Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Funny Side Of Learning A Foreign Language

I was watching a documentary the other evening. When I say watching, I was busy doing something else, but was kind of listening, which for this documentary didn't fare too well.

On the documentary, there was a man, who's first language was not English...in any form... The subtitles told me what he was intending to say in English, although, even with the subtitles, it didn't remotely sound anything like what the subtitles were telling me...until...

He swore. In English. It was pronounced so clearly and carefully, even using the plural, and used in the correct context! The man was explaining how he had been robbed. He told us all, sitting at home with our horlicks, that the 'f*****s' took everything he owned. He also used the swear work in not only the correct context, but also he demonstrated it in the correct tense! He told us all, who by now had choked on our horlicks, that he was now 'f****d*' because he had nothing.

That is pretty impressive...is it not? I'm not sure if his English tutor has been doing a darn good job, but with a bad choice of words, or an appalling job with wonderful vocabulary!

This made me think of my language lessons at school and college. I recall sitting for hours in lessons listening to people, embarrassed in pronouncing a French/Spanish/German word, getting it wrong on purpose. The teacher groaning a sigh of defeat and pronouncing it with exaggerated mouth work out to attempt even one pupil to have the word flow of their lips... It never did.

Even now, as an adult, if  a friend or colleague reads out an except from a magazine, will even the simplest 'bonjour' come out as 'bonshjoor' with the same nasally deep sound it is intended as? No.
It comes out as 'bonnjoower' doesn't it?

Yes. We are no good at this...at all. Our embarrassment overcomes any slight hint that we are pretty darn good at any form of foreign language pronunciation.

HOWEVER....

However, have you ever been to a football match? WOW! Every football fan in the British isles becomes completely fluent in their pronunciation! It's incredible! From the highest of the Scottish highlands to the broadest cockney...they can pronounce an Italian footballers name to a T! The French names roll of the tongue with a flourish and, women beware... Has your man even corrected your pronunciation?! Yes! I believe the answer is YES!