Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Je me coucherai moins bête ce soir

A few nights' ago, I saw a one-minute long segment on M6 and thought "Only in France". But in a good way.

M6 is a French TV station that normally shows 'fluff' kinds of shows - lots of reality TV and made-for-TV movies. Kind of like a combo between Fox & UPN. But they occasionally have interesting shows, including the one referred to above, entitled "Une de moins". The whole point of each one-minute segment is to cover a commonly-made error in French. Can you imagine an American TV station doing a daily segment on grammatical errors in English?

Here's the example from last night's spot. The majority of the population would write the following sentence as such:

Les marrons sont chauds, mais ils sont bien marrons.

But the correct answer is:

Les marrons sont chauds, mais ils sont bien marron. (with no S)

This is definitely a mistake I would've made as well - it's yet another exception I didn't know (but then again, there's a lot of them out there due to my non-traditional learning of French). But apparently the rule is that color adjectives that are derived from fruits, vegetables, metals or precious stones are invariable. Examples given: crème, kaki, orange, turquoise, citron, chocolat, bronze, etc. And while I don't necessarily consider French to be a hard language to learn (though I'd never say that to a Frenchie!!), I do think it's challenging, mainly because of all the exceptions such as this.

The other thing that causes a lot of fautes d'orthographe is the number of word endings that sound exactly the same. Take the sound [O]. I'm sure there are more, but just off the top of my head, you can have the following endings:

All of those are pronounced "O". So you can imagine how easy it is to make spelling mistakes in French, especially nowadays with the younger generation and their tendency to shorten everything to simply "o" due to internet usage & text messaging.

So I think it's kind of cool that they're trying in their own small way to protect the French language, especially à travers a medium used by the people most likely to make those mistakes. But then again, I'm a huge dork and I really like French spelling - the proof being that I'd always be the one student in class secretely saying "wheee!!!" every time the teacher would announce a dictée.

Shhh. Don't tell anyone.

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Blogger Global Librarian said...

A couple of years ago I read an article that theorized the extreme protection of French will likely be its death. (Wish I could find where the article was, but I forget now. May have been The Economist.)

Anyway, if you look at linguistic history, the languages that adapt and change and take on new words from other languages tend to be the ones that survive the longest.

That is why English is such a strong language. It continues to evolve according to the needs of the speakers. You can see major changes in words, grammar and word order from generation to generation. And the English varieties spoken in different parts of the world are quite diverse, but still serve as an effective method of communication between the different cultures that use it.

However, the movement within France to protect the language from all outside sources and maintain its archaic grammar and word order will make it too difficult to communicate the new ideas and technologies. It may cause French, as a language, to die as people slowly abandon it for other, more adaptable languages.

March 26, 2009 at 9:31 AM  
Blogger Rochelle said...

I'm addicted to M6 because we don't have a TV and they are one of the few channels that lets you watch the shows online for free PLUS as you said they produce fluffy reality tv shows which so far is the only kind of show I can understand. I'm super addicted to 'Enquete Exclusive' lol.
And I thought of you the other day, they had a special about housing scams and there were a bunch of people who got conned in exactly the same manner as what happened with you.

March 26, 2009 at 9:53 AM  
Blogger The Duchess said...

Who knew? I would definitely have made the same mistake. And don't get me started on those 'o' sounding words. But I feel like I'm learning French all over again when my 6 year old brings her homework home.
(and don't tell anyone, but I loved dictées too, and I'm enjoying giving them to my daughter!lol)

March 26, 2009 at 11:01 AM  
Blogger Sally said...

Malheureusement je ne peux pas accéder au site M6 replay ... car "ce site est réservé aux résidents de France Métropolitaine". What a pity! - I am a total French spelling nerd too, and would have liked to be able to watch that!

Thanks for thr grammar lesson, anyway. I think I learnt that rule once and promptly forgot it! :-)

March 26, 2009 at 12:39 PM  
Blogger Frogmae said...

Well even as a French girl, I would have questioned myself about that sentence! French is really not an easy language to learn even for a native speaker, believe me! So many exceptions! lol

I recently bought two little books of common errors in French and they are really interesting! I already learned a few things I had forgotten or did not know or wondered about.

March 26, 2009 at 2:56 PM  
Blogger Alison said...

Ah, Sally answered my question. Une De Moins is right up my alley, and I'd love to watch it here. But...I guess if webcasts are only available to those in France, it's kinda fair, because folks outside the US can't watch

March 26, 2009 at 5:00 PM  
Blogger Emmy said...

what time is une de moins on m6? or can i find it on m6reply? I'm going to get my frenchie to do a dictée of this for me to see if he gets it right!! hehe.

March 26, 2009 at 5:28 PM  
Blogger DiaryofWhy said...

Oh my gosh, I did not know this, and the depressing thing is that even now that I do, I am certain I will never, ever remember it. And yet this still doesn't explain why in the book I'm reading I keep coming across someone who is described as having "les yeux bleu clair." Is it the same typo over and over (and over?) Or yet another minuscule grammatical exception? Argh, French!

March 26, 2009 at 6:22 PM  
Blogger SueB said...

Your post is really interesting to me as I am a French teacher in upstate NY. Just yesterday as I was reviewing clothing vocabulary with my French 1 kids, we were looking at colors. There was a note in the textbook that said certain colors don't change spelling to adjust for gender or number. They asked me why there were 2 colors for brown (brun(e) and marron) and I told them I wasn't sure but that marron is used for some things and not others. The other colors mentioned in the book are orange and bleu marine. Your post couldn't have come at a better time!
P.S. My husband and I are coming to Paris April 11th for a week....I can hardly wait!!

March 26, 2009 at 8:31 PM  
Blogger Ksam said...

Oh man, that's a bummer that it's not available outside the US!

But yes Emmy, to answer your question, it is availabe on M6 replay. But I think it's on every night at 8:30pm (or maybe 8:40).

March 26, 2009 at 10:21 PM  
Blogger Alisa said...

funny, i learned that in one of my cirefe classes this past year!

as for the bleu marine/bleu clair, those don't change for color or number either, and to be honest i can't remember why. anyone else know?

March 27, 2009 at 12:28 AM  
OpenID pinklea said...

I loved and was good at dictée as a kid too. But now I often find that I just KNOW how to write things correctly, and I couldn't tell you what the rule (or exception to it) is. And I'm a French Immersion teacher in an elementary school, so I really do need to figure these things out so I can teach them to my students!

March 27, 2009 at 6:04 AM  
Blogger wcs said...

So, is kaki a fruit, vegetable, metal, or precious stone?

March 27, 2009 at 10:45 AM  
Blogger MISS YURI said...

wcs, a kaki is a persimmon. the french use the japanese word for it!

March 27, 2009 at 10:53 AM  
Blogger wcs said...

Ah, yes! I did look it up after I left my comment. I didn't know it was a persimmon when used as a noun.

I always learn something chez K_sam!

But, as an adjective, kaki means khaki, that brown color that (I don't think) derives from a fruit.

March 27, 2009 at 11:17 AM  

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