Comment from: Ian J. [Visitor]
Ian J.

Thank you, we’re already horribly self-conscious about ourselves, the last thing we need is for some yank to compare our first language to a throat disease.

…I kid. Are they from the Netherlands or Flanders (Belgium)? The accent or dialect can differ a whole damn lot, depending on the area.

You know, I’m thankful of Jeff, Josh, etc. for bearing with a 15-year old version of me and copiously correcting my mistakes. I’m sure I still make a lot of mistakes, but they’ve trimmed out a lot of them for me, currently making a better English speaker than most of my peers. It’s fun. I love the English language and the amazing arsenal of words to choose from.

Every now and then, I hear and native Dutch person speak English and they tend to translate Dutch word for word into English, creating sentences like saying “please” when you hand something over to someone and I tend to do it as well (like paying a waiter). It’s common and polite to say “alsjeblieft” which is a modern version of “als het u belieft", literally meaning: “if it pleases you". From what I can tell, it’s uncommon to say “please” when giving something, right?
Other things include saying: “Riding a car", instead of “driving", etc (I’m sure that’s illegal on some states DOHOHO get it, I’m funny.)

I don’t understand why international English usually accepts the apostrophé as a quotation mark, whereas the double quotation marks leave no confusion.

It fascinates me. I’m lucky to “surround” myself with Americans who take care of their language, online, you have no idea how much of a wealth of literary information I get just from reading your posts.
Sorry for the rant, your post just spiked an interest of mine.

05/18/12 @ 09:49
Comment from: Ian J. [Visitor]
Ian J.

Also - French teachers laughing at their pupils for making mistakes are just dicks and deserve a slap. Goddamn.

05/18/12 @ 09:51
Comment from: diana [Member]

Yo, Ian! :)

I enjoyed your rant very much. Language is an interest of mine, as well.

It wasn’t me making that uncomplimentary observation about Dutch; it was a Dutch friend of theirs. Does it matter now that I agree with the sentiment?

And yes…in the English-speaking world, we don’t say, “Please” or “If it please you” (which the French do, as well–s’il vous plait) when we offer someone something. We say, “Here,” or “Here you go.”

I may be able to explain why international English accepts an apostrophe as a quotation mark, though. This is a British (but not American) convention, and most Europeans etc. learn British English. I agree that it can create confusion. (At the same time, it’s far easier to type apostrophes than it is to type quotation marks.) Sometimes, you just have to roll with the language/punctuation/grammatical convention, and this is one of those times.

BTW…I loved my French teacher. I thought it was cool that she laughed when we fucked up the language, particularly after she told us that story, because I cannot blame her. I cannot think of that story without giggling, so I get it. Also, I laugh without reservation at Fernando’s manglements* of the English tongue because…it’s just funny what a non-native speaker will say.

* My word.


05/18/12 @ 10:49
Comment from: Aunt Bann [Visitor]
Aunt Bann

Well, I took three semesters of French in college, and remember very little of it. Of course, I’ve never been to France, nor have I ever had French friends, so the usage would be pretentious from me. One of the first phrases I really LEARNED was “j’na sais quoi". (I think that is the right spelling.) I also took one semester of Spanish, but remember even less of it, I’m sure. I took that because I needed one more semester of a foreign language for my BA, and couldn’t get the French course that followed the third semester, since it was when another required course was also meeting. So I never really USED either language!!

05/18/12 @ 21:18
Comment from: diana [Member]

Very close, Aunt Bann!

J’en sais quoi.

It’s a great line. &#59;) I use it all the time.

Love you!


05/19/12 @ 10:50
Comment from: Ian J. [Visitor]
Ian J.

(I love this blog. )
Coming from a country that has French as one of its official languages, I’m barely fluent in it. I just don’t like the language, either. What gets me along, most of the time, is “Je n’ai pas le moindre d’idée” or “N’importe pas", which both can be respectively translated into “dunno” and “don’t care".

I was kidding about the comment on Dutch. I love my language, I don’t like the sound of the accent in the Netherlands and for living in a country smaller than the US water reserve (lake Michigan), we have more local dialects than there are languages in Europe… but it’s not a pretty language for a native English/French speaker.
We do sound a lot more subtle than the aggressive sounds in German. There’s a common joke that goes around in Europe. How do you call a butterfly in several languages?
English: Butterfly (how sweet)
French: Papillion (how quaint)
Dutch: Vlinder (how pretty)
German: SHMETTERLING (about to invade Poland)
Tim Allen did a skit on this, if I remember correctly.

If you ever get a French and a German person in one room, you should try and address both of them on their own respective languages. It might get ugly, but GODS is it funny.

With this, I leave you with a scene from legendary French comedian Louis de Funes:

05/19/12 @ 12:17
Comment from: Hinermad [Visitor]

J’en sais quoi.


I’ve been hearing that phrase for years, and from context I assumed it meant some quality like coolness, confidence, suaveness. I only just learned this year what it really means.

I think where a lot of mirth at non-native speakers’ expense comes from isn’t the lack of language skill but the lack of knowledge of local idioms and euphemisms. It isn’t the student’s fault at all. It’s the natives who are misusing the language.

Heck, that even happens to native speakers. Go into any furniture store in America and tell a salesman you’ve had a wardrobe malfunction. I guarantee the first thing he’ll think of won’t be the opportunity to sell you a new wardrobe.


05/19/12 @ 12:59

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