the same colour as the rest of them) yet it was always talked about in england!

The worst is when I’m at work - it’s an American company so lots of words are English and I struggle trying to put a French spin on them. A year ago, when I first arrived, it was virtually impossible but I’m getting better at it. Like most, it’s a lot lot harder when I’m tired. It’s not necessarily a problem for me but it does sometimes confuse my colleagues as they’re used to hearing them with a French accent. One of the funniest was definitely while I was stressed at work. I had to clean a certain section and restock it and I was running out of time so I was asking my bf to help me. As usual he was being lazy and I had to nag him a bit when a colleague next to us asked what I wanted. I turned to him and said “je veux juste qu’il m’aime” instead of “je veux juste qu’il m’aide”. Well we all burst out in absolute hysterics and the poor customers had no idea what was going on! Luckily the bf thinks that most of my mistakes are quite cute and most people don’t seem to know where I’m from either. When they see me they think Spain or Italy and are surprised when I say the uk. Not sure if that’s a compliment or not though!
And as for French partners and their mistakes - well, any advice to get my bf to speak English would be very much appreciated!

@ Johhny: Thnx LOL

@ Maggie: The Dutch who speak good or very good French have a different pronunciation of the "S"-like sounds. When you hear "Z"-sounds instead it's a give-away...

And Ruth (below) is right: I'm also more-often mistakenly called a Canadian instead of Dutch

Hi Johnny, yes she still delights in making so many gender mistakes, my OH says she does it on purpose but I think she's just given up trying to remember if things are masculine or feminine !

Have you come across the aveyronnais way of pronouncing moins as in plus ou moins, sounds odd to people from outside the area but the s is pronounced, may be the same down in Gaillac too - listen out for that one ;-)


I can do them, Now ( after all this time) , but :

Grenouille, Chatouille, Nouille, etc

are often stumbling stones for us English !

"Des nouilles aux cuisses de grenouilles ont tendance a bien chatouiller le gosier , n'est-ce-pas ? "

Of course that horrible Jose Arthur used to make references to Jane Birkin whenever I went on his Radio Show ! -- mind You - I found this :

Old Tv Interview and more

Not so sure about pronunciation there !

That’s one thing I’m so happy about: they never am mistaken for Dutch (while I still do have the Dutch nationality haha). IF they want to label me, I am Canadian to them. Funny thing is that in Canada (Quebec) they found me a Parisian snob, because of my ‘accent’. Can’t please them all, can you?

Even though they get that you are English, I think it’s important to stick to this form of ‘politesse’. At one point, you get used to it and know no better. When in Rome etc :slight_smile:

Love that one! That’s the south for sure.

Same happened to my Dad in a restaurant a while back : I must say your French is very good… for a German! he was equally chuffed then gutted!

Dutch rather than English as there pronounciation is still germanic but less so and usually better

A lot of people asked me if I was Belgian or Swiss when I first moved to the Aveyron - I was chuffed as they thought I was francophone but obviously still had work to do on the accent!

all good fun!

oh and wait until you hear pneu… one syllable in the north two deffinite syllables in the south - it’s the one I use with my chinese fle students to demonstrate the difference : pe_neu !

maintenant is 3 syllables to me
être and notre votre etc are 2… I could go on for hours, did socio linguistics at uni…!

Welcome to the south :wink:

tu and vous - no problem, meant the difference in pronounciation between “tu” and “tout”, dessus and dessous, rue and roue etc :wink: Totem on a Sunday - what a delight, try viure al paìs, france 3 on sundays too.

tu and vous - I once slipped up when chainsawing wood with my father-in-law, I needed to tell him to get out of the way very quickly and used tu, I don’t know who was more surprised but I very quickly said it again using vous! I find the difficulty comes when meeting someone new but in an environment that’s religiously “tu” - a new member in our cycling club is automatically “tu” even when you’re asking him his name etc… c’est la france!

Gaillac and Albi, two wonderful towns but we don’t get down there much, will let you know if I’m that way

ciao e a presto (con un accento un po’ francese !)