French is difficult for me. So many words sound the same. Roue and rue for example. See, in English that’s wheel and street and quite hard to confuse. A longish anecdote follows on this point. Try to bear with me.
The other day I was on the tram with my loving husband and bouncing toddler. There was a trendy young thing sitting beside me with one of those skiing type hats with a long tail and a pompom at the end. The Princess was rather fascinated by this and started playing with it. The trendy young thing was sweet and let her. The Princess and I have been doing quite a bit of work on tails recently (she has spent some time looking between her legs for her own tail “Mama, no tail?” “No”). So, I said that the woman had a tail on her hat. Except, I didn’t say it in English because, you know, I wanted the trendy y.t. to understand what we were saying so I said “elle a un cul sur son chapeau”. The tyt looked a bit put out and asked whether I meant a pompom waving it about. No, I said “un cul”. I looked at Mr. Waffle, he cleared his throat and said “I think you mean “une queue”” (difference in pronounciation only discernable to bats, dogs and fraoncophones). Smiling all round. “What” I asked my loving husband, “did I say? “Well,” he said ” you told our baby that the lady had an ass on her hat and when she protested, you insisted that this was the case”. I see. Gosh, it’s a social minefield out there, don’t even get me started on baisser and baiser.
on 10 December 2004 at 00:17
Fish and Peach, and Cabbage and Horse, produce the same effect in Italian. All but Identical.
La mia poverina Waffly.
on 10 December 2004 at 00:47
I’m hoping to start learning Japanese in the near future, in preparation for a walking holiday there at some point. And apparently in that language, the spelling can be the same but the emphasis in pronunciation can render an entirely different meaning.
Great. So you can’t even use flash-cards as an escape route.
Maybe I should just grunt and use sign language, wherever I go. Ahh, it’ll be like being a teenager again. (Oh God.)
on 10 December 2004 at 03:51
Happens to the best of us. In my early Italian years, I wanted to tell someone that we were watching “Three Men and a Baby” (Tre uomini e una culla) on television. Instead, I said “Tre uomini e un cullo”. Hardy har har’s all around.
on 10 December 2004 at 10:24
on 10 December 2004 at 10:53
The French can be very touchy about mispronunciations in my experience. I once asked my (French) mother-in-law why everyone I spoke to in France in French answered me in English. Apparently it was because “Eet ‘urts to ze French to ‘ave some Eenglish person making zere language sound so ugly. French eet ees so beautiful and ze Eenglish zey keel eet”.
on 10 December 2004 at 11:06
Back when I was speaking Indonesian like an infant, I tried to say ‘You’re Lying’ (kamu bohong) but it came out as ‘you’re a tree’ (kamu pohon) so for years thereafter, tree was in the in-joke for liars.
The other language faux pas I made was not being able to rrrrroll my R in the word Kontrol… take out the R and it’s a word that made everyone blush. V. rude indeed! (my then husband wouldn’t even say it and he’s not known for his delicate sensibilities)oh and plenty of times I used the wrong word for ‘you’ (it’s context dependent) and made a complete prat of myself. Bit like saying ‘cheers mate’ to your mother in law the first time you meet.
on 10 December 2004 at 19:48
snap! I have a dreadful time with ‘rue’ and ‘roue’ … and don’t get me started on the minefield that is ‘barbequeue’ (barbe ? cul)
on 12 December 2004 at 22:13
Thank you one and all for your mortifying pronounciation stories/sympathy. It’s all terrifying – the Indonesian sounds most complicated though. And Bobble isn’t there some way of pronouncing Dome in Italian which makes teenagers giggle?
on 08 January 2005 at 20:43
i’m french if i can help you….salut.
on 09 January 2005 at 16:46
Margot, c’est gentil mais je crois que mes difficultes sont presque insurmontables!