Sunday, January 17, 2010

Language of the last word

French, j’ai pensé, is the language of the last word. At conversation groups, when French natives speak, I always seem to hear the tail end of each response, and in les paroles of French music I always seem to comprehend le dernier mot of a line.

This is, of course, because the syllabic stress is on the final sound of a rhythmic grouping—not, I swear, because I’m only listening to the last sound that’s uttered.

For those of us new to French, it sounds a little like lalalalalalalalalalavais, lalalalalalalalalanez, lalalalalalalalaouais, when we hear the French banter with each other.

If I can pick out a word mid-sentence, I sometimes think for a moment j’ai gagné, until I realize there was a pause that elicited an emphasized syllable.

Ainsi, I would like to suggest that French speakers, when addressing the great untrained such as moi, try to contain the gist of the sentence in the final word.

An example of how a debutante can get the wrong idea:
Cute francophone #1: Ne vois pas maintenant, mais le femme etrange viens—son nom est Jeanne, ouais?
(in this case, the final word is my name followed by the French “yeah,” so I know I’m the subject of the sentence)
Cute francophone #2: J’ai achete une nouvelle chienne qui aboye beaucoup mais ses poils sont si très jolies.
(now I’m liking what I hear)
#1: Si j’aurais le chance, je vais inviter la princesse de Monaco pour un diner romantique.
(wow, I never realized how much he liked me!)
#2: Alors, c’est plus tard et j’ai sommeil. Je pense que je pars de coucher.
(Ouah, je rougis!)
I’m just getting ready to pull an Amelie and don my zorro costume, when…
(Donc, ils partent. Le fin, mais moi, je suis en seule avec mes joues rouges.)

So, well, you can see how misunderstandings could arrive.

But emphasizing the final sound also leads one de trouver les gens françaises plus passionant, ouais? Et qui n’aime pas ça? And maybe, just maybe, sometime the last word will be mine!

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