Not Saussure

April 10, 2007

An incredibly important announcement

Filed under: Foreigners — notsaussure @ 1:45 pm

I have been asked to bring to people’s attention an ‘earth-shatteringly important blog,’ With One Bound. Its creator is apparently

English, incredibly handsome, extraordinarily intelligent and disarmingly charming. He lives in France. And that is all you need to know for now.

He’s also got an engagingly direct way of asking people for links and wants people to know about a ‘fabulously important article’ he wrote some time ago concerning the inability of his fellow ex-pats to learn French.

I’ve never seen any reason why this should be a problem, myself; I was taught at school that if even the bloody Frogs can manage to do something then there’s no excuse for a Brit not making a decent stab at it, and that this applies to speaking French as much as to anything else.



  1. Still scratching my head over this one, Notsaussure.

    Comment by jameshigham — April 10, 2007 @ 2:02 pm

  2. Thank you Notsaussure. I feel enriched.

    Comment by Noosa Lee — April 11, 2007 @ 4:14 pm

  3. Actually, the point is and has always been that if the French can speak French then … SO CAN WE! It’s a language, not a secret society. There are no secret handshakes and funny winks involved. You also don’t need to wear a special apron. Nor do you need to be a friend of the Duke of Kent. Amazingly, anyone can learn it. But it isn’t easy. And why’s that? Because it’s a … yes, gosh, … DIFFERENT language. Which means you have to make an effort. Further, past the age of, say, 15, you’ll never get the accent right – though for innocent pleasure ask any Frenchman or woman to pronouce the word “trousers” and you’ll instantly see that it is just as tricky for them as it is for us. But it isn’t impossible.

    Comment by The Creator — April 12, 2007 @ 6:05 pm

  4. I was being perfectly serious as, I’m sure, was my old French teacher. A lot of the problem, I think, is that people are worried about making fools of themselves (never bothered me very much, as this blog will evidence) so they’re frightened of people laughing at their poor French accents or whatever. As you say in your piece, though, the French always seem astonishingly polite and tolerant others’ fumbling attempts to speak their language — far more so than, usually, are Brits with foreigners trying to speak English.

    Certainly, when I was working in Russia I had a couple of one-day immersion classes before I went so I had an idea of what was going on, and then just dived in, very frequently asking people what things were called in Russian. Didn’t take me long to pick it up well enough to get by, though I was never particularly fluent in the language.

    Comment by notsaussure — April 12, 2007 @ 6:53 pm

  5. It is incontestably the case that for the vast majority of intelligent, civilised English/British, the humiliation of not speaking any foreign language well when you have, after all, apparently been decently educated is hard to shake. You naturally take refuge in the comforting thought that English is now the world’s pre-eminent tongue.

    That said, as a practical matter, even if the French have had to accept that English rules, there are astonishing job opportunities for those who are properly bi-lingual.

    I know the EU have had difficulty finding translators for Maltese – which is particularly stupid given that everyone in Malta speaks English so that, funnily enough, it actually isn’t necessary to find Maltese-Polish translators – but a properly fluent English-French, or English-German or English-Italian speaker has more or less got a highly paid job for life (plus pension).

    A point the DoE – not to mention the NUT – seems oddly slow to grasp.

    Actually, there is a very interesting piece to be written about the world of official EU translators. Hmmm…

    Comment by The Creator — April 12, 2007 @ 8:45 pm

  6. There is indeed an interesting piece to be written about the world of official EU translators; I have to be careful what I say here, since it concerns a relative of a long-standing friend, but suffice it to say that I happen to know one of the few people who ever managed almost to get sacked from such a post. He’s a native-speaking Brit and his language combination is by no means unusual.

    The fact he’s still got his very highly-paid job, despite the little problem he had at work as a result of his alcoholism (he’s now on the wagon) confirms that, as you say, it’s a job for life. I wish I could say more, because it’s a very funny story, but I promised his sister I’d never repeat what she told me about the events of that unfortunate day.

    Comment by notsaussure — April 12, 2007 @ 9:36 pm

  7. Oh, go on. I won’t tell. Honest.

    Actually, the real nonsense is that, once swept along by the gravy train, it’s almost harder to get off than to get on in the first place.

    And just think, it’s us suckers paying for it. And best of all, we don’t have a choice! Oh, how lucky we are!

    Au lit! (And 10 out of 10 if you can tell me how to say that in Maltese – because I sure as hell can’t).

    Comment by The Creator — April 12, 2007 @ 10:04 pm

  8. Il-lejl it-tajjeb, apparently.

    Comment by notsaussure — April 12, 2007 @ 10:39 pm

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