Total Pageviews

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"I don't arrive to make the difference"--Language evolution

I'm sitting outside right now, enjoying the temperate weather, while my charge plays on the trampoline. The sun has finally made a reappearance and I expect the quality of life to rise exponentially. Following four months of gray and gloom, we have finally been enjoying five days in a row, without clouds. Naturally, I've been trying to spend as much time outside (failing most of the time, but hey, at least I've made an effort). On Sunday I called up a friend and we took a little promenade around the parks of a neighboring village.

Speaking in French, we discussed my life, his life, his sister's life, and finally I asked a series of probing questions about accents and how they sound in French. Thus far I am able to differentiate between the following accents, French (Parisian), French (not Parisian) Canadian, African, English, and Foreigner. They can pretty much be divided into two groups, if I understand, and if I don't. If I don't understand they're most likely French (not Parisian), Canadian, and occasionally African. If I understand they are French (Parisian), English, and usually Foreigner.

Accents are something that have only come with time. I'm quite stupid with accents, even in English, and usually am only able to pick them up if I hear key words. In Spanish, I can feel that an accent is different, but I can't really guess the exact origin.

Anyway, Gui Gui and I were discussing this until we got to Canadians. He started laughing (and I did too, sorry les Quebeckers, but I find your accents amusing), and he started explaining how the Canadians translate all the words, whereas the French usually take the English words and use them. His example "Happy Meal," in France, they use "Happy Meal," in Quebec, they use the direct translation, which I don't recall. Another example occured to me as we sat there. A few months ago I read part of a book by two Canadians called Sixty-Eight Million Frenchmen Can't be Wrong. Basically two Canadians go about disecting French culture. The woman in it, describes her use of the word "thé glacé" instead of "iced tea," that the French say with a French accent.

Why the French have chosen to adopt English words (while simultaneously bitching about it, as we have seen before) I don't know. What I do have a new appreciation for is the Canadians translating everything word for word, and breaking away from "France French," to more direct English translations. Why do I have a new understanding of this phenomenon? Simple, my very own English, which I have been perfecting for the last twenty-three years has fallen victim to French.

Several examples include, telling my dad I need to go to the prefecture, with an English accent, only to be told he didn't know what that meant. "Wait, we don't say prefecture in English?" I asked, bewildered. "Uhh, no, you're going to have to explain that one." I no longer use the word train station with friends, but "gare." I wrote an article trying to use the verb "regarder," in English. Frequently in French, you say, "J'arrive pas faire quelque chose," this means roughly, "I'm not able to do something" or more commonly, "I can't do something." Arriver, means just as it appears, to arrive. I caught myself saying the other day, "I don't arrive to do that."

The worst part? My contact with English speakers, is with friends, who are doing the exact same thing.

No comments:

Post a Comment