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‘A Green Worm Is Going toward a Green Glass’ and Other French Nightmares

May 2nd, 2017 · No Comments · France

I have lived in France for about 15 months now and I am sometimes asked: “How is your French coming along?”

The answer?

It ain’t.

As I told a fellow Yank, a few weeks ago: “My French is nonexistent.”

He chuckled at that. “Nonexistent. Ha.”

It would help if I were trying harder than “puzzling through French text” and “listening for key words in the conversations of others”. By, you know, taking lessons or devoting myself to study. But I prefer to take a whack at the idea of gradually absorbing the basics through osmosis.

Part of my problem with French is that it doesn’t have enough words. No. Really.

Steve Martin, the comic, once complained, tongue in cheek: “The French have a different word for everything!”

But he is wrong. The French often have the same word/sound for wildly different topics.

Take for example, this infamous French sentence: “A green worm is going toward a green glass.”

And how would the French say it?

Something like: “Le ver vert va vers la verre verte.”

Literally, “the worm green goes toward the glass green”. And all those words beginning with the letters v-e-r are pronounced pretty much the same: Verr.

This web page notes several other French conundrums.

Another string of words pronounced pretty much the same way — “say” but with different meanings — go like this: C’est, s’est, ses, ces, sais, sait — and can mean “it is” or “his” or “these” or “to know”.

Personne can mean no one or someone.

Plus can mean more or none.

And like that.

Anglophones who have studied French formally have trouble with those, and others like them.

And don’t even ask about how the French count. Everything from 70 (sixty-ten) to 99 (four-twenties-nineteen) is crazy.

So, no, not much progress here on French, beyond an appreciation of how difficult it is.


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