Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A brief introduction to spoken French

French people use plenty of onomatopoeia in their daily life. Today’s lesson is on “pffff”. It is a very useful onomatopoeia, which can have many different meanings. Appropriate face expression and gesture must accompany it to be fully and clearly understood.

Let’s review and explain each and one of the “pffff”s.

Expresses boredom.

To pronounce it properly, inhale as much air as possible by making the air entering your nose sound as loud as possible. While inflating your lungs, your shoulders will rise. Then, release the air quickly by letting the air escape though a very small opening in your mouth. Because you made the exit for the air difficult, it should first fill up your upper and lower lips before reaching out. By doing so, the emitted sound is close to a “bfffffff”. While releasing the air, your shoulders will naturally be lowered to their initial position. This inhaling/exhaling exercise expresses only part of the boredom. In order to complete the expression, you must have heavy eyes and a relaxed lower part of the face.

Expresses disagreement or lack of interest. Similar to “whatever”.

To pronounce it properly, exhale air from your mouth by having it only very slightly open. It is very similar to the boredom “pffff” except the lungs must not be filled as much and no noise should come out of your nose.
If no facial expression is added, this is a soft way to express boredom. To express disagreement or lack of interest, body language must be clear. While exhaling air though your mouth, slightly arch your eyebrows and take an empty look. Gently tilt your head sideways.

Expresses a lack of knowledge.

Inflate your cheeks and exhale with a slightly opened mouth. The sounds “pffft” should come out. While exhaling, quickly raise your shoulders and your eyebrows simultaneously. Be careful, the gesture consisting of lowering your eyebrows with empty eyes and quickly releasing your shoulders back to their original position means: “I don’t care”. If you keep both your shoulders and eyebrows up with big round eyes, you will be expressing: “I have no idea”. 

Next lesson will focus on “mmmhmm”, not to be mistaken for “hmmm”, which can mean “yes”, “no”, “whatever”, “very interesting”, “pardon me?” and much more.

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