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Message in a bottle

Message in a bottle

A French love letter was found near Falmouth, Cornwall last week.

The beer bottle was found by Martin Leslie, a coastguard manager, and his family as they walked on Praa Sands, near Falmouth.

The bottle was poking out of the sand; its top was sealed with red candle wax. Inside was a three A4 pages handwritten in French and dated September 28th.

Mr Leslie had a go at translating the letter using the internet but could only decipher words relating to love, death and missing someone.

He assumed that the letter must be a suicide note and handed the letter to Falmouth Coastguards to pass onto their counterparts in France.

According to the Telegraph Mr Leslie said the woman said she and her lover shared magical moments together but that she understood that he had to return to his wife. She finished by saying she hoped to find another man like him with whom she could live a beautiful life.

The letter said ”These magic moments are pure secret. The secret of life and pleasure without limits. In twenty years, it will still be here, the previous moments of happiness, when life will get dreary, we will be able to tap into these memories to remember what it is to live again.”

Mr Leslie plans to keep hold of the letter which is unsigned and has no contact address on it.

Language Fracas Heats Up In Quebec

In Quebec, Canada’s sole French-speaking province, language has long been a contentious issue.  Now, the results of a recent survey performed by research agency CROP have added fuel to the fire.

To perform the survey, CROP interviewed 560 people who live in Quebec but did not grow up in French-speaking households. The participants were a mix of Anglos (Canadians who grew up in English-speaking households) and immigrants from other countries.

In its write-up of the results, local magazine L’actualité portrayed the results as devastating for the future of French in Quebec. The magazine cover featured a frog holding a sign that reads “Ici, on parle English” or “Here, we speak English.”

Inside, the article claimed that the survey results showed that young Anglos living in Quebec simply do not care about preserving the province’s historically French culture.

For example, only 37% agreed with the following statement:  “The predominant position of the French language is the key component of Montreal’s originality. Without it, the city would lose its soul.” Young English speakers also didn’t recognize local, French-speaking Quebec government figures and celebrities.

However,  most of Quebec’s anglos do in fact speak French, and 83 percent wanted their children to learn the language, too. Plus, surveys like this can be unreliable and this one had a rather small sample size.

Nonetheless, the government of Quebec has already taken action, encouraging the province’s “language watchdog” to take action more quickly, and finding the funds for the agency to hire more employees. One legislator has also proposed more stringent language rules.

However, according to  Globe and Mail columnist Lysiane Gagnon, these measures don’t get to the root of the problem:

“Nowhere in L’actualité’s issue on “the future of French” is there a word about the main reason of the (relative) decline of French in Montreal: the fact that the French-speaking middle class is leaving the city in droves to settle in the nearby suburbs.”

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The Language of Love

Valentine’s Day is approaching fast, a time when we express our love with cards and presents. Love is honoured on this day throughout the world.

Valentine’s Day is shrouded with myths of sacred marriage, fertility and romance. The true St. Valentine was a Christian saint but very little is known about him. Originally St Valentine’s Day was celebrated as a Christian feast but it was abandoned due to lack of solid information. There are many Valentine’s in history martyred by the church and until 1969 the Catholic Church actually celebrated 11 Valentine’s Days throughout the year.

Language is a very important part of the Valentine’s celebrations. Billions of cards are sent on Valentine’s making it the second most popular time to send cards behind Christmas. What is said in the card can mean so much to the receiver even when the sender sticks with tradition and sends their words anonymously.

There are certain languages which have an association with love, French and Italian being the most famous romantic languages.French has a reputation for being the language of love; its flowing sound makes it perfect for flamboyant love poems. Descending from Latin, French is one of the ‘romance languages’ and is spoken as a first language by approximately 128 million people around the world.

Valentine’s Day has no real connection with French but the perception is that the French are very romantic. This may or may not be true, I would guess that it depends on the individual but the smooth, romantic tones of their language impress people from around the world on this day for lovers.

Valentine’s Day has become a very commercial event perhaps we should do something extra special this year, learn a phrase in French and recite it to your loved one. Below we have included some examples to get you started….

Bonne Saint Valentin! – Happy Valentine’s Day!

Je t’aime – I love you

Mon amour pour toi est éternel – My love for you is eternal

Je t’aime de tout mon cœur – I love you with all my heart

À toi, pour toujours – Yours forever

Tendres baisers – Love and kisses

Je veux passer la reste de ma vie avec toi – I want to spend the rest of my life with you.

Tu es la femme de ma vie – you are the woman of my life (a man talking to a woman and telling her)

Un bouquet de fleurs – a bunch of flowers
Une bague – a ring

With it being Valentines Day those romantic men among you may want to ask….
Veux-tu m’épouser ? – Marry me? (Will you be my wife?)

Or if you want to be cheeky….
On va chez toi ou chez moi ? – Your place or mine?

The Language of Love

Valentine’s Day is approaching fast, a time when we express our love with cards and presents. Love is honoured on this day throughout the world.

