Posted by: lyonenglishnetwork | September 6, 2012

What do you think of this person’s English ?


Here’s a breaking news video, but it’s not the breaking news I’m interested in. It’s the level of the person’s English in the video. What do you think ?

I’m not talking about the Sky News journalist! 🙂

The most obvious thing to say is that she’s got a French accent. Can this be helped ? Maybe. As an English trainer/coach in Lyon, I’ve had a lot of different experiences with accents of varying quality. Most recently, I had a request to improve someone’s accent. About a year back, there was a girl in a conversation group (I won’t name her!) who had a terrible accent. Yet, she lived in England for 7 (I think) years. So, why is it that people end up having awful accents ? Is it the ear ? Is it the fact that they weren’t exposed to English from a very young age ? I’m not so sure. Is it the fact that they don’t make very much effort to improve their accent or prononce correctly, with correct intonation. Maybe. I’ve always tried to pronounce correctly in French. I don’t! In fact, one lady told me “oh, Paul, you’ll never lose your accent!” Thanks! I thought! Great! Twelve years in France and I’ll never lose my accent. At least my wife tells me that my accent is O.K.

That’s not the only thing about her English, though! First off, she doesn’t know you should say “the U.K.” and not “U.K.”, the plural of man is “men”, her intonation on “life and death” is all wrong, information has no plural so it’s not many information but much information, “are coming tonight only from Paris” would have been better translated as “they only got here tonight from Paris, “cyclist” is not pronounced like in French “cycliste”, “Annecy” in English is said “Ann-er-cy”, not “Ann-cy” (it’s her home town, come on!, she ought to have known that), and the final are living ‘ere’ has flashes of ‘Allo ‘Allo!

But that’s not to say that you can fault her for trying. Surely, it’s better to say something than not say anything. The other thing to say is: when she speaks like that in the interview, she has no time to think. It’s inevitable that she’ll make mistakes. The problem is: she is translating, she’s not thinking in English, she has no feel for English: that is surely her problem and a lot of people’s problem in France. For me, it’s just that her years of English at school didn’t serve her particularly well, and she has no idea what the proper way to speak (English) is! She doesn’t know what it is to converse (much) with English people and her experience factor (I’m calling it he EF) is (probably) low. A bit more experience might serve her well. It’s not a good thing to BE AFRAID of making mistakes but it IS a bad thing to make mistakes, let’s not get mixed up here.

O.K., hope you enjoyed the post.


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