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Thread: French inconsistencies with pronunciation of English loanwords

  1. #1
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    French inconsistencies with pronunciation of English loanwords



    There are hundreds of English loanwords in French, like in most languages. The Académie française tried to create new French words like courriel for email to keep the language pure from yet another Germanic invasions (forgetting that French was originally the language of the Franks and possess thousands of words of Germanic origin through them). But their efforts were essentially in vain and they were ultimately unable to prevent the adoption of new terms lacking native equivalents.

    What the French education system didn't fail is to corrupt the pronunciation of these loanwords, often in the most ridiculous manner. Even though French is my mother tongue, it took me a while to understand why people on French TV often talked about sexe à pile, which translates as 'battery sex'. What is this battery sex they all mention? Then I learned that it was actually 'sex appeal' but they didn't bother to elongate the "ee" sound at the end, even tough all French speaker can pronounce it properly if they want to.

    What is odd about the majority of French speakers is that they sometimes choose to pronounce English words properly, like football, gentleman, suspense, outsider or jeans, but seem to intentionally mispronounce other words in the most grotesque and comical manner. It's not because they lack the sounds to pronounce these words properly, like the poor Japanese who struggle for all their worth to pronounce their thousands of English loanwords right, and all seem to be taking lessons to correct their pronunciation out of shame. No, very few French people feel anything close to shame for blatantly butchering English words, seemingly on purpose, as if to defy the English speaking world. Well, maybe it was intentional on purpose, or among the elite, but nowadays almost everybody pronounces discount as 'discoont', which sounds downright boorish. In France (but rarely in French-speaking Belgium) most people gallicise 'bacon' as if it were a French word, rhyming with the Burgundian city of Macon. When I hear that I try to intentionally do the same with words all French people pronounce correctly to make fun of them, like saying fotbaal instead of football.

    There are only a few English sounds that have no near equivalent in French, notably the 'h'. I am fine with that, and I don't criticise French speakers for their inability to pronounce the h in hockey, hobby or hot-dog. What annoys me is when they can pronounce it right but choose not to. Some people will go as far as to pronounce hamburger as something like ombürrrjay, making it sound as French as possible, but these are still a minority (and almost unheard in Belgium).

    I find it sad that in an increasingly globalised world where English has become the uncontested lingua franca, so many French speakers do not try to go with the current and try to be understood by other people, but on the contrary do all they can to stand out like anti-socials and make it as hard as possible for other to understand them. Many tourists have learned the hard way that French people don't want to speak English even if they can. Really stubborn and childish.
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    We tried to find our way to a place called 'Le Hochwald' in the Alsace, but the native French seemed not to know this place.
    It was our fault, we should have known that is was pronounced 'L'Oval'.

    Sometimes, while trying to ridiculise others (non-French), the French ridiculise themselves.

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    Well, Americans butcher Italian words too, not that Italian is the lingua franca of the world. Some native Italians get a little annoyed; I've even had my visiting relatives take me to task for using a "quasi" American pronunciation when ordering food, but if I use the correct pronunciation, given that the rest of my speech sounds like that of a native speaker, Americans think I'm sort of "boasting". Basically, if I got annoyed every time an American mispronounced Italian words related to food, I'd be ****ed off a dozen times a day. Oh, I never knew one American or even Italian American who ever got my maiden surname right, mainly because it has one of those pesky diphthongs in it. :) I chopped up even my given name because even my husband couldn't pronounce it correctly. That was a bit alienating, I must say.

    This is a rather amusing bit about it by a very funny youtube couple:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHBFt11zz7U

    Marco is so damn charming, but he perhaps doesn't realize how Italians can butcher English, not intentionally in most cases but butcher it none the less, especially in placing vowels at the ends of words which don't exist.

    I guess it's natural to see the mote in someone else's eye rather than our own. There's some youtube English teacher who takes native Italian speakers to task for the mistakes they make in English pronounciation, all the while speaking Italian in the most hideously ugly British accented Italian I've ever heard. To be quite honest, although I never castigate non native speakers on their Italian and am glad they make the effort, I very often just ask if we can speak in English regardless of their nationality. It's literally like listening to fingernails on a blackboard to hear them garble my beautiful language.

    Americans have a very different attitude; they seem to find the accented English of certain foreigners very sexy.

