Sea/Snow/Sky and their French friends

I opened a book about Proust and found this : “Le temps n’est pas passé sur le hall du Grand Hôtel de Cabourg au bout duquel on voit, par la porte-fenêtre, la mer”.

“Time has not passed on the hall of the Grand Hotel of Cabourg after which one sees, through the French door, the sea”.

Obviously, the author made a tracking shot for the eye, from the hall to the large window then the sea…

In French, “la mer” arrives deliciously at the end of the phrase, opening it to the vast sky. As you know, words have a genre in French, the sea is a she

I said to myself that “la mer” sounds opened and grand and clear, a bit unlike “the sea”, which brakes a lot with its “S” – “Sea” sounds to me like a solid string.

Then I thought about the snow. Snow sounds GREAT for fallen, thick snow. But when it flies from the sky in magic light meandering flakes, I prefer the French one : La neige !

Sky” is great for the sky. It sounds big and clear. The French word is “le ciel“… it’s more pale…

Pépite is greater than nugget. L’Or is brighter than gold. But wood is good, it’s sounds like wood. We say “bois“, alright. Some other words are cool in both languages : l’acier (steel), both are solid and almost blazing, right?

 

Of course, this means nothing. I touch here the infinite, fractal and subtle differences between your native language and the learned one. I can get the words, but I can’t really get their radioactivity, or tiny ones, through movies and conversations.

What do I see on this picture? Curtains/Rideaux. Plates/Assiettes. Clouds/Nuages. Candles/Bougies.

Candle makes me see the flame. Bougie makes me feel the wax. Ahhh it’s complicated!!

 

Thanks for reading!

(and sorry for my bad English)

 

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Vial & Stoop : Types of black holes in language

I’m French and I write in English – I make mistakes and I discover new words everyday.

When I read an article or a short story, I understand what happens, and I admit I don’t translate anymore.

But, well, I always meet new insects, which are really puzzling at times…

Today I met “Vial“. Never seen this word but I guessed. A little bottle. In French we call this “une fiole”, which I find funny. Same structure : vial/fiole. OK.

Stoop” was trickier. First, it’s a noun AND a verb. A doorstep (“perron”, in French), and also “to bend”.

There, here am I questioning English Gods : why do you have to stoop, if you have to bend or even to bow?? Can stoop be replaced by to crouch or to squat?

Worse : as a metaphor or a figurative sense, to demean, to do something “below one’s status, standards, or morals”. “S’abaisser à”.

OK, but also to slant (to stoop a bottle of wine?) – then what is to lean? – to catch a prey for an eagle (“the bird stooped and seized a salmon” – un piqué), to submit (“stooped by death” or “this people does not stoop to Rome”) – even to degrade?

 

Thus, when you read “not your language”, you see holes. Little ones can be filled by contexts, other ones make you make a face, pick a dictionary, and go travel in language, in an awe, for twenty minutes. You should try French while I study the word “slew” (4 nouns, 7 verbs, pfff…).

 

At the end, I found : Stoop : “a vessel for holding liquids; a flagon”. Come on!

Hmmm. Fetch me a stoop of liquor, please. Two new words and I’m done. Back to bed. With my book!

Thanks for reading!

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(say/don’t say), and other ESLesque things

The French are always obsessed with words, finding “the right way” to say something. All my life I heard about spurts of fear in France, about how English was parasitizing a supposed “purity of French”. Most of people don’t worry that much, though.

People have common sense, and we smile when some “rules” tried to make us say “courriel” instead of email, or “baladeur” (could be “stroller”) instead of walkman. The French Academy has a web page about it, “dire/ne pas dire” (say/don’t say) :

http://www.academie-francaise.fr/dire-ne-pas-dire/neologismes-anglicismes

When I began to talk with Americans I was constantly sorry because I knew I was on a slippery ground with “the correct word”, and I have always been surprised by the way sweet people answered to me that it was OK, that they were understanding me, and I was told that American English was constantly swallowing and inventing new words. People are constantly coming to the USA, from the whole planet, with their mistakes, their accents, their words, their willing.

Learning a language has a reversible quality : it makes you think about your own language, your tongue (in French, the word langue means tongue and also language).

