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      July 2011 > Bonjour, Bonjour!

Bonjour, Bonjour!

WaiterWills and Kate (I mean, ‘the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’) have just come back from Canada, their first royal tour as a married couple. The trip seems to have been quite well received apart from one or two demonstrations by les Québecois, affronted by the Duke’s truly appalling French accent. (It’s all well and good learning the words, Your Royal Highness, but one has to know how to deliver them, too!)

It all boils down to accent, of course. One simply cannot speak French with a public schoolboy accent and expect to get away with it - it simply doesn’t work. And the same applies to all other languages, too.

I’m always reminded of the BBC’s long-running sitcom, ‘Allo, ‘Allo!, starring Gordon Kaye as René Artois. Love it or loathe it, the way the characters delivered their lines (in English) but with a stereotypical accent for the person they were portraying (French civilians, Italian major, German officer, English airmen or policeman) was very clever. The accent identified the characters’ national identity, so when the British airmen were speaking English they did so with a frightfully ‘posh’ English accent, and when the British soldier disguised as French policeman spoke French he also did so with an English accent (à la Duke) yet complete with all the mispronunciations and schoolboy errors of one learning the language for the first time.

The point is that to speak a foreign language, you have to not only say the words but you have to also get into the psyche of that nation’s voice, albeit a caricature. Imagine you are René and start speaking like him – and then begin to speak French – and you’re half way there. Imagine you are one of the many Italian chefs who grace our TV screens, these days – or that bloke off ‘Strictly’ – and mimic his way of speaking English – and then begin to speak Italian. See what I mean? It’s all about putting on an act. You have to ‘become’ French or Italian, etc, and speak with all the nuances, inflections and gesticulations as you imagine a French or Italian person would do, if you want your accent to sound plausible.

Obviously, there are many different regional accents to contend with – but I don’t intend to complicate things here – and there’s a fine line between attempting an authentic accent and taking the mickey, but it’s well worth the effort. So, the next time you’re asking the waiter for “deux bières s’il vous plaît”, “dos cervezas por favor”, “zwei biere, bitte” or “due birre, per favore ”, imagine you’re on the set of ‘Allo, ‘Allo! – and see how you get on.

Oh, René!

Dorada beer, Tenerife

Posted: 07/07/2011 15:15:25 by | with 0 comments
Filed under: Canada, heritage, opinions, Spain

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