Lost in translation
Having purchased a holiday home in northern Aveyron, near Espalion, a couple of years ago, we decided to make a conscious effort to learn conversational French, to assist with integrating into the local community, especially since everyone we’ve encountered has been so generous and welcoming.
We have now entered retirement and thought that this would be the ideal opportunity to start the learning process in earnest. To this end, numerous books,tapes, CDS and French crime drama DVDS with English subtitles were subsequently purchased, with a view to achieving this goal.
However, our attempt to master the basics has experienced something of a setback. Initially we thought it was our pronunciation that was the stumbling block, but having spoken with two French couples who moved to the area from Strasbourg, and another from Paris, it was admitted that they too, experienced difficulty in understanding the local dialect. I realise now that I naively assumed that French was simply French and did not take into account that local dialects would exist and be just as widespread in France, as they are in this country.
I can sympathise with visitors to the UK who possess an understanding of the English language, but then find themselves in various parts of the country where the dialect is nothing like that spoken on the BBC World Service!
We will persevere, but it does raise the question whether there are particular areas where the local accent can be problematic even to fellow countrymen and if we have found its epicentre!
I would be interested in other readers’ experiences and how they overcame any language barrier, as the phrase “Désolé je ne comprends pas” is getting a tad over used... Although on a positive note, I could now possibly excel in a game of charades, at Christmas parties! In fact, so accomplished am I at acting out words, I’m tempted to be the one to suggest such a game in the first place! Kevin and Zoe Holmes
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