International accents, learning French; things you won’t learn in evening class

I was staggered one day last winter when in Belize.  I was talking with an American man and a young man from Liverpool.  The Liverpool chap had a very heavy Liverpuddlian accent.  My accent, I’m afraid to say, makes me sound like Princess Anne.  What staggered me is that the American couldn’t hear the difference.  Not hear the difference ?!    I found that amazing.  On reflection, however, I told him that – actually – I couldn’t hear the difference between the Canadian and the American accent.  I was assured there was very little difference.  By this time a Canadian woman had joined our group and she, rather to the irritation of the American, told me that her accent is softer.

The discussion continued in this vein for a while (we were sitting at the bar of our son’s budget hostel in Hopkins – lovely – the bar is up under the trees where it is cool and there are a lot of young people from all over the world) and an Australian joined us.  Surely, I said to the American, you can hear that his accent is different ?  Nope.  No way.

Having been in France many years I can now tell a “working class” accent, I suppose.  Certainly in this area.  I can also tell accents from the south of France where they have a delightful twang.  France does have regional accents, of course, but they are not as pronounced as the British ones.  Or at least so it seems to me.

As always, just as they pop in to my head (accents – the other sort of accent – missing):-

un clin d’oeil – a wink

rouler au pas – drive dead slow

une ordonnance – a prescription

en revanche – on the other hand

rien n’y fit – there was nothing for it

une petite voix – a small voice, ie you don’t sound on form: tu as une petite voix

abonnement – subscription (to a magazine for example)

au fond de mon lit – huddled up in bed

figure-toi – mark you

drolement – particularly, eg he was particularly rude: il etait drolement impoli

un particulier – an individual person (as opposed to a firm/company)

mere poule – motherly

le cadet de mes soucis – the least of my worries

chanceux – lucky. One would usually say “il a de la chance”, or “quelle chance!”

la vache ! – blimey!

le footing – jogging

un beau coup de crayon – good at drawing

un beau coup de pinceau – good at painting (pictures)

sacre bon – this food is sacre bon – ie excellent.  Or sacre mauvais or whatever.  More correctly, sacrement bon, but often abbreviated

forte – fat.  Une femme forte: a fat woman.  This sounds better than une grosse femme/une femme grosse, which is unkind.  I suppose in the UK we’d say “a cuddly lady” …?

le grand trot – canter (for a horse). Trot is trot (pronouned tro) and gallop is gallop (pronounced gallo)


Catherine Broughton is a novelist, a poet and an artist.  Her books are available as e-books from this site, (click below), from Amazon/Kindle, or can be ordered from any leading book store or library.   Catherine Broughton spends her year in either the UK, France or Belize, and travels a great deal.  Her travel stories and sketches from around the world are on    “A Call from France”    ”French Sand”    “The Man with Green Fingers”    “Saying Nothing”


Posted on 29/08/2013 by Catherine
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