Five words I can't quite say in French
All work and no play makes Jill a dull girl. And that is pretty much what has been happening to me this last week or so.... two lectures (under different banners in the British Museum), a vast pile of exam scripts, job interviews to prepare for tomorrow (me doing the interviewing thank god, but prep still required), and the French lecture on Wednesday. It's one of those schedules that will work just about perfectly, so long as you don't want any time off, and so long as nothing goes wrong -- like the damn powerpoints for the BM at the end of the week, which worked fine of my Mac but were a total series of black images on the BM's PCs (thanks to the husband and a colleague for sorting that one for me).
Anyway now it is the French lecture that is rather looming. I think I said before that my problem here was that 10 or 15 years ago I could give a lecture 'en français' -- with some difficulty, it's true, but I could do it. And indeed so I did. But taking these French lessons over the last few months (first in Belgium, then with the French lectrice) has made me see how delusional that "competence" was. OK, I could write something that was more or less comprehensible -- but it is now clear to me that I must have read it out in such a parody of a British accent (and, even more, intonation) that much of the basic point must have passed the average listener by.
I am still wondering why no-one ever explained this to me at any point since I started learning the damn language aged 10. And it's a lot to catch up with when you're 57.. some of it is easy enough to put right, some I doubt I shall ever manage.
Here's a selection of five of the problem areas...
1. Suggérer. This is an easy one... I'd been sliding the two g's together for the last 40 odd years. Only this month have I discovered that you have to pronounce each of them separately. Will probably manage that one.
2. Colisée. This is a big one for me (after all I wrote a book on the damn Colosseum)... and again quite simply put right. It's a 'z' sound at the end, not an 's'.
3. Hiérarchie. Bit more of a problem ... but if I think it starts more 'yay' than "he-ay", I get a bit closer. And it's a soft 'ch' (did anyone ever get what I was talking about before...?)
4. Structuration.I think I have always known how this world SHOULD sound, and to be honest in the privacy on my own sitting room with a glass of wine, I can do it. But in front of several hundred people, not a hope...it's the combination of those r's and u's. all in the same word, that defeats me.
5. Cruauté. OK I can say this in my old style French (croo -- oh - tay), but in the new... again, not a hope. Again it's the combo of the r, and then two sorts of tricky vowels.
So what I am doing today is not only reading the whole lecture out as many times as I can - but also changing all the words I'm going to mess up int words I can more reliably manage. So out will go cruauté and in will come inhumanité.... but what about structuration?
Wish me bonne chance.