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Perils of the French R

I was explaining to a woman that has a child in Sweet Bear’s school which I had promised to give the Ultimate Brownie recipe to that I hadn’t forgotten to do it. It was taking me a couple days because I had to translate it from English into French. I didn’t mention all the other little life chores that have kept me busy the last few days. For example: laundry day, cable guys working in and out of our apartment for an entire day rewiring, knitting…knitting…knitting my mother’s scarf as fast as possible because she said she didn’t have one and it is cold now in Ohio, and the continuous cleaning and cooking that comes along with three small children.

She had told me that her son who never likes to eat cake came home after Sweet Bear’s birthday party at school going on and on about how good her cake was. I told her that it was actually a brownie that I had made and I would be happy to give her the recipe.

So, as I was explaining that I hadn’t translated the recipe it became humorous as she could not understand me at all when I said ‘recette’. I said it three times experimenting with how to get that French R out correctly. I put my tongue down behind my bottom teeth and forced out an rrrecette with as much vibration as I could muster without being silly. It was a success. Another mother figured out what the word was! Damn my accent!

It was funny because it is such a simple word but because of the ‘re’ it was hard for me to get it out right.

I have, also, found that some people have more trouble understanding me with my accent than others. I know that it is normal because I can remember when Vilay would get so frustrated in the States because someone didn’t understand him. He would tell me that everyone but this one person could understand him. That wasn’t entirely true. My parents will sometimes tell me that Vilay’s English is good but they still have to at times concentrate to get past his accent. I find it funny because I never had trouble understanding him even in the beginning.

So, if I want to have everyone understand me I have to remember not to get lazy in my pronunciation of the harder French sounds like the R and the U.

Just because the people that I talk to almost daily can understand my accent doesn’t mean someone else will.

After everyone figured out I was saying recette (recipe) we all had a big laugh about it.

It really doesn’t bother or embarrass me when something like that happens. I learn from it. What I learned is I have to slow way down when trying to say any word beginning with a French R.

I cannot be lazy and must at all times remember to stick the tip of my tongue on the back of the bottom row of my teeth and vibrate the R from the back of my throat!!! NO exceptions.

As my husband told me once in regard to my French…”You are a lazy girl”. In all fairness, he said that after he asked me if I knew the French word for work and I was able to tell him after almost 10 years since my last French course at Miami University.

I call that lucky not lazy.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • expatraveler November 10, 2007, 3:21 am

    ah yes travailler! I loved this story so much and the snow markers above and also I think it is so cool that you speak to the other mothers…

    As well, don’t worry, my accent is horrible too! And some people don’t understand me either.. We have an American English accent… Just accept it. ;-)

  • Cathy Y. November 10, 2007, 6:55 pm

    The French R almost reminds me of a W in English without the usual moving of the lips to form a W. If you make a W sound very slowly, you’ll notice your tongue sort of goes back in your throat in the same way it does to make the French R. Then you just don’t move your lips as for the W, but use the same tongue movement, maybe a little more pronounced than you would with the W. That’s the best way I can figure it. Does that make sense? Sometimes when I hear people speaking the French R (as well the Hebrew R, which is very similar), it almost sounds like a muted W to me.

  • jessica January 27, 2008, 6:39 pm

    this post rings home with me!!! i lived in neuchatel for a year and a half, and the guttural R was my biggest obstacle. I started to learn about it but then Jon, my fiancé from Neuch, told me that now I was overdoing it, and hacking on every word :). its a tough one to master. i had to spell the word Mari for husband numerous times…

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