Accents: an introduction
I don’t know if you have ever noticed, but, accents play a big role in the way we perceive others.
Depending on your perspective, you might hear someone speak with a very strong accent one day and be unable to understand, smile, laugh, think “what a country bumpkin” if you look down on that person – sadly, it happens – or else think “ah that’s my fellow countryman!”.
Accents might help you sound smarter, funnier, sexier, more friendly, elegant or tackier! Interesting, ain’t it?
What I want to focus on today are accents and slang. They might be disregarded by some ‘so-called’ language professionals or specialists – hopefully, not by many sociologists or anthropologists – and considered as being part of trivialities of the language, but I beg to differ.
I will focus on the importance of accents in this short post but accents and slang will be part of further publications in the future. I plan on writing quite a lot about those two broad topics. It’s also my way of thumbing my nose at those who discredit the importance of vernacular expressions, idioms, customs in their studies.
I consider that you must soak up the culture when learning a language. As a result, vernaculars shouldn’t be put on the back burner at all since they represent the very essence and idiosyncrasies of the language you learn.
Humour, in particular, is essential. And how would you ever have a laugh without accents and slang?
Let’s get cracking!
Pronunciations and intonations define your identity! As Neil Postman points out in his book “Crazy talk, Stupid talk”, communication – and language per se – is not so much about what you say but how you say it and how it resonates on others! To put it simply, it’s about the impression you leave on others.
There is no such thing as a typical French accent – they are many. The same goes for English and any other language. Whether you grew up in Marseilles, Lille or Paris, if you’re a Cockney or a Mancunian, or even from Beijing or from Guangzhou, it all makes a big difference when you speak your mother tongue! At times, even native speakers have trouble understanding each other. Personally, I love learning new expressions, so I love that!
The French you learn at school is all right and you should be able to hold a conversation anywhere in France if you use it. However, you may not be aware of it, but as you might see below, France has lots of accents due to historical reasons and some words can find their ways into contemporary French. I won’t talk about other sort of French, like Canadian French and so forth…
If I say to a foreigner: “Oh garri! Tu vas où là?” or “Y’a dégun ici, je m’escampe”, I am not sure that person will understand what I am on about. As a matter of fact, neither would a person from Paris or Lille if they are not familiar with my local patois and the backdrop of such a scene.
I find this compelling. Let’s be honest, even though there is nothing wrong with a RP pronunciation, it might be dreary. It’s a no-brainer that you will make yourself understood in most places but where is the authenticity in all of that? What does it reveal about you?
What I mean is uniformity kills! Be who you are and be proud of your accent! Or even better, if you’re as curious as me, trying to imitate other’s accents to learn more about them, their history and their way of speaking (syntax, idioms, etc.) may tickle your fancy. That could be good for your linguistic and adaptative skills.
Are you learning a foreign language or do you plan on become a linguistic ninja? Then, start imitating accents, intonations, and start using idioms – especially slangy ones to come across as a native speaker!
Besides, accents reveal your identity and you should be proud of using those tones or expressions you grew up with! If people sneer or laugh at you, let them be. They also might be jealous of your culture and your ability to have such a different identity!
Let me also remind you that when they were young, people who were different usually hoped to be like anyone else and follow the norm because it takes some pluck to remain true to yourself amid peer pressure…
However, quite the reverse applies as well. Normal kids dreamt to be different because uniformity can be scary and may, for some only, reveal a certain lack of personality. After all, adults are just kids who grew up – aren’t they?
So just be yourself! Be proud of your accent if you have one. That’s part of your charm! And for those of you who want to learn more about dialects and accents, stay tuned! I’ll be back with a lot more information on that.
Till then, stay safe! 😉
In conclusion, here is a lame joke:
France is bacon ?
The other day, I came across a hilarious story about Francis Bacon. Someone had understood “Knowledge is power, France is bacon”, when his dad had just said “Knowledge is power, (and I quote) Francis Bacon”.
