Why Anglophones Struggle to Express Themselves in French

5:42 AM

Among many other things, studying in France has taught me alot about oral expression. Expressing your opinions, recounting stories, and articulating your thoughts can be challenging. It can feel calculated, draining, and sometimes unnatural.

I ask myself why that is, and I'm starting to do a bit of research on pragmatics and language aquisition. But in the mean time, here is my educated guess on why an anglophone might have trouble with oral expression. (Is it really a problem with the individual? Or is it a problem with the English language at large?)

English has a lot of idioms.
Therein lies the problem. But to start, it's important to observe the way anglophones express themselves in colloquial English. I find that Native English speakers use a lot of idioms in everyday life. Add in a few numbers and statistics, and our sentences start to sound a lot like code. Then we end up sounding just like an American sports-radio-announcer-guy from the 80s.

Or, we might end up sounding like a country singer, thanks to all of our references to animals, buckets, and nature. Here's a few of my favourites idioms to hear in passing:
  1. Don't sweat it
  2. Top hitter
  3. To be off the hook (culpable)
  4. Rise and shine!
  5. The ball is in your court
  6. Beating around the bush
  7. All in the same boat
  8. To crack someone up
  9. To go out on a limb
  10. Piece of cake
The problem with idioms: English idioms translate poorly to French, if at all. If you're not careful, you might rely on idioms rather than learning creative phrases and sayings. Another problem: how can you translate something that doesn't exist? So when you find yourself at a loss for words during a conversation, you fall back on all of the theory that you learned, and you recite a phrase from your French 101 textbook. The result? A very intellectually stimulating conversation (not). My suggestion? Read more. I know, boring but too true. It's the best way to expand your vocabulary without trying. It doesn't necessarily have to be Rimbaud, Duras, or Hugo. Just pick up the weekly newspaper or read your favourite French blog.

The Less Enunciation, the better! Or is it?
You could say that having a true English accent means abandoning consonants and warping the sound of your vowels. A prime example of this is how Anglophones have a tendency to replace their t's with d's. Suddenly, the word "water" becomes wah-dur, and the word "writer" becomes rider. Strange concept, but true. If I heard someone pronouncing their t's while speaking english, I would probably mistake you for a British person.

The problem with zero enunciation: The French language is built on structure and rules. Phonetics are everything, and every word seems to have a unique purpose and definition. Choose your words wisely, and bless your soul if you mispronounce them because your message may be completely lost. For example, during my first few days in France, I went to a patisserie and asked for a pain au chocolat. Moments later, the lady presented me with a chocolate donut. Mais non, je ne voulais pas une beigne au chocolat, mais un pain au chocolat, madame. Could it have been the way I pronounced the 'a'? Indeed. My tip: Don't stress about pronounciation it too much. Slow down, breath, and take your time if needed. It might feel unnatural at first, but try to get into the habit of enunciating each word.

Anglo-Saxon Names
Having a super anglophone name in France is like screaming from the mountain tops that you are from the Americas. It will have the French hanging on your every word, patiently listening to your accent to confirm their assumption of your origins. Some English names that come to mind are: Walter, Edward, Britney, and Harold. Basically any name containing a 'w' sound. Side note: phonetically speaking, the 'w' is one of the trickiest sounds for a French person to pronounce. The French will struggle with your name and will possibly call you Bretaigne or Edouard instead. Just kidding. But if there is a French equivalent, they will find it. Also, they will begin to practice their English with you because you're their new American or Canadian friend.

The problem Anglo-Saxon names: Nothing at all. Just be confident when meeting new French people. Continue speaking in French with them even when they insist on practicing their English with you.

Well, there you have it!

Can you think of any other ideas? :)

You Might Also Like

0 commentaires