Pronouncing foreign words

In his essay, England your England, George Orwell wrote of the English working class:

Even when they are obliged to live abroad for years they refuse either to accustom themselves to foreign food or to learn foreign languages. Nearly every Englishman of working-class origin considers it effeminate to pronounce a foreign word correctly.

I’ve encountered attitudes like this among many English tourists who rate foreign places partly by the ability of the locals to speak English, and even if they know a few words of the local languages, they usually pronounce them with an English accent.

An article I found on this subject – Brits don’t border with local lingo – says that more than half of the British tourists surveyed cannot recognise even basic phrases in the language of their destination, that more than 80% of monolingual British tourists refuse to take a phrase book or dictionary abroad with them, and that a third rely on the locals speaking English. If the locals don’t speak English, then the Brits speak more loudly and slowly in English, use mime, and/or speak English with a foreign accent. Even those who know phrases in foreign languages often get them mixed up and pronounce them incorrectly.

Amusing examples of mispronunciation and misuse of foreign phrases can be found in the British television comedy Only Fools and Horses, in which the character of Del Boy uses “au revoir” to mean “hello”, “bonjour” for “goodbye”, and “bon appetit” for “I hope you choke on the potatoes” – there are more examples here. He pronounces all with a strong Cockney accent.

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This entry was posted in English, French, Language, Pronunciation.

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