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7:57am on Tuesday, 5th September, 2006:



Continuing yesterday's language theme...

French. Is it une table or un table? Du pain or de la pain? Le lapin or la lapin?

I never remember this stuff (well, except I do know pain="bread" is masculine, because for 30 years I thought it was feminine on account of how my teacher noted that lapin="rabbit" sounded like la pain, so that was an easy way to remember it — great, except it's le pain).

This is a common problem with English-speakers: how do you remember whether a French noun is masculine or feminine? I used to dislike speaking French in France for this very reason — I never knew if I was getting it right or not.

Here's the technique I developed to avoid that problem, which I commend to all QBlog's monoglot readers.

Instead of wondering whether it's un or une, say "oon". Instead of le or la, say "l". Instead of du or de la, say "dul".

This way, you know you've always got it wrong, therefore you don't have to worry about it.

This method of speaking French has served me well over the years, although the last time I was there a couple of years ago I tried a variation which met with fewer aghast looks from French natives, and to which I may switch in future. In this new approach, I said both forms of any words that was affected by gender. Thus, I might say "dans le/la fenêtre" ("in the window") or "il/elle est blanc/blanche" ("it is white"). This way, I still know I've got it wrong, but it demonstrates I know enough of the language to know I've got it wrong.

I'll still use the old form in Paris, though, on the grounds that Parisians refuse to understand French when spoken with an English accent anyway.

Referenced by Synaesthesia.

Referenced by Hornsea Beck.

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Copyright © 2006 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).