Valentine’s Day is shrouded with myths of sacred marriage, fertility and romance. The true St. Valentine was a Christian saint but very little is known about him. Originally St Valentine’s Day was celebrated as a Christian feast but it was abandoned due to lack of solid information. There are many Valentine’s in history martyred by the church and until 1969 the Catholic Church actually celebrated 11 Valentine’s Days throughout the year.

Language is a very important part of the Valentine’s celebrations. Billions of cards are sent on Valentine’s making it the second most popular time to send cards behind Christmas. What is said in the card can mean so much to the receiver even when the sender sticks with tradition and sends their words anonymously.

There are certain languages which have an association with love, French and Italian being the most famous romantic languages.

French has a reputation for being the language of love; its flowing sound makes it perfect for flamboyant love poems. Descending from Latin, French is one of the ‘romance languages’ and is spoken as a first language by approximately 128 million people around the world.

Valentine’s Day has no real connection with French but the perception is that the French are very romantic. This may or may not be true, I would guess that it depends on the individual but the smooth, romantic tones of their language impress people from around the world on this day for lovers.

Valentine’s Day has become a very commercial event perhaps we should do something extra special this year, learn a phrase in French and recite it to your loved one. Below we have included some examples to get you started….

Bonne Saint Valentin! – Happy Valentine’s Day!

Je t’aime – I love you

Mon amour pour toi est éternel – My love for you is eternal

Je t’aime de tout mon cœur – I love you with all my heart

À toi, pour toujours – Yours forever

Tendres baisers – Love and kisses

Je veux passer la reste de ma vie avec toi – I want to spend the rest of my life with you.

Tu es la femme de ma vie – you are the woman of my life

Un bouquet de fleurs – a bunch of flowers
Une bague – a ring

With it being Valentines Day those romantic men among you may want to ask….
Veux-tu m’épouser ? – Marry me? (Will you be my wife?)

Or if you want to be cheeky….
On va chez toi ou chez moi ? – Your place or mine?

twitter changes French language

How Twitter is Changing French

We all know that technology is changing the English language, adding new words and bringing shorthand like LOL and WTF even into spoken conversations.

However, English isn’t the only language that’s being affected by the rise of new forms of communication like Twitter and Facebook.

If you’ve studied Spanish, French or a related language, you’ll remember having to learn two forms “you,” one used to address friends and family and another used to address strangers, older adults and people otherwise ranked higher than you in the social hierarchy.

As the BBC recently covered, however, on Twitter, the formal “you” is hardly ever used. After all, it’s somewhat difficult to determine social status based on an avatar.

As Anthony Besson, a young Frenchman and Twitter user interviewed for the article put it,

“In the philosophy of the internet, we are among peers, equal, without social distinction, whatever your age, gender, income or status in real life.”

Professor Antonio Casilli, who teaches Digital Humanities at Telecom ParisTech, told the BBC that using (or requiring someone else to use) “vous” on Twitter goes against this philosophy, making it “a major break in the code of communication… an attempt to reaffirm asymmetric social roles… a manifestation of distance that compromises social cohesion.”

But don’t consign “vous” to the trash heap of history just yet. At the moment, there’s a bit of a culture clash going on. Most people still see using “vous” as a way to show respect, and some see using “tu” uninvited as an insult.

For example, last year news magazine director Laurent Joffrin confronted a follower on Twitter for using “tu” without permission. While his follower probably didn’t mean to insult him with the informal address, Joffrin was showered with a flurry of deliberate online insults for his trouble.

Somewhat ironically, he accuses people who use “tu” on Twitter of trying to implement their own hierarchy. He told the BBC,

“It doesn’t bring people together, it heightens tensions. It’s an appalling culture. People on Twitter would never dare to go up to someone in the street and call them ‘tu’ because it’s a form of violence – you see drivers insulting each other using ‘tu’. In big cities especially, you need respect and courtesy. And on Twitter, there isn’t respect.”

As the online world and the offline world increasingly bleed into each other, it will be interesting to see how this trend shakes out.

 

NYC French Language Bookstore Set to Close

Librarie de France bookstore in New York City which specialises in French Language books looks set to close after being in business for 74 years. Librarie de France has said it is being forced to close because of the high rental costs that threatened to triple to $1 million a year. According to store owner Emanuel Molho the shop lease ends on the 30th September 2009.

Molho is quoted as saying: “New York is becoming impossible for retail”.

Librarie de France is world famous and is the only bookstore of its kind in the United States. Each member of staff who works in the bookstore can speak at least two languages. The business was started by Molho’s father, Isaac in 1928. In 1935, the shop moved to its current location, the La Maison Francaise building near the Rockefeller Centre skating rink.

It’s a shame that such a specialist language bookstore will go out of business due to the extortionate rents being imposed on New York’s retail businesses.

French: The Language of Love

French is often called “the language of love,” and for one American couple, that’s quite literally true.  According to NewsTimes.com, French was the spark that ignited an enduring romance between Pamela Saltzman, a teacher from New Jersey, and Badreddine Ahtchi, a graduate student from Algeria.

