French: Au Revior!

Due to my busy schedule this week, I haven’t had a lot of time to review French. But it wouldn’t have mattered anyway, considering that I had reached a conclusion only an hour after listening to it again:

I should have skipped this language.

Maybe it was a mistake on my part to assume that I’d find some renewed fascination from French. Maybe there was something I missed from looking at it when I was younger. But whatever the case, my brain turned off.

Here’s where we are in the project:

1. Romanian
2. Macedonian
3. Spanish
4. Vietnamese
5. Norwegian
6. Bulgarian
7. Slovenian
8. Malagasy
9. Japanese
10. Moldavian
11. Hindi
12. Finnish
13. Azeri
14. Arabic
15. Czech
16. Albanian
17. Cambodian
18. Serbian
19. Chinese
20. Xhosa
21. Portuguese
22. Armenian
23. Korean
24. Croatian
25. Afrikaans
26. Greek
27. Swedish

28. French
29. Thai
30. Turkish
31. Dutch
32. Hebrew
33. Danish
34. Filipino
35. Polish
36. Lao
37. Catalan

SUMMARY: French appeared in the Northern region of France as an “oil language” in the Middle Ages, part of a group of other Romance-based languages also spoken in the area. France at the time was invaded by a number of different tribes around Europe (Franks, Vikings, Celts, Normans, Arabs) who brought lots of new vocabulary. After standardization in the language, the development of Académie français and promulgation by royalty, French became the language of the arts and literature. Following the exploratory periods in the 1600s-1800s, French spread everywhere, extending to Africa, Asia and the Americas.

FINAL IMPRESSIONS: French is just like most of the other Romance languages in Europe. It has grammatical gender (masculine/feminine forms for nouns and adjectives) and its definite articles are Latin based (le, la, les). It is a Subject-Verb-Object language, except when object pronouns are used, in which case they are placed before the verb.

Regular French verbs have three main forms (-er, -ir, and -re) and are conjugated like this:

-er  / marcher (to walk)
marche – I walk
marches – you walk
marche – he/she/it walks
marchons – we walk
marchez – you (all) walk
marchent – they walk

-re / répondre (to respond)
réponds – I respond
réponds – you respond
répond – he/she/it responds
répondons – we respond
répondez – you (all) respond
répondent – they respond

-ir / finir (to finish)
finis – I finish
finis – you finish
finit – he/she/it finishes
finissons – we finish
finissez – you (all) finish
finissent – they finish

Verbs are normally negated by adding a “ne” before and “pas” after the verb. For example, Je ne parle pas means “I do not speak.” When the word after “ne” begins with a vowel, it becomes “n” and an apostrophe and that vowel (e.g., Il n’est pas voici, not Il ne est pas voici, which means “He is not here.”).

As far as dialectical differences, French from Belgium and Switzerland has relatively few differences, apart from different vocabulary words (in Metropolitan French, the word for 70 is soixante-dix, while in Belgian and Swiss French it’s septante). African French, more specifically, French from Senegal, Cote D’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other areas are more influenced by local languages, while the guttural “R” in standard French is replaced with a trilled one (like in Spanish).

The major differences appear to come from Quebecois and Metropolitan French. French spoken in Quebec has a lot of older words because it originated from Classical French spoken in the 17th and 18th centuries (a classic example is the word stop on stop signs, which is Arrêt in Quebec, while it’s just Stop in France). French in Quebec also has a lot of English-based vocabulary. While Quebecers and European French can understand each other, they are less likely to understand informal speech.

So in spite of all of this, why should I have skipped French? Well, it’s really simple, although probably traumatic for some to hear:

I just don’t like the way it sounds.

After listening to it for several hours, I got sick of it. I don’t like how so many sounds are pronounced at the front of the mouth. Other issues for me were how I couldn’t detect consonant sounds and the nasally ones in general, which seem difficult to pick up, despite me being able to replicate them. It seems like whenever I listened to French, a word would just blend right into the other. Parisian French sounded a lot sharper than Quebecois and African French, but this didn’t help.

So, I’m going to pass on this one. It pains me quite a bit because I absolutely love French culture, cinema, cuisine … Paris is even one of my favorite destinations. Perhaps I will change my mind about it. But for now, I have to bid it adieu.

But not without an entertaining video of course. The clip is from a Korean show and has women discussing differences between French dialects. Interessant. What a shame I can’t understand!

EVALUATION:
Intelligibility: 2
Complexity: 3
Resonance: 3
Continuation: 1

SOURCES USED IN THIS POST:
About.com (French)
Tex’s French Grammar
Wikipedia (French Language, Quebecois French)

COMING NEXT: Thai

2 thoughts on “French: Au Revior!

  1. “The major differences appear to come from Quebecois and Metropolitan French. … While Quebecers and European French can understand each other, they are less likely to understand informal speech.”

    You are off on that one. Ignorants have intelligibility issues. It is true in any language. As it is the case anywhere we have our share of ignorants in Quebec. Is it that hard to believe France has its share of snobs? Generally, French speakers understand each other perfectly at first try, except when ignorants are involved.

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