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Thread: How comes French people typically mispronounce some names ?

  1. #1
    Satyavrata Maciamo's Avatar
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    Red face How comes French people typically mispronounce some names ?

    It is normal that speakers of a language should not always pronounce words or names from other languages properly. The Americans usually say "ren-alt" for the French car-maker Renault, while the Brits pronounce it "reno-", a bit closer to the French original (more like "ruhno-"). Those who have learnt French normally pronounce it better, which is also normal.

    But with French people, there is another problem. They mispronounce French-speaking city names as well. The two most famous ones are Bruxelles and Auxerre. Instead of reading them as "Brusselles" and "Ausserre" (the correct local pronuciation), 90% of French people pronounce the "x" as "ks" rather than "ss". This is fairly incredible as Auxerre is in the centre of France (not a city of a dialect region), and Brussels could be considered the second largest French-speaking city in the world after Paris, and is just 1h away from Paris by TGV.

    Contrarily to English speakers, it isn't necessarily the better educated people in France that make the mispronounce the least. Intellectuals, such as politicians, journalists, doctors, university professors, philosophers, etc. are the majority of the guests to debates of French TV, and yet they have to be reminded by Belgian guests that one does not pronounce the "x" as a "x" in "Bruxelles".

    The French are particularily bad at pronouncing words in English and Germanic languages. They insist on reading "Maastricht" with a "ch" like in French (sh), while a "k" sound would be closer to the Dutch "ch" sound. They do the same mistake in Japanese, pronouncing the "ch" as "sh" instead" of "tsh". This is true of most French-speaking Belgians too. I just can't understand this. I am a native French speaker too, but I (or my family) never read "Hitachi" as "Hitashi" nor "Chiba" as "Shiba".

    It's not even that French speakers have any technical difficulties pronouncing the "ch" sound. They don't have this problem in English ! It's just ignorance, but a particular kind of ignorance, as no matter how many times they are told, it just seems never to remain in their memory. It annoys me because my (Japanese) wife's name has a "ch" in it, and whenever I tell people who read her name that it is "tsh" and not "sh", they keep misreading it the next time !

    One of the main problems of French speakers with learning foreign languages is not that they can't pronounce some sounds, but that they are unwillingly to make an effort to read characters in a different way from what they were taught in French. That's why some many French speakers have problems with basic English pronuciation.

    It's acceptable for them not to be able to prononce "th" as it doesn't exist in French, but why on earth would they read "word" with a "o" like in French when they have the sounds "e" (like in "je") and "eu" (like in "beurre") which would be much closer to the English pronuciation ? It's a too basic mistake to claim ignorance. It's simply a lack of will, a lack of effort to connect the right neurons in their brain -- the exact same problem as with "Bruxelles" and Japanese "ch". They can say it, but they don't want too, as if they wanted to shout from the rooftops that they are French and proud to be.

    Personally I find this kind of attitude pathetic...
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  2. #2
    Horizon Rider Kinsao's Avatar
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    It could be more of just a general laziness in learning the languages rather than a deliberate effort to proclaim Frenchness.

    I mean, English pronunciation is not that easy because often it is spelled differently from how it is pronounced. So although physically making the sounds is not hard at all, it's sometimes hard to remember the pronunciation that corresponds to that particular combination of letters.

    Course, it is not an excuse not to learn it properly, but like I said, perhaps it is just laziness. If as you say French people often mispronounce names of their own language like Auxerre it seems that it is general ignorance rather than a patriotism thing.

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