Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Master's Voice

"Why a diction teacher? Because delicate French nerves are choqués – shocked! — by the erratic phrasing, intonation, and just plain wrong sounds that émigrés are prone to.
     An aspiring novelist from New York, I am not an émigré, not yet; but I’m preparing to become one by modeling myself after my literary hero, the Anglo-Canadian writer Mavis Gallant, who arrived in Paris more than 60 years ago already speaking exquisite French. The problem is, I see myself ending up like the unfortunate displaced people who inhabit her fiction: adrift, irrelevant, subject to ridicule, alone. Unless, of course, I can finally shed what’s left of my foreign accent….
     Installed at his desk, Monsieur said, 'Alors, Mademoiselle, have you noticed how we French, unlike our Anglo-Saxon friends, use all the muscles in our face and mouth when speaking? Raise your upper lip toward your nose. When performed correctly, this action will cause the nostrils to flare. Now tip your neck back — a bit more, that’s it — and without slackening the tension, articulate a pure clear U-sound, thinking of a bird gliding up to a high branch.'"
— Laurel Berger, THE MILLIONS

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