Monday, March 19, 2012

The differences between French and English, or: Why the Bloggess should be bummed she isn't tweeting in French

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece called "I love France." Hokey? Totally, but it was for an assignment, so I went with it. I listed a whole bunch of reasons why I think France is the bee's knees, including, "Because the French language is beautiful in its nuances."

My writing teacher wasn't buying it. She handed the paper back with "Prove it" written on it. So I tried to revise the short piece, and when I came to that sentence, I thought, and then I pondered, and then I finally contemplated, and yet couldn't come up with anything. So I turned to the Internets to see if someone had ever addressed this issue before.

Ah, but they had! Goldmine!

Not so fast. It seems, that actually, the French language is rather unspecific, and not nuanced. Apparently, the English language has half a million words, and French only has 70,000. So, the English language is actually the one that's beautiful in it's nuances.

Take a look at all of the different ways you can translate fil: string, thread, wire, yarn. Think of how many characters The Bloggess could have saved if she'd been asking Nathan Fillion to hold "un fil" instead of "a piece of twine"!

In their defense, the same website has a roundup of all of the different English words that have several meanings in French (the word crue, for example, indicates a river has flooded because of a change in the seasons), but there is far more specificity in English.

Now I know.

**For the record, when I wrote that that completely unspecific (irony!) phrase, I was actually trying to allude to the fact that it's possible to insult people in French in ways that don't even exist in English--such as using the "tu" form when you really should be using the "vous" form, or conjugating your verbs inaccurately (I had one student who seriously offended her host family when she would conjugate "vouloir" as "veux" ("I want") instead of "voudrais" ("I would like").

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