Spoken French

I've just had an early morning coffee with my wife and two friends. One is a retired university professor of European literature and the other is a French retired fonctionnaire who grew up andstudied in London whilst both parents worked for the French diplomatic service. We switched between two languages comfortably. Then we heard something on the radio in the background and without taking in the content went into a discussion about spoken French.

The professor speaks several languages as his shelves packed with Shakespeare, Goethe, etc would hint. The other also learned a couple more, my wife and I are lingually skilled for other reasons although neither of us has ever studied a language beyond the school class. It was the professor who began to talk about why so many Anglais he knows have lived here 20 years and upward but still cannot understand or speak French. He is very slow and precise in his speech in each language, as am I too and generally my wife. The other man does do some very French things that were pointed out. He stumbles into "er, er, er" as often as one might expect but the more excited or animated he becomes then the more often he does it. Our learned friend said that the French use their language too excitedly and that a temperate, precise speech (as his own I suspect was meant) is clear and has no stutters. The other man thought about it, slowed down and sure enough no "er, er, er" and blurred and slurred together words until a contentious point arose and he sped up so that lo and behold... I need not say what recurred.

It is an interesting point. Is it the reason so many people do not learn? I have the radio on behind me now and can write this and follow them speaking, albeit it right now the "er, er, er" and excited blather bits jar on reflecting our discussion. However, I can see why people cannot understand. Now, being an inquisitive social scientist, I want to know what other people think of that?

aaargh this reminds me of my most embarrassing error. In a full agency meeting. New guy arrived. No-one introduced me so I asked who was going to 'introduire' me. No-one has ever let me forget...

I've heard similar stories, often about the period just after unification - no one could understand the king or any of the other piedmont politicians outside piedmont. Love the Ti Cinese joke

Yep Brive is "getting' towards me but I'm still another couple of hours south east of there. as for "doing it for the cheque" - pretty much the only reason I teach at all - languages can be pretty soul destroying as the motivation soon goes once realisation kicks in that it's a marathon they're running and not a sprint! as for swearing in French - far too proficient and always getting told off in front of and by the kids!!!

Just managed to curse and worse in very fluent French. If we get the contract we are after it will mean a meeting after Bergerac is closed for the strip to be redone for a couple of months and instead a drive to Bordeaux or Brive. Brive is nigh on over to you Andrew and Bordeaux as bad the other, but for a couple of hours meeting! If I go then I'd normally stay at my sister's place but she is off to Oz to visit my niece at that time so being London her flat will be sealed like an atomic warhead bunker and people I still know to put me up are dropping like flies, getting frail or batty so perhaps the OH can go and be done with it. It really got my French language dander up when we got that message today... But then we need the pay cheque!


Some years ago I offered to "introduire" instead of "presenter" one male friend to another male friend. Fortunately it caused howls of laughter, but I was left with a very red face, as I realised my mistake as soon as I had said it.

I was really lucky, I learned french with my husbands family :-) Although I made a lot of mistakes in the begining and I will tell you a little story about one that has come up recently

It was over 20 years ago lol and at the time my husbands elder brother often came to stay with us for week ends he was such a nice man, he and I got on really really well and as my husband is a chef, we were often alone in the evenings once the children were in bed, we never watched the tele we chatted a lot over a nice meal and through him I learned a lot of french and the french customs, he really really helped me and as I said we got on really really well.

Unfortunatley he died 5 years ago and I miss him very very much

We are now in 2011 and in my husbands family there has been a row between the brothers and sisters (there are 10 altogether) and the siblings are now divided which is very sad, however this is between hubby and his family and I try not to get too invloved

HOWEVER One of my sister in laws has told everyone in the family, that I admitted to sleeping with hubbys brother 20 years ago

It has caused a lot of sadness for me as I am sure that you can imagine, a relationship that was beautiful has turned sordid !!!

Fortunatley my husband made sense of this :-) I must have said something like "Jeanot va coucher avec moi ce soir" instead of saying chez moi or chez nous

The consequences of not speaking perfect french when I arrived here have smacked me in the face 20 years later !!!!!! I can laugh about it now although my sister in law feels a bit of a fool, as well she should, because she admitted to me that she had believed this for over 20 years and with the row in the family she decided to seek revenge on my husband !!!

