Remember that scene from My Fair Lady? Professor Higgins tells Eliza Doolittle to say “How kind of you to let me come?” while he plays the melody of the phrase on a glockenspiel. “‘Ow kinda ewe to let me come,” she says. “No. Kind of you,” he replies. Eliza contests, “that’s wot aye said.”
Often times with my host family, I feel a bit like Eliza. While Eliza only has to overcome her Cockney accent, I have to speak a completely separate language and overcome my extremely thick American accent. There are some combinations of sounds in French that just don’t exist in English. For example, the other night I kept stumbling over the word enseigner, ahn-sein-yay (or for those of you who know IPA, ɑ̃seɲe), which, somewhat poetically, means to teach. This combination of vowel sounds doesn’t come naturally to most English speakers. After dinner one night, Caroline and I were talking about wine making traditions here in Montpellier. I was trying to ask if some vineyards still taught the old way of making wine. “Est-ce qu’il y a des vignobles qui en-seig-nent les anciennes méthodes?”
“Qu’as-tu dit?” (What did you say)
“des vignobles que en-seig…est-ce qu’il y a des vignobles qui utilisent encore des anciennes méthodes?” (vineyards that tea-, are there vineyards that still use the old methods?)
“Ahhh, enseigner” Caroline tried to help.
“enseigner,” I tried.
“non, enseigner,” she said.
At the end of My Fair Lady, Eliza fools a linguist into thinking she’s French royalty. Perhaps, in four months, I can be like Eliza and lose my accent. On the other hand, I’ve been told my American accent is cute, so maybe I won’t try to completely erase it.
To help me with my enunciation, my host mom gave me some virelangues. See if you can do them.
Un chasseur sachant chasser doit savoir chasser sans son chien de chasse
œ̃ ʃasœʀ sʃ ʃase dwa savwaʀ ʃase sɑ̃ sɔ̃ ʃjɛ̃ də ʃas
(A hunter who knows how to hunt has to know how to hunt without its hunting dog.)
Les chausettes de l’archiduchesse sont sèches, archi sèches
lɛ ʃosɛt də laʀʃidyʃɛs sɔ̃ sɛʃ aʀʃi sɛʃ
(The archduchess’s socks are dry, very dry.)
Somewhat in retaliation, when asked if I knew any English tongue twisters, I gave this one:
“33 thirsty thoroughbreds thumped the thief on Thursday. “