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[quote user="Dick Smith"]From what I remember there were genuine grammatical differences, but I can't remember them well enough to quote. They aren't dialect, that is something else... The local patois in Normandy can be impenetrable, and in the south - easy!

Here is a link to a useful explanation of all the differences between the language registers.  Fascinating subject! 


It does bother me that while I have a very wide vocabulary, I still don't know how informal or familiar any given word/expression is.  I suppose this can be learnt only by hearing the language spoken every day, and not from books...

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There was a little article in Time magazine this week:-

"Fresh from a country with two official languages: a new Canadian study

suggests that being bilingual will, on average, postpone the onset of

dementia by 4.1 years. Even after adjusting for schooling and

immigration status, the results were unequivocal: being a polyglot (or

at least a biglot) fights brain rot. What's not clear is why.

Researchers speculate the ability to operate in two languages could —

like exercise or stimulating leisure and social activity — help the

brain continue normal functions even as it decays physically. Just

don't expect great things from your French refresher course. The study,

appearing in the February issue of Neuropsychologia,

defines bilingual as "regularly using at least two languages"

throughout adulthood — and there's no evidence that flipping through

phrase books will help. Quel dommage."

So even if you aren't fluent, making an effort to speak more than one language is good for you!

I had rusty A level French when I came over so never needed lessons and 5 years later speak a lot better than I did, possible fluently, but I wish I could improve my accent! I suppose the good thing is that French people don't know I'm English, but they know that I'm definitely not French when I speak the language.

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[:)]Patf, don't lots of us northerners say 'Mam' and 'me Mam'. I'm not a geordie and my kids were brought up calling me Mammy and then Mam. I just couldn't have done with being called Mummy or Mum. And adults calling their mothers, 'Mummy' makes me cringe.

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I was getting uncomfortable speaking English to the point that I would avoid English speaking people when working around France.  Not so much with my Welsh family and friends - strange[8-)].  The forum has really helped me improve no end I'm happy to say[:)]

I can do crosswords in French and answer most questions correctly in French quiz shows like 'Weakest Link', 'Who wants to be a Milionaire?' and 'Wheel of Fortune'.

I was useless at French in while I was at school and now friends here regularly ask me to translate letters of motivation into English for them.  I even translated the tour guide script for an Abbey near where I live.

All self taught - I'm told it's due to my musical ear.  I like to think that I'm a bit clever myself[:)] 

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I learned all my 'real' French here in the Tarn so I evidently have the local accent.  It makes French people laugh when they find out that I'm NOT 'une Tarnaise'.   The locals still can't believe that I have the same funny 'yokel' accent they have!  Example: Pain = Paing.  Demain = Demaing etc.

Sexy, huh?

For me learning to speak French wasn't just a question of learning the words and the grammar but copying sounds.  It was more of a primal excersise for me than an educational one.  I found myself listening to THEM talking was so much easier to learn than listening to cassettes.  By the way - I never did listen to a cassette.  If you learn from a cassette before you come to live here you then have to unlearn all you learned to speak 'real' French.

Vous voyez ce que je veut dire?

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Tout a fait!

The paing and demaing sound very much like the accents here. I studied French and lived in the south and Paris but moving here has been interesting accentwise.  I have no problems with ''standard'' French and my ear has gradually tuned into the local accent. Mind you, some of the locals are a challenge to understand even now when they speak  really really fast. However, probably no harder to understand than the folks of Dudley during my one visit there many years ago.[:)] Where I am, there is also a relatively strong 'spanish-ish' influence on the accent for obvious reasons. I find it quite musical but really cannot 'afford' to pick it up.

I don't know if this has been discussed on the forum before, but I wonder how others coped with the various regional accents?

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Ah yes, regional accents! When I was studying French and did my year in France from Uni, I was sent to the Vosges, along with half the people on my course. The other half went to Montpellier. That was fun when we got home and had our first tutorial of the new academic year! We spent quite some time undoing the legacy of those regional accents and being made to "talk proper" again! In some instances we found it tricky to understand each other!!

My neighbours in the Charente recently asked me if I thought they had an accent, and I had to be honest and say that, if they did, I really couldn't pick it out.

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Ah! Regional accents! Our (very local) next door neighbours - who don't know ever really "speak" per se, what they do is yell,  - have such a strong accent that most of the time I can only make out one word per sentence (and I am a French native speaker, but not of this region obviously!). I have made it my business to try to understand some of their "conversations", and I am defeated.

Plus, in the local shops, while standing in queues, I  eavesdrop all the time. I found that  a large number of long-time Spanish immigrants (about 35-40% of the local people here are of Spanish origin)  speak half-Spanish, half-catalan, and sometimes half-occitan  (although that is 3 halves, obviously not accurate[:)]).

 I don't speak Spanish or Catalan or Occitan myself, and have had hilarious gardening discussions with another elderly neighbour  - no idea what HE made of it, but it seemed to me that with the help of much gesturing and body language, we managed some form of communication... although it is quite possible that he and I had a very different idea of what the discussion had been about! AND I still don't know what HE speaks!

The mind boggles, wondering what someone trying to learn French would pick up... although I did notice how my husband started saying "saing", "etaing" - especially when trying to sing "La Marseillaise" - the bit that goes:...."Qu'un sang impur....." becomes "qu"un saing impur"... hilarious...

PS - Singing La Marseillaise: this is an in-house joke, we always stand up and  sing it in front of the TV before  international football games, to show our support of Les Bleus[:D]



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As if local accents weren't enough to contend with already, you've also got all the various "regionalisms" like the tendency here to stick the word "y" everywhere (for example it's perfectly acceptable to say "j'y mets sur la table" instead of "je le mets sur la table")... "quelle heure c'est?" instead of "quelle heure est-il"... "ça neige" instead of "il neige"... there's plenty more, I could go on forever!

As if that wasn't confusing enough for the non-native speaker, the locals also like to frequently mix in words of patois (franco-provençal, to be correct) in with their French sentences... and in some cases this means completely changing the meaning of an otherwise "standard" French word, for example "j'y fais d'abord" actually translates as "I'll do it straight away" in the Savoyard sense, whereas in standard French it would mean "I'll do it first". And then you've got those people who speak only in patois (yes, these people do still exist in small villages like mine, although they all understand French as well).

Add to that the fact that the local accent here is quite rough-sounding compared to other French accents - less musical and more syllables missed out - and you have a real challenge on your hands! I'm having fun learning the language though, even if the Alps probably isn't the easiest place to learn it... once you start to understand the origin of some of the local expressions you discover that there's a real sense of humour behind it all!

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That's funny, 'cos in the Vendee patois "y" is the equivalent of  "je".

"Y saute la barriere" = I jump over the gate.

I listened mystified to my neighbour's ramblings at first, when I thought he was saying "il", and kept wondering who this third person was who had crept into the conversation!


PS  Probably "too much information", but here's a dictionary of Vendee patois, being compiled by the webmaster of "Troospeanet"
PPS  See that they have "i" for "je", but I have definitely seen it written "y", so quite likely there are variations between villages in the Vendee...

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