Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Très Beang!

Today was another day with beautiful blue skies. Bob (my brother-in-law) took us on a tour of the golf course where he works. Looks like a tough course with lots of blind shots. Oh boy. The golf course uses llamas (!) to graze the grass and trim some of the bushes.

Languedoc has its own language: Occitan, which gives the region its name, la langue d’oc.  “Oc” means “yes” in Occitan. I like that, the language of yes!  It’s related to Catalan, which is spoken in Catalonia, where Occitan is also an official language. Occitan went through many years of suppression in France, but I saw some efforts underway to revive it, including schools offering classes in Occitan and television newscasts in Occitan, although these were only once-a-week for 15 minutes.

We had dinner at Bob and Nathalie’s. Also joining us was Olivier, who works with Nathalie. Olivier comes from Carcassonne, about 150 km southwest of Montpellier and he has what I’m told is a classic Occitan accent. It’s like an extra syllable is added to every word, like French spoken by an Italian. So, école becomes écola, voiture is voitura. With consonants at the end, there’s often a hard “g” sound added: bien becomes be-ang. To my ear, it’s like he’s got a mouth full of marbles, or just came back from a visit to the dentist and the freezing hasn’t worn off yet. The words get a vigorous massage before they come out. So around the table, we’ve got the accent from the north of France, the accent from Québec, the accent from Languedoc, and my strong anglo accent. To me, it’s a wonder we can all understand each other, but we do, over a great dinner and wine.

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