June 16, 2010

Côte d’Ivoire

One of the many reasons that French is hard for native English speakers to learn is that French is spoken in a monotone manner, which sometimes makes it hard to distinguish one word from its neighbors.

In English, there are lots of pauses between words and different intonations are used. In French, it’s all the same (in linguistic speak: French is a syllable-timed language and English is a stress-timed language).

Having lived here for about 8 months, I’m used to distinguishing multiple words from a phrase that sounds like it could be just one word. I’ve gotten so good at it, as a matter of fact, that FBF and I had a hilarious miscommunication last night while watching a World Cup soccer game.

While talking about players in the world cup, FBF decided to explain to me how certain players can play in France, but then represent other countries during the World Cup.

He came at me with some French that sounded like, “eelvware-ann” as one word.

In my brain, I separated the words out to “eel vwa re-ann” or “il voit rien” in actual French. “Il voit rien” means “he doesn’t see anything.” I was a little confused as to how a player not being able to see things explained which team he played for during the World Cup.

Il voit rien?” I asked, with an evidently confused expression on my face.

Oui, ‘eelvware-ann,’” he replied.

Il voit rien? Rien?” (He doesn't see anything? nothing?)

Oooh. Non. Ivoirien. Pas il voit rien. Il y a un pays s’appelle Côte d’Ivoire et les gens s’appellent ivoirien, comme lui.” (Ooooh. No. Ivoirien. Not “il voit rien.” There is a country called the Côte d’Ivoire and the people there are ivoirien, just like him.)

This time, the syllables all meant to go together to form ivoirien, or Ivorian in English.

It felt like I was in my very own film, “Bienvenue chez les francais.” We both couldn’t stop laughing.

1 comment:

  1. I've read two paragraphs and I'm already fascinated. The syllable vs stress difference is really interesting.


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