You will find out more details below.
As a matter of fact, this sort of misunderstanding happens quite a lot!
For instance, the same may go for “Le pot aux roses” (le poteau rose), “le faussaire”(le faux cerf… 🦌😁) or many other expressions…
Other than languages, there are also a ton of things we miss out on a daily basis.
Personally, I could talk about the carrefour logo. When I was a kid, I always wondered what the logo was and why it was so peculiar until one day, someone told me it was just a “C” in the middle.
I was gobsmacked! 😳😆
The funny thing is that I was not the only person who had no idea! Indeed, lots of friends of mine – way more than I thought – admitted they had no clue either.
If you ask me, I reckon that’s also the beauty of ignorance! That’s also what make a language so interesting and fun to learn. Puns are a pleasure to discover!
I am quite curious about what were/are the expressions you have trouble with or the puns you like best!
Feel free to comment so we could have a giraffe! France is bacon, indeed…😉
“Merci beau cul?” When pronunciation matters…
Today is a great, sunny day. One of those that wanna make you say “Merci” to life… Well, let me tell you a short story first.
It was a Sunday afternoon. Red automn leaves were scattered on the ground and the wind was getting chilly. The park was still open and a few people gathered there to bask in the last sun rays of the day.
She was walking but was miles away, thinking about her future plans.
He had just sat on a bench in the park to rest after a long day’s work.
As she drew in closer, a gust of wind suddenly blew and she dropped her handbag right in front of him. He saw her and nicely picked it up to hand it back to her.
Smilingly, she said “Merci beau cul”. And then, things went south…
I, for one, loved to hear that “Merci beau cul” (Thank you, you nice piece of ass) in lieu of “Merci beaucoup” (Thank you very much). The first time I heard that, it was from an American lady. I know it may be quite hard to master the French “u” for an English native speaker and use it properly at the beginning.
Nonetheless, that mix-up between the French “ou” and “u” made me smile quite a bit. Who wouldn’t? Especially after such a nice compliment…
Kidding aside, that mistake also enabled to enlighten me on my own mother tongue and its difficulties. When you’re a native speaker, you might put pronunciation or accents on the back burner and deny their importance, but when you meet with few similar howlers or mix-ups, you tend to reconsider and realize that small mistakes might have a big impact.
For instance, there is one word I am particularly careful about and that is “household”. Even though I know I pronounce the “h” properly, on this one, I tend to stress my first “h” a lot more than usual because it might otherwise sound a bit like… well you know 😉
Not the same effect here, indeed…
I am rather curious about the expressions you are struggling with!
I am sure you have similar stories when practising a foreign language or speaking to a foreigner. Indeed, we all do!
So feel free to let me know!
Resolutions ? Come off it, I want nothing!
This is it, we’re in 2021. You took new resolutions. Everybody has wished you a Happy new Year and you’ve finally resumed work.
Same old beginning of the year with the the same old resolutions:
- losing weight
- eating better
- working out more or on a regular basis
- saying hi to that beautiful single neighbour
- saving the planet (some claim to…)
- going to bed earlier…etc
This time, Covid got into the mix and you’re here reflecting on how to live differently.
For some, it’s great to be able to work from home (like the Grinch), for others depressing since they need human contact (like… the lemmings). Well, the good thing is that with future lockdowns, you may want to go to bed earlier. xD
Kidding aside, people are trying to sell you new things you don’t need, desires you didn’t have, dreams you won’t realize, fears to get you indoctrinated or any other thing just to get you hooked. Well, nothing new under the sun so far…
I got those resolutions. I bought that thing, did that, went to that place… So what? Where’s the difference?
I am still me, a more experienced me, but still me. I haven’t found any happiness in any of it but wasted more money, more time, have got less space in my room and want more things than before.
Desires never end. But as the Buddha may say “it’s all an illusion”. You just don’t need those things.
Just accept yourself. Be who you are and know thyself!
