Monday, March 7, 2011

Mon franglais

After studying French for years, living in France for three years total, and after working and studying in French, I feel fairly confident saying that I’m fluent in French. However, besides my classes, which are all in French, I spend a large part of my day in English. All of my jobs involve English, although not exclusively. Some customers at the café love to try and order in English, so I usually humor them until one of us gives up (them, from lack of vocab, me from lack of patience). I talk to my kids in French and in English, but sadly more French because it’s really hard to get them to speak English.

I guiltily read a lot in English, for pleasure and for research. Research is often much better/more available in English, and I’m not about to read an English book translated into French about Commnication Theory—not when it’s hard enough in English, thankyouverymuch. In order to keep my French up (and also to improve it), I’ve told myself I’ll only read for pleasure in French. However, seeing as I have little time to even read outside of the academic realm, don’t know how realistic that one is. Gotta finish David Sedaris’s new book before I commit to that pact! Add to all that the TV series I watch via the Internet, English-speaking friends and colleagues, to-do lists and thinking (mostly) in English, I am never totally cut off from my native tongue.

Through my constant contact with both languages, I most definitely have developed my own hybrid of the two languages. When I’m talking to Anglophones living in Paris, it’s not a big deal because they understand the anglicized French (and are guilty of it, too). I’m with my friend Carolina a few times a week and we both do it so much that we’ve kind of stopped even correcting ourselves. It’s not that I’ve forgotten the English word, it’s just that the French often comes to mind first, or the story I’m talking about took place in French, so I just use whatever word I remember first. English sometimes lags, but is still there somewhere in the depths of my brain. Naturally, when I’m speaking in French, I have the same moments trying to remember a French word—especially if I just spent a few days in a totally English environment. (i.e. most weekends. My French is always mistake-ridden on Mondays). I love linguistics, and I’ve always found the progression of languages really interesting. I can see now how easy it is to adopt new words into a language. It’s kind of cool to see it happen in real time.

The other thing that has affected my speech is that I work for a British school, and last year, as a language assistant, all of the material was in British English. I also run into quite a few Brits/Irish/Kiwis etc. in Paris that use different vocabulary or expressions. Work with some, too. There are just some words and grammatical things I do that have strayed away from my native American ‘dialect.’ I’m developing an international hodgepodge English methinks..

So without further ado, I know you’re dying to read the notes I’ve jotted down over the last few weeks :

*words that could be in both categories since BrE uses a lot of French words that North Americans have stopped using

British Influence

British word/phrase used instead of/in addition to American word/phrase

I’ve got/Have you got? I have/Do you have?

biscuit snack/cookie

bank holiday national holiday

cheers thanks ; informal e-mail ending

nearly almost

hang on hold on

lift elevator

garden yard*

jumper sweater (I purposely do this one, I’ll admit)

football soccer*

barman bartender*

whilst while

(on) holiday (on) vacation

postbox/postman/postcode mailbox/mailman/zip code*

university (uni) college*

to sit an exam to take an exam

prof abbreviation of professor

transport transportation

colleague co-worker

quite pretty, really

ground floor first floor (ground floor is 0, 1st floor is 2nd floor AmE)

note bill (mostly because saying bill just sounds wrong for €)*

sweets candy

mine/yours/his at my house/at your house

➡ I’ll meet you at yours, ok?

take away take out

past participles:


French Influence

Anglicized word/phrase from French word/phrase

pressed pressé, in a hurry

pass (by) passer, a verb with a million meanings in French, but here, 'to stop by.' I've also caught myself using it for 'to give.'

➡ Can you pass me your e-mail?

controlled contrôlé, means 'controlled' in the English sense, but also used in the sense of getting stopped by an officer (un contrôleur) for jumping the metro.

➡ Damnit, I got controlled again today! (Has happened multiple times..)

for why pourquoi, why. Would never say "For why are you leaving?" but when asking 'why' all by itself it happens.

rent a book (from the library) emprunter un livre (de la bibliothèque)

how many are you? Vous êtes combien? How many of you are there? (restaurant talk)

sack sac. I know this word exists in English, but 'bag' is probably used more, at least in AmE. I say sac for just about everything that can contain something and be carried by handles.

to be called s'appeler. French say je m'appelle for 'My name is.' So I carry that over to English for whatever reason. It's not that I don't notice, it's just that it sounds normal to me now. Also, may I note (Brittany!) that the usage is accepted in BrE!

What's that girl called, the one we met in the café last week?

supermarket supermarché. I say grocery store as well

cinema cinéma, movie theatre*

Other French words I use

resto abbrev. of restaurant

gare train station (usually only in texts since it’s so much shorter)

ordi ordinateur, computer (also usually in text)

Aïe! Ouch! (Sounds like ‘eye.’)

Allez! Come on!

café coffee. French uses the same word for coffee shop and coffee. I am sometimes too lazy (or don't realize) to make the difference.

Other crap that has come out of my mouth to my own horror:

I’m going to search a post in the neighborhood.

Your hairs are so long!

Put your pyjama on or I won't read you a history!

And many, many others that I do on a daily basis..

**Excuse the formatting! Blogger seems to hate MS Word's formatting and after messing with it for hours I give up!!

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