Parlez-vous Français

Posted on April 21, 2010


Mid-April and I find myself grounded in a remote area of the beautiful French countryside. As much as I am enjoying my disconnected status (it’s amazing how quickly one can cultivate technophobia under the right conditions), I felt I ought to make at least one entry while I’m away.

So, a brief, topical (to me) observation of the French language; I’ve always found that the lingo one encounters in France is very recognisable as the one most of us studied to some degree at school, which cannot be said for many languages read from a text book (or listened to on those strange cassette recordings of somebody supposedly going about their day) in an English classroom. French could be described as a very ‘pure’ language. The French are very proud and indeed protective of their language, as with much of their heritage. To many this attitude may seem to have resulted in a rather ‘small’ language. Initial observations of this are that it is easy to pick-up, usable, familiar. Further inquiries reveal the subtleties, with a language consisting of fewer words the emphasis on expression is far greater, and the latter is probably a key attribute to French’s reputation of beauty. This use of expression (for want of a better word) over vocabulary is demonstrated in many corners of the world. The famous single word utterance of many Native American languages, for which James Fenimore Cooper uses the literation ‘Hugh’, is used in varying applications, all differences being conveyed in the tone. In English we have such a rich language, built up over the centuries by integrating many others. Gaelic, Latin, Germanic and of course French, must be the big four. But I wonder if such a broad vocabulary could have led us to being slightly bland in our expression.

Posted in: Language