It’s better : it brings back some taste to your own language. For example with idioms :

 

And when there’s two words in English for one in French (coupable in French means guilty, but also culprit). Words’ sense don’t plug to each other well, they are charged in radioactivity. The last example I found is the French “Romanesque“.

At first, it means “novelistic” or “fictional”, but it also means “romantic”, it’s charged with events, chivalry, romance, life like in a movie, and a smile. All this in one!

Writing this blog in English is a constant source of fun, just for this reason (among others).

Thanks for reading!

Have a formidable day

JP

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English words I struggle with

Lawmakers concerned about Trump’s mental state summoned a Yale University psychiatry professor who said : “He’s going to unravel, and we are seeing the signs.”

I understand it’s something about collapsing, but I’m not sure. It’s knitting vocabulary, right? When do you say that about a human being? Isn’t this verb a bit positive too (like unravelling a mess)?

I guess that stiff upper lip sounds UK, but I’m not sure? Do you use it in America? Does it mean composure and phlegm like in France, or is it colored with coldness? In French, “le flegme Britannique” is a way to stay calm in all circumstances, even if your house is bombed. Thus there’s an (almost) invisible smile in it.

I ask, because stiff is tough and rigid, right?

Shanty is a mystery. Is it a ruin, a small ruin, a sweet ruin? Isn’t it a little house? Is a shanty town a poor ghetto, or can it be a quiet chalet village for tourists? It’s a sailor’s song too??!

What’s the difference between ruse, trick, cunning?

I have a big problem with reckon. First, it’s a false friend, because “reconnaître” in French is “to acknowledge”. OK, it means to estimate and to consider, but also to think. In this last meaning, does it sound Southern, or do you say it in Massachusets too? Reckon on, reckon with, reckon without : do you SAY them?

To bedight : do decorate. Is it vintage? Never said? Funny?

To diminish, to dwindle : What is the difference? To peter into… When do you use this??

Colloquial and familiar…

Ohhh…

Someone told me one day that to learn a language is an infinite process. Tonight I feel terribly weak.

 

Have a nice day!

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Instagram : arrowvideo

You should hear a French classroom trying to pronounce LE English!

I learned Latin and I hated it. To translate Latin is like to open a clock and take it to pieces. In a minute there’s a mess on your desk, and you want to chuck everything in (which doesn’t help at all). Then, have a beer and watch the sky thinking about the Romans. When in Rome

I learned German. Pronunciation was fun (ahh the ch sound in “ICH”!), but their sentences are bags of knots with the verb at the end – “I know that Kansas in the USA is” – and words are too crazy for my Frenchiness. Try to say Schlittschuhlaufen (ice-skating) or Streichholzschächtelchen (little box of matches). OK. Bye bye!

 

I began English at 11 years old and I liked it. As kids already, we were training our American accent on recess time, playing indians and cow-boys, with a faked and imaginary drowning nosy duck John Wayne accent. Imagine us in short pants running everywhere like crazy swallow birds, saying in loop “wayne right wayne right way yeah I kill you right okey” in a pinchedy nose tone. Yeahhh.

The first thing we struggled with is the ze. Well : THE. We don’t have this “tongue between teeth” thing here. So, well, ze French often tell ZE, and with consequences : Zat music, Zhere it is, Zis is gonna be hard. EVERYSSING will be!

Then, as we like to say the “R” differently, we struggle with your way of saying it. Strrrrruggle is a good example, by ze way. Romance is pronounced RRrromance here, we had to learn Wwomance (oh, this makes suddenly sense!). We had to get used to it, including the ending R, like in RIVER. Hear this classroom munching “Rivehhhwwwaow“, oui?

The first time I read the word “River” out loud in the class stays a trauma for me. I was 11 and I said “Ryver” (because I knew that “Life” was NOT pronounced “lif” but “life”).

– “Not Ryver, River, Jean-Pascal”.

What ze?????!
Today, what stays difficult for me is : the accentuation in words (what, you say “Word Stress”? Really??). Therefore, I don’t know what to do with PREsent (the gift) and to preSENT (the verb). You’re all crazy, that’s what I say 🙂

Where’s the accent on TELevision? TeleVIsion? Eekkk! OK I can say Tivi.

