Wednesday, May 28, 2003
The French Tickle: While we're on all things French, I wanted to respond to your note on the "lyrical" qualities of the French language. Having studied it as you have, and having lived there for six months, I know the topic. I also grew up with a father who spoke fluent German (of course I usually just heard "Nein!!" or "Schweinhund!", but we can leave that for therapy), so I can compare the language. German is much harder to conjugate in terms of how we think as the verbs will often come at the end of a sentence ("...the dog I see...") and the language is certainly famous for its twenty-letter words. Plus the Germans have a lot of hard consonants, which the French do not. Spanish is melodic, but it seems to be spoken at a speed that is at least twice that of any other. Italian, in my opinion, may be the most beautiful because of the sheer joy most Italians seem to have in speaking it. Back to the frogs. The area I lived in (the Loire Valley) was known for its most "pure" spoken word. If you went down to southern Provence, the language was almost Italian, but a really bad Italian. Close to Germany in the Alsace area, it gets a bit funky as well. But in the Loire, it really was quite beautiful, and didn't share the "waa-waa" effect which you rightly criticize, and is most tellingly found in Canada, whose inhabitants could make me kill with their accent. Whether the French deserve their self-imposed status as the pinnacle of society can be debated later, but I think their language, in its most pure form, is in the top tier of European languages for its sheer tonal resonance and beauty.