The two met after being dragged out to a bar by their respective groups of friends. Ms. Saltzman had studied French in college and loved the language, which was Mr. Ahtchi’s native tongue. When she heard him speaking French, she couldn’t resist the opportunity to introduce herself and get some practice in. She told NewsTimes.com:

“We had a short conversation in French, and he asked me to dinner.”

One dinner turned into a series of dates. Ms. Saltzman became entranced by both Mr. Ahtchi and by his Algerian culture:

“He introduced me to a whole world I didn’t know. It’s a beautiful, rich, Old World culture.”

Read more

Why French is Important: 12 Facts You Should Know

March 18-26 is French Language Week (or more properly, Semaine de la Langue Française et de la Francophonie).

In that spirit, we’d like to offer our own salute to the French language.  Over the past few years, it’s become somewhat fashionable to say that French is passé. For example, see this article in the New Republic, called “Let’s Stop Pretending That French Is an Important Language.”

So, why is French important in today’s world?

Here are 12 reasons  why French is still an important language (and one that global businesses can’t afford to ignore.)

80 million people around the world speak French as a native language.

61 million of them live in France, naturally. But French-speaking communities exist around the world:

  • Quebec and New Brunswick, Canada
  • Wallonia, Belgium
  •  Parts of Switzerland
  • Monaco
  • 22 French-speaking countries in Africa

Amongst EU citizens, French is the fourth most common mother tongue. Or maybe it’s the second most common. It depends on who you’re asking.

12% of EU citizens speak it. And while the number of French native speakers may pale in comparison to the number of native speakers of Mandarin, Spanish or English, that’s only half the story.

Because . . .

274 million people around the world speak French.

190 million people speak French as a second language, and experts estimate that a total of 274 million people around the world can speak French as either a first or a second language.  Out of that number, 212 million use it daily.

Meanwhile, 1 out 5 Europeans speaks French as a second language. Read more

Baby talk

When Do Babies Start Learning Language?

By now, almost everyone knows that infants begin to learn language long before they utter their first words. But did you know that babies start learning language before they are even born? At least, that’s the conclusion that German researchers from the University of Wurzburg came to in a new study, published in the journal “Current Biology.”

For the study, the researchers recorded and analyzed the cries of 60 different newborn babies. Some of the babies were born to French-speaking parents; others were born to German-speaking parents. You might think that that wouldn’t matter, that all babies sound the same when they cry. However, the babies were only 3 to 5 days old, and they were already crying in “accents” that mimicked the intonations of the adult’s language. So, the French babies’ cries had a rising inflection, and the German babies’ cries had a falling inflection.

According to the researchers, the babies were most likely imitating the speech they had heard while in the womb.  In this article from the BBC, researcher Kathleen Wermke said that  “The dramatic finding of this study is that not only are human neonates capable of producing different cry melodies, but they prefer to produce those melody patterns that are typical for the ambient language they have heard during their foetal life. Contrary to orthodox interpretations, these data support the importance of human infants’ crying for seeding language development.”

Wermke also theorized that the babies were trying to bond more closely with their mothers by mimicking them in the only way possible-through the intonation of their cries.

New French Prime Minister’s Name Lost in Translation

Poor Jean-Marc Ayrault. The new French Prime Minister had hardly a moment to enjoy his new position when it was revealed that his last name, if pronounced properly, sounds like “penis” in Arabic. More specifically, it sounds like a slang term used to refer to the organ in the third person singular possessive form (i.e. “his penis.”)

Of course, the press was all over the awkward translation — the potential headlines and  jokes were just too good to ignore. For example, Albabwa.com observed that under the circumstances, Ayrault ” would be considered linguistically as well as parliamentarily-speaking to be the ‘dick-head’ of cabinet.” Meanwhile, the Daily Mail’s headline pulled no punches: “Jean-Marc Ayrault leaves Middle East red-faced… as his name sounds like the Arabic for penis.”  Bloomberg chose to be more delicate: “France’s Ayrault Creates Anatomical Challenge For Arab Press.”

The mainstream Arabic press, of course, has less of an opportunity to snark, as they’d prefer to offend neither their more conservative readers nor the French Prime Minister himself.  They coped as best they could, taking liberties with both spelling and pronunciation, or just referring to him by his first name.

Obviously, a more permanent solution was needed, and fortunately the French foreign ministry stepped forward to issue some guidelines. Per the Daily Mail,

‘The ministry has sent out a press release to the Arabic media, telling them how the name should be said in French. But it also says that Mr Ayrault finds it acceptable that they pronounce all the letters of his name, including the “l” and the “t” at the end, so that it sounds like “Eye-rolte.”

There are only so many sounds that can be used to form words, making occasional occurrences like this inevitable. Fun fact: as the Daily Mail observes, the French themselves had to alter the pronunciation of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s last name, as it sounds like “prostitute” in French. Or, remember the Australian woman who got her nickname inscribed onto her car’s vanity plates only to find that it had an unexpected meaning in Tagalog?

For more name translation humour, head on over to the Atlantic for a very funny round-up of names that just don’t travel well.