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Parlez Vouz Anglais?

June 24, 2013


It's one of the few phrases that I've mastered in the French language. I walk into a room, a shop, a hotel, and if I need any sort of interaction with another person I say clearly and loudly: Parlez vouz anglais?


French a romantic language to be sure. But a difficult language. My niece, who spent a semester in Paris last year, is fluent in the language. And until now I haven't realized how remarkable that is. There have been several times when I know I could have used her assistance.


The sounds that we speak in English just don't seem to come out the same in French. Take for example, the town of Giverny. In English, we would pronounce this Gah ver nee. I knew that wasn't right, so I did some asking around. Turns out that it is much prettier in French. "zhee ver knee" and the zhee is like the middle sound in pleasure. Much better.


I've also found that while they may be helpful, don't rely on the translation apps. The apps will give you the noun eau (pronounced oh). But no one will understand you. This morning, I attempted to ask the waitress for a glass of water. I kept telling her, I would like a glass of "oh." She gave me a quizzical look. Finally, she left and returned with a coworker who understood a bit more English. Turns out, the full word is de l'eau (pronounced duh loh).


Language barriers are part of the interest in travel, and I enjoy figuring out the commonalities we have when we aren't able to communicate through words. It can be amusing to find ourselves playing charades and acting out the verbs that we want to do, or pointing to various things within view to complete a sentence. It becomes even more interesting when I am seeking directions to a remote location to photograph. 

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