So I advise people to do as the french lol er and er as much as possible and count to ten before you speak, especially if you are a beginner in this beautiful language !!! :-) :-)

Completely changing the subject: has anybody seen Un jour mon père viendra? I just wanted to interject to say that it begins with a funeral procession, supposedly in England. Then it follows a bum in a kilt for a couple of seconds. C'est moi! My bottom, really, that many people have accused me of speaking out of, but this chain has been fun, takes the serieuse out of French verbs for one thing - which my younger daughter has for Christmas holiday homework...

Yes, as I nearly said. There is a story in Bellinzona about when the Duke came up from Milan some centuries back. He made a big speech and nobody appeared to be taking it in. So he got some of his viceconsulenti to get him some people at random to ask them what was wrong with his speech. Soldiers grabbed a dozen or so victims and took them to the Duke. They appeared not to have understood his questions, so he asked for one man to speak to and he stayed schtumm too. Finally he got one of the viceconsulente to speak person to person and find out what was wrong. The man told him that they did not understand Milanesi, so speaking back through the viceconsulente he delivered a speech to the dozen through the one local man and they still looked dumbfounded. In those days the population was 70 or 80,000 against today's 340,000 but when the viceconsulente asked the man why the others still appeared not to understand he simply said that since Ticino has 10,000 dialects, picking 12 people who were not standing together in a crowd meant meant that they could never understand each other.

It is naturally the typical exagerated story but from one end of my late mother-in-law's valley to the other there are four distinct dialects. They own a castello, which actually used to be a trattoria and shop rather than the stately hunting lodge of hundreds of years ago. In order to serve the entire valley with the shop, as they did, plus diners up from Locarno and on the way up, they needed to each have seven or eight dialects. My m-in-law spoke flawless Romance-French and Hochdeutsch rather than dialect although she was barely educated and stuck with her own dialect as the normal mode of speech and modified it for father-in-law who was the personnel director of Swiss Telecom Ticino for years and thus spoke his dialect, several others, 'real Italian', French and Hocdeutsch and was quite good in Romantsch but avoided English at all costs.

Anyway, it is very much like Oc for which there is absolutely no standard between its Catalan neighbours and its northern reaches and then over to the east and virtually touching where Italian impinges. I have a colleague who lives on the 'faultline' between Euskara and Oc where the French have no chance at all, she being Welsh and also speaking Cymru well (but married to a French Basque as well) is far more beloved than 'real French' folk because she belongs to what they consider a real minority.

Ti cinese - little chinese - the local dialect joke. My m-in-law and f-in-laws family spoke all but different languages... off shopping in bergerac back later...

My inlaws speak occitan, OH understands it and ... has just told me that in her corner of the aveyron ça va is bô pla - nephew does occitan at school and father in law says they're teaching him a load of rubbish because it's a sort of standardised occitan which doesn't exist, bit like the écoles diwan in Brittany, did a short research project on them whilst teaching in St Brieuc, and of course the italian dialects in the Ticino and across italy for that matter. come va makes perfect sense to me but Bô pla and the rest of the dialect here is so far removed from spanish or italian or french... god knows where it comes from but having said that the aveyron was so cut off for centuries...

less Oc than here then. If somebody says 'sa va' instead of 'come va' they are taken as more foreign than yours truly, always brings a smile to my face.

we add some "e"s here so it's vignte-deux, etc. and pronounce the others - soixante is three sylables, and even septe can be heard!

love it :-D

Got me there, haha...

I did that for ages, it did not work. Anyway here it is vint-deuh in dialect... But in principle back to agreeing and it should be. It is the three written sevens that throws them unless it is done my way and not the verbal...

yes that makes it much easier but at last we're going to have to disagree here matey, make it vingt-deux, soixante-dix-sept, soixante-dix please ;-)

absolutely - our phone number is 227770 try that straight off in any language and nobody gets it. So Deux-deux, sept-sept, sept-zero and no questions.

numbers... always in pairs like phone numbers - they can't handle it any other way, best to spell things using the same stress i.e. c'est Hearne, He ar ne

try saying a uk number in english in groups of 2 figures and you'll see why the French have a problem when Brits try grouping numbers into 3s ;-)