Unlocking French language: sounds that only French people make
I’m talking about those quirky sounds that aren’t used for the same purpose in other languages, or that are used in different ways with a mixture of different phonemes.
Therefore, when you use them in another language… they just sound wrong! A bit like when English speakers of French using ‘ummm’ instead of euh when pausing between words. We try so hard to sound fluent, but we can’t help but blurt these sounds out. They’re so intrinsic to our language behaviour!
I once worked as a bartender in Lyon, France, which introduced me to the most fabulous French sounds that I had ever heard. I had never used these sounds to convey the same message in English before. In fact, if I ever performed such a movement, I would most probably do it silently. I am speaking of the sounds hop and tac.
These sounds just seemed so natural when used, and through mimicking the sounds of my French colleagues, I was using them within months! Hop is used to indicate something like ‘there!’ or ‘done!’, a bit like voilà! But I would also use it when I lifted something onto a table, put something away high on a shelf, or handed something over to someone. More closely representing a little leap or push. You can find this in the French expression allez hop! meaning ‘let’s go!’ (with a skip and a jump).
Tac seems to mimic a ‘tap’ sound, the noise your finger makes when it touches something. As if you were typing on a computer, or touching a computer screen at work. But I also used this sound when putting an item down, or putting something away; as if it I was finalising a process.
When I moved back to Australia (only a year later), I could not stop using these sounds when serving people at work. These little, practical, silence-filling sounds had worked their way into my intrinsic behaviour, and it took months to not say them anymore. Even though I was no longer working in a French-speaking environment!
Have you ever come across these sounds before? How have you used these sounds? They are extremely addictive!
1. Image via Geektionnerd
2. Image care of Katerina Forrester
3. Image via Guardian