Rather than doing new things, observe your reactions! Break out of your mental illusion. Get out of the matrix, Neo!
Clear your head before you add up new things in it, whether they be new project or anything…
Besides, people can’t tell you what’s good for you. You know what’s good for you! or not yet…
You want to improve yourself? Why? If you’re really into that, do what you must then and if you’re supposed to, you will! Don’t call that a resolution, call that an objective then.
But if you don’t succeed in doing so, don’t be too hard on yourself or envy people! It meant you were not supposed to. Either you learn or you win. At least you tried!
So, if things don’t happen the way you expect them to – as a matter of fact, they hardly do – just let them go!
Reality is always right. Life is the best teacher. Better be down-to-earth. But what makes you think you had better do this or that, improve this or that?
So let me break it down to you and let’s all try to see the possible disadvantages of such resolutions:
- Getting slimer: unless you want to avoid having a heart attack (which everyone should), stop caring too much about your weight. Nobody cares but you! You’re a bit fatter than you think you should? Remember this: “In warzones, when fat people get slim, it might mean slim people might be dead already” … Dark humour here, but still cogent… Plus, given the covid context (no toilet papers and pastas), it might even be an advantage…
- Eating better: Good one for the health too but don’t be too stringent and allow yourself some time for a good old pizza and a nice movie. We may all die tomorrow, so who cares after all? (This “we may all die tomorrow” excuse works for every situation)
- Working out more: Well, yeah do that but don’t do it too much… Keeping a bit of fat is nice for wintertime… It’s nice to let off steam though.
- Say hi to that beautiful stranger: It turns out you may become a great couple until you realise she is not right in the head and you move on, a bit more hurt than before you met her… So, being single protects you from drama queens and trauma with nutcases, huh?
- Saving the planet: That’s a very nice thought but you may put Superman, Batman and the Green Lantern out of work. Where’s your compassion?
- Going to bed earlier: well, resting is important and a good night’s sleep allows your body to rejuvenate itself. So it’s a good piece of advice. Don’t overdo it though. Resting doesn’t mean getting lazier.
Ok, I haven’t only found many disadvantages here but my main goal was to show you that things are not always what they seem. Being a do-gooder or a baddie both suck, because extremes suck.
Just accept yourself. Listen to your own voice, your own experience because it’s unique. You’re just great already!
Don’t even listen to me! If you came this far, that proves you don’t listen when I say “don’t listen”, which in itself is good… Or listen to the people who tell you to listen nobody so that in the end, you just listen to yourself!
Besides, we already know now that the ultimate answer is 42, so why bother?
What matters is what you do with your own time in this life.
Just be real. People don’t like it? Don’t argue, it’s useless. Don’t waste your time.
People are too different and nobody truly understands each other. We don’t even know ourselves! How could we know others?
We just try to get along in this maze we call life and live together the best we can.
Harmony matters a great deal though, so being oneself doesn’t necessarily mean being narrow-minded.
The greatest piece of news in all that is that you have to do or be “nothing” more!
Plus, when you look for nothing, nothing can affect you…
But maybe this “nothing” truly is the hardest part…
In Taoism, people say that everything is in nothing… so when you look for nothing, you might find everything… who knows… 😉
Rather than wanting or being more, you might just want to have less or be less (bless‘ed) – this pun is awesome !
You’ll fill your life with a bit more of “yourself” to explore. You are never out of time when you take it for yourself and Youssef (he used to sell kebab just around the corner but went belly-up due to Government restrictions on restaurants).
By the way, I think I heard your “self” advising you to press the “like” and “share” buttons, unless it was Youssef or a noise coming from the railway station. Guess we’ll never know…
Anyway, to conclude, let me wish you all nothing! At least, you won’t be disappointed by unrealistic resolutions… What is more, resolutions often have this negative connotation in which you hope to improve but fail to do so. So don’t call your new objectives resolutions, call them what they are, that is, new goals for your self-improvement.