I had difficulties with words like Flaw of Law (we always pronounced this one “Low” in class) – this is such a strange sound, and I hate to open my mouth like that. For Christ, it seems I’m about to drool, being astonished and to swallow a fly at the same time! The LAAAH.

We said NEW like niouw, and I never would have guessed that American people say Noo York for the city. And if you don’t say the k letter in knife… why is it needed?! Nife would do the thing…

Little by little, I make progress though. I know that English blogging for a French is absurd, in a way, but it is not :

 

Thanks for reading! Have a nice day. Look : it all ensnowed! :

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Quiff is a mess & French frou-frou noiseling : an #ESL struggles with English words…

One pleasure of ESLing is to gain vocabulary.

This week I watched a clever crime movie, Body Heat. Smart dialogs offer you new words – and I watched it in English with English subtitles. Each time I find an unknown word I remotestop the film and I check on my phone, and it’s… almost always a problem (because the French words are, obviously, “not exactly” what yours mean, it’s always a bit… displaced).

All these words were totally new to me :

  • Outsmart seemed easy but it’s not : beat by cunning, surpass, foil, thwart – what is it exactly? I like the way it’s made : “Out + Smart” (could be offsmart, right?). We have “déjouer” in French, which could be “de-play” or “out-play”. I love the cousinning of all these.
  • Rustle is great. I imagine it’s non human, something in a tree or maybe from a dress’ fabric, right? We have bruissement in France, and as “bruit” means noise, it could be… “noiseling”. I wonder what’s the difference with creasing or crumpling. We have in French the delicious “Frou-frou” for the “dress swish”, the word says it all, right?
  • Searing is clear, but then, when don’t you say burning? Is it… more painful? More red? More intense? Can you use it to talk about meat (then is it spoiled, or delicious)? What is scorching, then? Can I have a searing memory?
  • Arson is “setting fire to property”, but is it a law word only? Could I use it metaphorically, like I want “to arson my feelings/my past”? Where does this word come from?
  • Quiff is a mess. I found the hairstyle thing, OK. But what’s a “quiff’s eye”, then? A “haughty little stare”? (Haughty? Really? New word again… which led me to “your high horse”, a clear idiom, for once). But for quiff I also find “legitimate spouse” (really?), which seemed the case in the movie I was watching.
  • Askew : where is it used? For a hat? For a life? Does it sound vintage or do young people will say it about your eyes (or your books on the shelf)… askew?

 

Where does it come from, to feel such pleasure, exploring this? I don’t know.

Feel free, ô my reader, to make things clearer in the comments. Maybe it’ll help my brain (and some other’s) to understand these daily subtleties…

Thanks for reading! Bonne journée !

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Instagram : _bodylanguage_

Wonderfool Dayda Cacography : Eye Spelling!

I tried 241 times to pronounce Dakota (“DayGO-Da”?) until I gave up and pronounced it the French way (as it is : Da Ko Ta, plain and simple). Watching Ghost in the Shell, I heard the word “Data” many times, mimicking it to learn something, until I understood that DATA is pronounced DAYDA.

Foreigners make mistakes. This morning I woke up with some words in my mind, this marvelous way one friend of mine described my lover at the time : “Quelle formidable folle!” – What a wonderful fool she was, indeed. I woke up like : Wonderfool.

So I googled it and discovered this : Eye Spelling, Eye Dialect, or Pronunciation Spelling – nonstandard spelling but doesn’t indicate an unusual pronunciation.

women : wimmin
gentlemen : genlmen
listen : lissen
light : lite

Nooooo I won’t use it, it’s too dangerous. I could “get mixed up” (is it good English? Become mixed up?), though I know that it’s really used to get the “dialog” mood : kinda for kind of, wanna for want to. Also, it’s used for marketing purpose of course : I found “Froot Loops” cereals, froot for fruit, of course.

Now think about this group names : The Beatles. The Byrds. And the way rap groups use U instead of You.

Tool : What will you do of that? What could you invent? Where? Why? A name? A brand? A groupe name?

A deliberate comic mispelling is called CACOGRAPHY. I love that word so much that I almost fainted… Awweee!

 

Have a good day!

Jean-Pascal

 

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