Saturday, May 24, 2008

Eavesdropping

I took a day off from work this past week and decided to go to the neighborhood sushi place to get take-out. While I was waiting for my order I heard a couple of Americans at a nearby table. Even though I tried to tune them out, I couldn’t for very long. I’d focus on something else, but a minute or two later I’d realize that I was listening to them again. Then it hit me that this happens quite often. When I’m out and about, I can usually tune out French conversations if I choose to. I just go into “not listening” mode. But English, particularly when spoken with American accents, tends to cut through any other noise. When I’m in France, there’s something about hearing an accent from across the Atlantic that makes my ears automatically perk up. Funnily enough, the same thing happens when I’m in the US and hear French.

8 comments:

Leesa said...

How funny you should mention this.. I just met a couple in the sandwicherie in my town, Antony last week... by chance, because I heard the "American accent!" It's so rare to find Americans in my small town in the southern burbs that I had to go up and talk to them! They actually live in Antony. French wife/American hubby and their 6 year old very bilingual daughter! When we were in Cali. my ears DEFIN. perked up upon hearing the French accent and I can say that I met at least 10 diff. French people in San Diego... : )

F.O.T. said...

This is why I whisper at restaurants in France.

A Seattleite in Paris said...

Leesa-that's funny you ran into so many French people in San Diego of all places.

F.O.T - does anyone look at you as if they're wondering why you're whispering?

F.O.T. said...

Not yet. However, the people I'm with don't like it when I whisper!

KEF said...

The same exact thing happens to me. ALL the time.

It's like I shouldn't even TRY to listen to/speak French if another American is in a 100 yard vicinity because it's useless.

A Seattleite in Paris said...

Kef - it IS useless, even if you speak French we can still spot the accent :)

Laume said...

I'm not going to pretend I speak French at all, but I did try to use as many French words and phrases and responses as I could when in Paris. My problem is that there's really no way to say these words and still use an American "voice". I realize I'll have an American accent no matter what French word I say, but I still try to pronounce it correctly. But, not sure how to explain this, then when I use English, my voice wants to still do it in "French". Or if I'm listening to French and then start listening to English, it takes me a second or two to stop trying to hear from a French rhythm. Same thing for Spanish/English.

A Seattleite in Paris said...

Laume - When I first moved to France this time around, it took me a few days to stop speaking English with a French accent. I could hear the odd accent but couldn't help it!