Bonjour tout le monde!

Elodie Kaplan, our wonderful co-director of the learning center sits down with us and gives us grammar and pronunciation tips when learning French. In this series of the Mais Oui! Podcast, get to know her and improve your French!

For the first episode, Elodie dives straight into pronunciation of vowels and intonation. On y va!




One Comment

  • Jim Adesko says:

    I listened carefully to and enjoyed this initial lesson from Elodie. The only comment I have concerns the pronunciation of the word (and place) “Chicago.” [The American pronunciation, not the French. French pronunciations, as used here by Elodie, are much more regular and internally consistent, I have found. Even French pronunciations of English names are more consistent and preferable to the English. Consider the example offered here, the name “Barbara.” A French speaker will naturally and correctly, according to French pronouncing conventions, know precisely how to treat this word. Persons whose native language is English, however, generally follow their own speech patterns and – sometimes – get it right. Ms. Streisand has even gone so far as to invent her own unique spelling: “Barbra.” This is remarkable. Perhaps someone should form an organization here – the English Academy – to complement the Académie Française.] Getting back to Chicago now. Having lived here (for a great number of years), I am always a bit surprised when I hear the “a” pronounced as “ah” and not as the phoneme rhyming with the word “awe,” the pronunciation I have always used. And, as the former pronunciation was so articulately employed by such master craftsmen of the King’s English as John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, most notably, of course, in the 1980 film “The Blues Brothers,” and also, even earlier, on that paragon of weekend entertainment known as Saturday Night Live, and which pronunciation is, accordingly, apparently being presented as completely authoritative and authentic, I find it correspondingly difficult to believe as being true. And, of course, non-native residents of Chicago, as well as people everywhere, will be inevitably led, by this “authentic” pronunciation, to believe that it is, in fact, authentic. Now, I am unaware of any audio recording of “Chicago” by the person Aykroyd and Belushi are apparently attempting to imitate. I am speaking, as one may now realize, of that most “native” Chicago resident Al Capone (who, I understand, was only a “transplanted” resident), who, accordingly , would have used a pronunciation adopted after he took up residency in our fair city, from someone here who may or may not have been a native of Chicago. Thus, even the actual pronunciation of Mr. Capone (which exists only our collective imagination), may be seen to be only an attempt by this august personnage to be part of the Chicago crowd, as it were. Basically, all I am trying to say is that the “ah” pronunciation is not really that used by most native Chicagoans, including myself. If one carefully pays attention to professional radio and television announcers, one will ascertain that the “awe” pronunciation is almost always used, and should be correspondingly be regarded as being authoritative. But even that assumption is suspect because of the additional fact that American radio and television announcers form a more or less homogeneous group that employs a “standard” set of pronunciation patterns, regardless of their place of employment, in Chicago, Boston or Oklahoma City. Or Tuscaloosa or Duluth. Or even Atlanta or Traverse City. Or Seattle or Chattanooga. So what is the true, accurate and most representative pronunciation of Chicago? Does anyone really know? Only by conjecture, I would say.

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