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Monday, October 4, 2010

Phonetics-Why I don't bother pronouncing names the French way.

So, I play the French speaking game. I make a genuine effort, and demand that people talk back to me in French, as they so often do. (Antoine used to tell me that it's them being polite, but I think it's condescending). I play hard, I play well, and I play all the time. Except for one tiny aspect of French----The names.

About fifty percent of the time, I come across a name that I can't pronounce in a manner that any other French speaking person would understand. Best example, Charles. In English, its hard ch, hard r, and "les". Piece of cake. You can clearly hear every letter, I know, ENGLISH speakers can, but shove it. In French, its sounds like "shrl," and thats a French r, so its guttural and the back of the throat. What? Unfortunately for me, A's best friend is named "shrl," so I've very Americanly regressed back to calling him Charlie. He responds, no problem.

Other examples are "Mathilde," F's friend who came over for lunch on Friday, I called her Matilda. "Agathe" is a three year old who chats with me every time I see her. Her mother is very sweet and speaks excellent English. I call her Agatha. "Eve" is "Ehhv" in this country, in my mouth, its "Eeeve."

I get this gift for nonpronunciation from my mother. Antoine and I were jokingly (jfklsdjq, is how I feel about that) talking about children and what we would name them. We decided that if we had a kid, we would name it two names, one super French, one super Anglo. Like Olivier-Bob. As we were discussing child's names, he mentioned the name Aurore for a girl. When he said it, it was so full of vowels and r's I nixed it immediately, explaining that I couldnt name my child something my mother would never be able to pronounce.

Now, with the children I watch, this isn't a problem, because I have so much practice screaming their names in different volumes and intonation. Despite the 38 year old French man and friend of S and G who mocked me for saying T's name, I think I do a pretty decent job.

Now the question becomes "Should I feel guilty for not trying?" I don't. Why? My name, when pronounced the French way is "Roban" and VERY distinctly masculine. It'd be like being Robert, instead of Roberta. So, I introduce myself to people as Robine. In Spanish, when read as is, is also pronounced like that. Tatiana calls me Robine. She knows how to say my name, but she doesn't bother, and I never noticed until she commented on it one time. I'm so open minded about this, on the first day of class, I introduced myself as "Robin, Robine Roban, comme vous voulez" Whatever you want to call me.

And to be honest, I like it.

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