The difference between "qu'on" & "con"

Trip Start Sep 26, 2011
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Flag of France  , Rhône-Alpes,
Sunday, November 13, 2011

After discussing the challenges that we, English assistants, have encountered when talking with the French, it has dawned on many of us that the difference in one little sound can make or break a conversation with someone. Learning a second language can be challenging, but I think mastering the accent and key sounds is what really makes it a struggle. No wonder my host family in Paris had no clue what I was saying 90% of the time, after taking phonetics, I've realized I have said everything wrong! 

But what really trips my trigger, is how one little change in a sound can determine whether someone understands you or not. For example, my friends and I had dinner with my roommate the other night and we were talking about Voiron (a city outside Grenoble). Confused as to where we were referring to, Marie has us repeat the word about a dozen times, until she finally caught on.

"Voi-ron" 
"Quoi?" 
"Vooi-roooon" 
"Quoi?" 
"VOI-RON" 
"Oh, oui, Voiron" 

Or like when my friend, who works in the town of Echirolles, tries to explain where her school is to any French people we meet. The "r" in Echirolles is to be rolled. So in other words, imagine digging deep into your throat and trying to hawk up a loogie, but instead of actually spitting (but that would be gross), form the sound of an "r". *Please do not attempt this in public, I don't want to be blamed for any awkward moments of accidentally spitting on someone or something! 

And though my pronounciation isn't perfect on a majority of my French, I swear some people don't "understand" because I'm not speaking correctly enough for them, but that I'm a foreigner, not speaking correctly enough. For example, we were at the cinema and a friend asked for a ticket to see "Les Sentiments des Couleurs" and I have to admit, she said it pretty spot-on, but the woman behind the ticket booth had no idea what she was saying. 

"Trois etudiants pour les sentiments des couleurs"
"Comment?" 
"Les sentiments des couleurs"
"Quel film?"
"Les SENTIMENTS des COUleuRS!" 
"mmmm"
our friend, Grace tells her: "Les sentiments des couleurs" 
"ah, oui, est-ce que tu as des cartes etudiants?"

Honestly woman, what other film is playing at the theater with a name relatively sounding to that one. None. Stop being so picky. 

In addition, after having quite the debate with my English friends at a bar one night, we have mutually agreed that there are too many French words that not only sound similar (or the exact same), but have a similar sounding word that is extremely offensive or inappropriate. For example, "c'est quand?" (It's when?), is oddly similar to "c'est con." (that's f*ing stupid). Or "J'aimerais juste un baiser." (I want just a kiss), is ironicly similar to "J'aimerais juste baiser" (I want just to get laid). So make sure you use the article "un" when using that phrase...

Or better yet, when you are at a dinner party, and you are full, say "J'ai assez mange" (I have eaten enough). I would advise against using the literally French word for full or "plein" in this incidence. If you were to say "Je suis plein" (literally, I am full), you are actually stating "I am a pregnant cow." 

You can quickly dig yourself a deep whole with the French language. Best advice: don't know how to pronounce a word or phrase? Think of a different way to express yourself.
 
 
 

 
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Comments

mama g on

After reading all that (and laughing so hard I had tears...) I have decided to never open my mouth in France. Do they understand "mime"?

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