Friday, April 9, 2010

They are or they have?

As a newly arrived foreigner in France, you pass through many small difficulties, some hard to imagine for those who have never tried to live outside their own country. One of my small challenges was to hear the difference between they are = ils sont and they have = ils ont.

When you say them, the first one gets a simple S from the word sont and the second one gets a toned S by binding together the two words that is pronounced as a Z.  I had major problems in hearing that difference!

Funny thing about this is that in Swedish we have the letter Z in our alphabet, but we seldom use it and pronounce it as S...  I felt like the Chinese that say L instead of R!

Now I hear the difference very clearly, in fact so clearly that it is difficult for me to understand how I ever could fail to hear this difference....


  1. For us it was (and still is) "dessus" and "desous".

    SO I use my hands ;)

  2. I still use my hands at various occasions! Like to show numbers for example!

    In general, I use my hands a lot more than the average Swedish person - too many years here and you start behaving like a French person!

  3. Que la langue française est difficile mais le Suédois j'ai pas encore tenté...Ze vais Z'essayer!!! J'admire toujours les Z'étrangers qui parlent aussi bien qu'Eva car je ne suis pas très douée pour les langues étrangéres.

  4. Yeah, liaisons are a pain in the butt to learn (and believe me, to teach too).

    My advice is to apprehend the sounds you're struggling with in their "physicality". Never forget what a sound is (for some reason we tend to forget it when it comes to sounds being part of a language) just air vibrating in different ways depending on what produces them.

    By that I mean, that concerning language sounds, it's all about where your tongue is in your mouth, and even more in French, what shape your lips take.

    (btw: it's Japanese that has only one sound for 'l' and 'r', which is neither one nor the other, more something in between... I may be wrong, but if I remember correctly, Chinese has both sounds, although they have several 'r' sounds, and the 'l' may be rare)


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