    Oh, some very funny mistakes come to mind that English speakers often make in Italian:

    1.Anno is year; ano is anus. You have no idea how funny it can sound when anno is mispronounced in a sentence. Pronounce double consonants clearly, as Marco explained, or be prepared for smirks. :)

    2.Casino, depending on where you put the accent, can be a brothel or other very messed up place or event, or a gambling establishment.

    3. Seno is breast, senno, if the accent is on the o means if not.

    This expat blogger has some more, and yet more are brought up in the comments.
    http://bleedingespresso.com/2007/05/...pronounce.html


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    I don't think, helas, French people butcher the english words for the pleasure; As English people, French people are "nul" to learn foreign languages, as a whole.
    Deep problem. French people has been educated in school for years and years under the law of writing: and when they learn or rather try to learn a new language, they cannot imagine repeat the smallest word without a written support! You know all of yours the religious conservatism or French orthography and the worth they put in it (orthographic competitions!).
    But this problem created several deportments:
    - pronounciation of foreign words and names based on their spelling : 'bacon' >> /ba'ko/ with nasalyzed 'o': ridiculous but logic
    - try to pronounce as it has been heard, without too much skills: 'bacon' >> /bè'kon/ not /,bé(i)kën/ (as if it was spelled °bèconne in French.
    all the time French people accentuate (stress) the last syllabe, and yet, very slightly if not in phrase end. (exception: in some tow syllabes words, to stress emotionally): UNABLE to respect the tonic accent of other languages
    Today French people are fond of 'yaourt' english in songs and try to pronounce english correctly; I say: "try to". Snobism implying more American English than British English.

    The big shame, according to me, is when professional journalists (TV announcers for the most) are not able to pronounce the names of foreign people (sport, politics, artists), because names are not common words - mixing Dutch names with German names, Portuguese ones with Spanish ones and so on...
    Sometime we cannot find any logic! My preferred example is the Dutch cyclist Jan Janssen whose names were regularly pronounced /yan zhan'sèn/ with a nasalized 'a' before 'sen'!
    sorry I did not put phonetic signs, it would have needed a copy-and-paste.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MOESAN View Post
    I don't think, helas, French people butcher the english words for the pleasure; As English people, French people are "nul" to learn foreign languages, as a whole.
    Deep problem. French people has been educated in school for years and years under the law of writing: and when they learn or rather try to learn a new language, they cannot imagine repeat the smallest word without a written support! You know all of yours the religious conservatism or French orthography and the worth they put in it (orthographic competitions!).
    But this problem created several deportments:
    - pronounciation of foreign words and names based on their spelling : 'bacon' >> /ba'ko/ with nasalyzed 'o': ridiculous but logic
    - try to pronounce as it has been heard, without too much skills: 'bacon' >> /bè'kon/ not /,bé(i)kën/ (as if it was spelled °bèconne in French.
    all the time French people accentuate (stress) the last syllabe, and yet, very slightly if not in phrase end. (exception: in some tow syllabes words, to stress emotionally): UNABLE to respect the tonic accent of other languages
    Today French people are fond of 'yaourt' english in songs and try to pronounce english correctly; I say: "try to". Snobism implying more American English than British English.

    The big shame, according to me, is when professional journalists (TV announcers for the most) are not able to pronounce the names of foreign people (sport, politics, artists), because names are not common words - mixing Dutch names with German names, Portuguese ones with Spanish ones and so on...
    Sometime we cannot find any logic! My preferred example is the Dutch cyclist Jan Janssen whose names were regularly pronounced /yan zhan'sèn/ with a nasalized 'a' before 'sen'!
    sorry I did not put phonetic signs, it would have needed a copy-and-paste.
    I have to say I find it a bit annoying when Frenchmen ALWAYS stress the last syllable in an Italian name even though Italian names are almost never stressed in that way. It's one thing when it's a family resident in France for generations and perhaps they also pronounce it that way, but it's another when they're speaking of a current politician or celebrity.

    Americans butcher such names but they do attempt to reproduce how people pronounce their own names, and with a lot of apologies.

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    I think French people have a difficulity with the ''th'' sound in ''thin'' pronouncig it ''s'' and the ''th'' sound in ''there'' pronouncing it ''z''.

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