Monday, January 29, 2007

The stormy history of English and French

All my students have heard me talk about a book that I think everyone learning English or French should read. It's called "honni Soit Qui Mal Y Pense" by a great linguist, Henriette Walter.

It's the history of the two languages and how they developed in relation to each other. I've been criticised in the past for saying that English is just a dialect of French, it isn't, I know, but French has had such a profound impact on English that it is important to be aware of it. You will find it so much easier to retain and recall words if you know that they are simply modified French words.

Walter's attitude is refreshing - nowhere does she complain about the amount of English words used in French today, rather, she celebrates the cultural and linguistic exchange that has taken place for over a thousand years.

I don't really like it when I hear French people say "sur-booké" or "faire un meeting", but that's life - just like in English we still say "coup d'état" or "chic". Our ability to communicate ideas can only improve by having so many more words to use!

If you are French and want to know more about your language and English, buy this book. It's a pity it doesn't exist in English, but even if your French is not so good, you will find tons of interesting stuff about word origins etc.

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