Welcome to my world! My name's Nik, and I'm a British expatriate who has been living in Paris, France for the last five years. Even though I never planned to stay in Paris for very long, now I'm here I've no plans to leave soon - the beauty of Paris has never worn off, and so far it's been a five year long vacation! Enjoy my ramblings...

« Gladitorial queuing | Main | Rentrée part deux »

Being understood

I called a hotel to leave a message for a friend today, and was asked how to spell Beauborg. My first instant fleeting misplaced contemptuous thought was 'silly french person doesn't know Beauborg!?' (or something along those lines), but then I realised it was my fault, and I'd said bo-borg instead of bo-baw (well, ish, even bo-baw is probably really poorly pronounced french, and the real pronounciation is probably unspellable, even though I'm using a french keyboqrd).

So I said bo-baw, in the hope that I wouldn't have to go through all the eh-ah-ooh hoops of spelling a word ridiculously full of vowels, and the hotel person understood and laughed, so all's well that ends well.

I think the last thing I'll ever acquire in my sluggish attempts to learn french will be a good french accent. I'll always be the brit abroad, not through obstinacy, but having an english shaped mouth that knows no better. An irish friend of mine was lost in Paris, and wanted to get back to Republique. He asked someone in his best irish flavoured french and got a completely blank stare. He tried over and over again (why the other didn't flee in terror from what was clearly a crazed irishman I don't know), until finally he decided the only way was to mimic a french gitane growl (I think he even tried with appropriate hand waving and shrugs), and to his surprise the guy's face lit up and he pointed to a spot 100 yards a way. We realised he'd been saying 'Republick' in his normal voice, but had hit upon the correct 'Ray-pub-leek' in his desperation.

If there was one bit of good advice I was given about speaking french (unfortunately by my mother, who'll be most pleased to be proven right YET again), and that's to not bother saying the end of the word. The Beauborg thing kind of proves that, but a clearer example of being unclear was that for my first year here I was rarely understood when trying to say 'vin rouge, svp'. A grave(s) problem indeed, since I was close to dying of thirst by the time revelation came. I asked the secretary at work where I was going wrong, and she couldn't tell what I was saying at all - it seemed to her I was saying red bread. Apparently I was saying vin as in van, and should have been saying vah (with the ah more heavy, as though you were about to say the n, but then got distracted). My hard ending had completely changed the word for her, even though to my ears the difference between v for vin and p for pain must have been far clearer. Apparently not for french ears.

So concludes Nik's first lesson in speaking french proper like.


J and G. I get them mixed up ALL. THE. TIME.

My name starts with a J and I can't pronounce it right. For the life of me...

I usually finish with "like Jenifer from Star Ac' but two ns..."

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)