Lost in Translation: Differences in dialect can be a funny thing!

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In an effort to expose my children to the French language, as spoken by native speakers (as well as snow) we have traveled to the province of Québec, Canada for the last two years. During our first visit, in 2010, we got off of the plane and drove straight from Montréal to Mont Tremblant, about 1.5 hours to the north, in the beautiful Laurentian Mountains. Being in a resort area, the French that we encountered was much more standard, closer to Parisian than Québécois. Other than the slight difference in accent, we had no communication issues whatsoever. This year, however, we learned that stopping along our route between the two more international destinations would expose us to many more colloquial expressions and provide some comedic moments.

We never thought that a stop at Burger King drive thru would provide a teachable moment in Québécois French vocabulary, but it did. To be sure, having to communicate via the standard drive thru communication system, didn’t help. We thought we had ordered a hamburger with ketchup, lettuce, and pickle with a Sprite “comme boisson (pronounced bwah-sohn).” In Parisian French, the word boisson means drink or beverage . As we pulled away, my husband began to take our food out of its packaging, while I drove. He looked at me and asked if I had ordered a fish sandwich. Of course, I hadn’t, yet we were both looking at a fish sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and pickle (icky!). As we nibbled on our food, I kept replaying in my head, and discussing with my similarly confused husband, how we could’ve ended up with a fish sandwich. Then it hit me! The French word for “fish” is poisson. At first, it seemed like a simple thing to me. Through the speaker system boisson was interpreted as poisson, but it gets better. We later learned that boisson does not even exist in Québécois French, having been replaced through the centuries by the less common, and more anglicized, word: breuvage (meaning: beverage or brew).

Lessons learned? Research common dialect differences before traveling!!

What is a dialect? Simply put, a dialect is characterized by differences in vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation within a language when utilized in different regions of the same country, or in different countries.

Are you planning a trip soon? Whether abroad, or within the United States, it a good idea to familiarize yourself with the dialect spoken in the area where you will travel. Believe it or not, the English language has almost too many dialects to count!

Explore the following links to learn more:

English Dialects

Spanish Dialects

French Dialects

Looking for more language dialects?

Explore this link, by Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialect

Have you had a “Lost in Translation” experience? Share it by commenting below!

4 thoughts on “Lost in Translation: Differences in dialect can be a funny thing!

  1. My husband is from Argentina and I have realized many times that a word I thought I had finally learned in Spanish is frequently not understood at all in other Spanish speaking countries! It can lead to some funny incidents and some frustration. Thanks for sharing, especially the links. And thanks so much for the follow! 🙂

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