Good morning to all in the World of Blog :O) I have a question for you: how many of you guys have taken it upon yourselves to learn a second language? Most of us were forced into it a school, endlessly counting to 10, learning how to say ‘the monkey is in the tree’ or this is the cauliflower of my Aunt but how many of you have tried as adults? It’s not easy is it?
As many of you know, I am English but I live in the South of France. This means that I have had to try and get my head around the French language as I need to be able to buy stuff to eat, find out where the toilets are and order a glass of wine (or three). Now, I’m the first to admit that I can be a bit of an airhead at times but I am pretty logical so I have looked for patterns in the French language and it has served me well except when it comes to ‘le’ and ‘la’, the masculine and feminine. For those of you who don’t know, every single noun in French has been given a sex and for those of us who have grown up with asexual words, it can make life a little tricky.
As is my wont I decided to apply some logic and figured that there must be some words that have to be feminine because the words are female specific and vice versa; big mistake! This will give you an idea of what I am up against:
The word for ‘beard’ is ‘la barbe’. Yes ‘la’ which means that the word is feminine. Now whilst I accept that, as we get older especially, some women are prone to the odd stray chin hair there are very few of us who will ever sport full mutton chops whereas men have no trouble at all in this department so why oh why is the word feminine???
On the other hand the word for ‘bra’ is ‘le soutien-gorge’. Why? OK, many men enjoy taking bras off and I’m sure there are some who enjoy putting them on but, as a general rule it’s women who own the boobs and therefore women who need the bras, non?
This leads me on to lipstick; hands up guys out there who wear lipstick on a daily basis…..and now the women….right, based on those numbers ‘lipstick’ should be a feminine word yes? Wrong! It’s ‘le rouge a levres’
Added to this, the French also have a few phrases that I am convinced were introduced to the language for the sole purpose of embarrassing foreigners. The worst of these will be likely to trip you up in the middle of summer when temperatures have risen and you are sweating your socks off. Quite naturally, in English we say, ‘I’m hot’ and people will either agree with you or tell you to stop moaning about the weather because you know damn well it will be raining next week. The literal translation for this is French is:
Je (I) suis (am) chaude (hot)
Unfortunately, this means ‘I am horny’. This simple error will lead to raised eyebrows, hopeful looks or great hilarity depending on who’s company you’re in when you say it! The correct expression is:
J’ai chaude, the literal translation for which is ‘I have hot’.
Having made many such grammatical errors (including saying ‘I was rogered senseless’ when I wanted to say ‘I got off [the motorbike]’, just don’t ask) I decided to pick my best friend’s brain in an attempt to figure out the logic behind all this. His reply was a typically Gallic shrug and ‘The Academie Francaise’ decides’.
“Yes but how do they decide?”
“They decide because they decide it is like that”
And with that I have to be satisfied until the men in their Eiffel towers decide to offer any kind of logical explanation.
All that said, I adore the French language and learning it is a really fun challenge, not just for me but my French friends too ;O)
I’d love to hear about your experiences with foreign languages so please feel free to comment