jeudi 19 octobre 2006
One of the most frustrating things when speaking another language is making the natives understand you when you KNOW you are saying the right thing! I am sure that in my 16 months here I have said some doozies.
I remember very early on, I stopped by a grocer's and was looking for strawberries. He asked if he could help and I said (in French) I am looking for strawberries. (fraises). He didn't understand. I repeated Fraise about ten different ways, varying the pronunciation each time, then started on the adjectives. Small, red, round, fruit, sweet? Nope. Still no clue. I left in despair.
Or when they hear the word and don't believe that they are hearing you right because you are a foreigner and it is an unusual request.
Such as when I went to the nearby bakery and wanted to know what the price would be for 100 small chocolate pastries for our wedding (sorry to everyone who came- no chocolate pastries).
Me: I would like to know the price of a hundred chocolate pastries there.
Baker: What?
Me: The price for a hundred.
Baker: How many?
Me: One Hundred.
Baker: A hundred?
Me: Yes, a hundred.
Baker: Really?
Me: Yes! One zero zero.
(he takes out a paper, writes 100 and shows it to me.)
Me: Yes, that is what I want to know.
Baker: Oh! A hundred. Well that will be....
(what is this? An Abbot and Costello routine? Just tell me the price please.)

Another thing I don't understand is why they have two words that sound alike and mean almost the same thing- dessus and dessous (above and below). Usually I can't manage to make the distinction in pronunciation so I pick one and say it, and then accompany it with the appropriate hand gesture (hand flat parallel to ground, waving near head level or down near waist). Quite useless of course when talking on the phone. I think it is dessus (deh-sue) and dessous (deh-soo) not to be confused with déçu (day-soo), which means disappointed. Sometimes these words that sound alike mean very different and embarrassing things.
lâcher- to let go
lécher- to lick.
Me: I want you to ______ me please.
Someone else: What? Really? Ok.
Me: Ahh!!!
Alain says he has trouble hearing the difference between Cheap, Sheep, and Ship. But at least they don't mean almost the same thing or something really embarrassing. If someone says, "That car is really sheep." You could probably figure out what they are trying to say. And it's not like we have above and apove (below).
One thing that I will say about French is that once you learn all the letter combinations and how to produce those sounds, it is usually the same pronunciation, versus English where you have to just about learn how to pronounce each word separately. Such as why are Sew (ohh) and Knew (ewww) different?
(Note to readers: tried to find a funny cartoon about French pronunciation, but Helas! could not)

4 commentaires:

Anonyme a dit…

I have found the same on my attempts at Japanese.I look at a phrase and practice it and get odd looks. Went looking for book onetime with another person. Asked my question (speak english?) and they didn't understand after 3-4 tries. He asked what sounded the same and got the answer back immediately. I asked why and they said they couldn't understand my accent :-)

Anonyme a dit…

I have the same problem in French. Some of it is that I don't speak in complete sentences so they don't get it from the context and my bad accent doesn't help. UGH. I spent a whole afternoon with my French mother in law a few days ago and she speaks to me in French while I speak to her in English. I think we both get about 50% of what the other is saying.

Ed/Sue Smith a dit…

here are some more toughies in English-
tough, cough, through, though, thought

themikestand a dit…

hahahaha... thanks for the laugh over lâcher/lécher. That's a doozie, indeed.

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