Go north, young woman

For some reason, channel 54 is coming in clearly today. Channel 54 is the French-language CBC station from Ontario that usually comes in as fuzzy French playing over a field of snow. Today, for some reason, the picture is visible and the sound is audible. Today, it's watchable. And watchèd, dear readers. And watchèd.

Hooray! Television! In French! Sometimes we get Canadian public television in French, but the advantage of CBC is that there are commercials! In French! My dad and I have been sitting here, trying to decipher the news for about an hour. The only problem is... Canadian French makes me feel like my head's going to explode.

It's not like French French and I wouldn't mind if I could figure out how it's different. I got really excited when I heard the newscaster refer to "yogurts" because I could recognize the difference between the Canadian yogurt and the French yaourt. But when it's the same words, the words are still different.

It's like every single letter is pronounced slightly differently, in ways that my ears recognize as different but that my mouth can't recreate. When I watch French Canadian television, I try to repeat what's said and I can't. My mouth won't do it. I don't know how my mouth should be shaped in order to make these different noises. My brain can't figure out any patterns to follow.

It's the same thing in Spanish. When people tell me that I speak Spanish with a French accent, I can kind of see it, but I don't know how to pronounce the Spanish -cion so that it doesn't sound like the French -tion.

Perhaps I should trek off up to le Canada for a period of time to get some practice. I've never been to Quebec, but I fear I'd be one of those people who they hear speaking French-from-France, laugh at and ask to switch to English.

Back to deciphering the télé and gluing together my exploding head...

srah - Tuesday, 1 February 2005 - 11:08 PM

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Comments (8)

gravatar lee - February 2, 2005 - 9:14 AM -

Have you watched "Les Invasions Barbares"? Talk about having your head explode. It took me half the film just to get used to the accent.

gravatar srah - February 2, 2005 - 10:00 AM -

Nope. But while we were watching the news last night, I ran into a lot of problems when they would talk to real (non-newscaster) people with a heavy regional accent. "Um... I think he said 'On conduit' somewhere in there and then at the end of the sentence he might have said 'pouvoir'."

gravatar Your Anon. Reader WYDK - February 2, 2005 - 10:32 AM -

The key to getting an earful of Québécois French is to get yourself outside of Montreal, where you will indeed encounter the ol' English switcheroo. Quebec City has many fewer anglophones once you get away from the tourist and government sites, and some of the smaller towns are even better. You could also meet my French sister-in-law from Kentucky, who does a charming imitation of Canadian French.

gravatar srah - February 2, 2005 - 10:35 AM -

If IDK you, how will I meet your SIL? :'(

gravatar Jeremiah - February 2, 2005 - 7:45 PM -

You could eat poutine!

gravatar srah - February 2, 2005 - 7:47 PM -

And I would, too!

gravatar Tamara - February 3, 2005 - 6:04 PM -

I, too, learned parisian french while living in Germany. When my folks dragged me back to the frozen north I could not understand a word my french teacher said.

Many (many) years later, when I speak french I still get little odd looks that say "where the heck did she learn french?"

Friends and I have also discovered that when visiting Montreal (which we do often being only 2 hours away) it helps to end every sentence with "la". As in . . . "yes, officer, that is my car la" and "I'll have some ice cream, la". Or speak in franglais . . . "Oui monsieur, c'est my car, la"

Then they think you're a native.

gravatar Stephen - March 3, 2005 - 10:10 PM -

Here's a hint:
Words like Tête and Fête are pronounced like Téte and Téte (accent aigu intended).
Words like six, huit, dix have their vowels pronounced like 'ih' not 'E' as in standard French. (In phonetics, the vowel for these three words is [I] not [i] as in standard French).

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