Thursday, May 31, 2007

Am I charming or funny?

I'm not asking for answers to that question.

Pretty much every time that I have spoken while in Bordeaux (I'm referring to speaking in French since that's all I speak except with Anglophones that I've met at my hostel), I have noticed that people within hearing range all start smiling at me. Being paranoid, I wondered at first if they were laughing at my French - I do make the occasional grammatical error and my accent is different of course. The smiles, however, do not seem to be those of people who are laughing at me. First of all, they make no attempt at concealing their smiles; in fact they turn toward me and smile.

Still being paranoid, I asked myself if perhaps the smiles are patronizing ones - the way you would smile at a small child who cannot express himself well and that you find to be cute. Once again, the smiles don't quite match up, and I doubt people would overtly be patronizing towards me (at least, I hope not).

Also, people have been surprised to find out that I'm not a native French speaking Canadian, or at least they're acting that way (there goes the paranoia again). This has suprised me a lot, because of the aforementioned grammar mistakes.

So, I have been left to conclude that for some reason, the people in this region of France find the way I speak French to be charming or endearing. I have had one Frenchman tell me that he liked my accent, surprising to me because I had heard that many French view Canadian French with disdain. I've spoken to Francophone Quebecers who were asked to speak English in France.

Maybe the disdain is just for the Quebecois accent, and since I don't have that accent I don't get that treatment. I speak French with an Anglophone Maritimer accent (honestly, my French sounded different than that of my Anglophone Albertan classmates) and it seems that the people here like the sound of it. There's not a lot of Maritimers in the world, so my accent could be the first of its kind that many people here have heard. Funny, I used to be embarrassed to speak French in France because of my accent. I even felt embarrassed in my French classes in Edmonton until I decided that I wasn't going to let myself feel inferior to a bunch of Westerners.

At least there's one place in the world where I may sound charming! I never thought it would be France, if anywhere. Maybe I don't have to worry so much now about feeling big and awkard amongst the effortlessly elegant French women.


Instant_Karma said...

it's been my experience that people like it when you make the attempt to speak their language, and especially when you can get by in it. They know that you're putting forth an effort. I think they sort of see it as a sign of respect :) -Kel

Megan said...

That makes sense, although it reduces the likelihood of me being charming. That explains why the "charmed" people weren't following me around though.

Thanks for the visit Kelly!