I can’t say why, mais j’aime cette jeune fille

It is a bit of a toss up for me between Spanish and French. My first French was learned at about age 3 to 4 as the French Couple who ran the French Laundry and were our neighbors learned a bit of English from me, and in return I learned some French without realizing it wasn’t just part of this whole language thing I was figuring out. (Yes, I remember the moments. I can’t explain why or how, but I have visual and audio recordings in my being from then and there….I can see and hear the moments even now.)

Yet a couple of years later “I met a kid” in the alley behind our houses. He was a ‘Mexican Kid’ and at his home everyone spoke Spanish. So I did some of the time too. I helped Miguel with his English and Math and he helped me deal with how the world really worked… We were “best friends” for the next decade+.

So I’ve been sort of polyglot from the get go.

Sidebar On Worth

Over decades of searching, I’ve come to the conclusion that be it Italian (sister language to Celtic in the long ago time) or French (Gaulic / Celtic after the Latin / Italians got done with it) or English or basically any other language: It doesn’t really matter what language you like most. Many languages are about the same in the ability to express. The emotional load varies a bit, and the tone, but all can get the message across.

A corollary is that whatever is your native language, you can express a thought best in it So no apologies for using what works best for you.

That said, this video speaks to me. Partly as I like the old forms of English (most often if I need too look up some word flagged as WH? in some text, I find out it is Olde English.) Partly as it is an issue I ran into about 40 ish years ago.

I’m OK with that art Du?

The Video

So by a long chain of events I ran into this video.

Si vous n’ĂȘtes pas francophone, this will be of little use. For those who do speak French, it is illustrative:

Describing Quebecois vs France (called “Metropolitan” French in the video).

So I could follow both, but more because I’m steeped in the culture that formed QuĂ©becois and trained in Metropolitan French.

The Big Memory for me, was sitting in the stands at the Montreal Olympics (High Jump IIRC) and the guy selling beer was shouting “Bierre FRoid”. Now it is spelled froid in orthography, but the common US English speaker mistake is to pronounce the R. In the formal French I learned is is pronouced “F-waw”. So this guy is hawking beer as “Bier FRWAoid” and I’m thinking he must be an American hired for the event. So I flag him and signal I want one. (At the time they decided to accept $US as ==$C) but in the exchange I realized he was a native speaker of Quebecquois. Preserving old pronunciation of characters that in modern French were silent.

So that was the moment when I learned to love Quebecois.

For those not in love with French:

My bias is pretty simple. I mostly speak English as my native tongue. I grew up sort of bi-lingual Spanish / English after about 6 ot 7 years old. Yet I’ve started learning French at about 3 or 4 years old. Then had ALL of French up to discussing French Literature in French in College. So mostly I’m tri-lingual. I’ve also had classes in German, Russian, and self study in things from Japanese to Esperanto and Ido (son of Esperanto). Oh, and formal Linguistics class at UC. Seems I have “a thing” for languages… (Not to mention the dozen+ of Programming Languages I’ve learned and used).

At one time my goal was to learn the language best suited to logical thought. My conclusion was “whatever is your natural language is the best as you know the rules and exceptions best”. That said, I really love French most of all… But could be happy in Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish ( I learned a lot while working at Ericsson) or a few others.

So while watching that video, I could easily see both the Metro and the Quebecois forms as reasonable.

Overall, my language conclusions are that: really formally correct languages can be made, but they are fat and complicated to use (think Sanskrit) so the general public comes up with shorter forms. This causes regional languages to wander.. Eventually this slovenly use of languages leads to whole new languages. Then the cycle repeats.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Human Interest and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to I can’t say why, mais j’aime cette jeune fille

  1. gallopingcamel says:

    One of my GCE (General Certificate of Education) subjects was French which I passed with a decent percentage. I worked in Geneva at the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) where all the important meetings were conducted in French. To my amazement I could only understand snatches of the video here. They were speaking so fast with idioms I am not familiar with.

    Based on this I doubt my ability to survive in a French speaking country yet I am totally comfortable in Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica and other countries where Spanish is dominant. Thank you, my Hispanic relatives.

  2. cdquarles says:

    Indeed. I started learning “Soldier French” from my WWI combat vet maternal grandfather. I studied it formally for years (8, if I am remembering correctly). I’ve visited Montreal, so hearing Quebecois was natural, and that’s where I last used the French I took ;p. I’ve also visited New Orleans a lot; where the French there is a Creole of English, French (Paris), Cajun (from Acadia), and Spanish. I took a year of Russian and 6 weeks of Metro Spanish. That’s not including the computer languages I’ve learned over the years.

    I was bitten by the philologist bug, too. (Thank you Professor Tolkien … a naturalized Englishman of Germanic stock.)

  3. Steve C says:

    Be careful! I read somewhere recently about a translating engine (?Google?) which had been translating Japanese and Korean into English. It was also found to be able to translate Japanese into Korean, except that when they looked inside it the thing wasn’t using the expected English, but some internal, invented language in the middle of the process.

    I’m sure one or two of us will point it out if you start producing blog posts in Smith Internal Conversion Language … ;-)

    I highly recommend The Phrontistery to fellow language enthusiasts.

  4. Larry Ledwick says:

    One of the things I have pondered is the accuracy of on line translators.
    If the EGBs get full control what is to stop them from putting up bogus translations of foreign language web pages.

    I have on occasion found unexpected translations of phrases that if you parse them out to single words you get different meanings, or run the same phrase through several different translators sometimes you get significantly different final results.

    That is why a year or so ago, I bought some printed English – x and x – English dictionaries as an independent check.

    In my case the older lady that was on the janitorial crew where I worked would try to teach me Spanish one word or phrase at a time, and I would sometimes use google translate to try to say something too her. I often found that she was using idiomatic Mexican Spanish which did not translate well on google translate, as sometimes slang Mexican Spanish is simply not understood by the online translator. I had the advantage of her daughter being fairly fluent bi-lingual and could get her true intended meaning from her daughter when I ran into those phrases, but it raised the question about generic translators how do you trust translations of politically sensitive issues?

    We often forget that just like English other languages have dialects and slang usage that varies by country.

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