My Passion In Equal Quantities Is For Languages And Food
The two are intimately connected, and both reveal so much about the history and culture of a country. A number of years ago, my brother qualified as a chef.
I was struck by how much he and his fellow students battled with the pronunciation of the classic French food terms.
They were given French classes, but French is a difficult language to learn and pronounce. I majored in French and Spanish, so decided to make a reference handy for them, and this proved so successful, that more students lined up for it.
Out of that came my idea to found a website, that would not merely provide students in the culinary arts with audio, but give them full reference point so that they could understand how and why a word was pronounced a certain way.
This evolved into the first online quadri-lingual food and wine glossary with audio, which I continue to expand daily.
Where appropriate, words are given in English, French, Italian and Spanish (Spanish being differentiated into South American and European Spanish).
These languages in particular, because they are among the languages I know best, and because so many students gain experience in kitchens in these parts of Europe.
French, Spanish and Italian share a common ancestor, Latin, and so words for the same thing can be almost identical, or vary wildly.
If you see them all side by side, you gain an insight into these languages which is simply missing when you focus on one language at a time.
I Provide The Grammar That Helps Students And Users Understand The Effects Of Gender On Pronunciation
A student presented with ‘sauces blanches’, and ‘fond blanc’ just cannot understand why the word for ‘white’ sounds different in these two terms.
It becomes easier to understand when this is explained repeatedly with reference to the given term, rather than as a broad grammatical concept.
Of course, the questions keep coming, and the database keeps expanding – I’m happy to add words as users request them, and I have had requests from how to pronounce the names of companies, to luxury goods, to people in the media, to the basic greetings in the different languages.
Questions are not restricted to these three languages – if I don’t know the language, I will find someone who does – I have added words from Icelandic and Croatian. I’m always up for a challenge, so feel free to ask.
My Other Great Interest Is In Tracking Dishes In The Various European Cuisines
Sometimes the link is more distant. For instance, my ear, and the ingredients tell me that escabèche and ceviche are somehow related, but I’m still researching that one.
Taxonomy is another fascination. I love to study recipes, from Carême, to Escoffier, to modern chefs, to see how they fit in, then grow and change. Pesto once upon a time was a sauce consisting of pine-nuts, olive oil, basil, and parmigiano.
Now anything that can be ground up into a sauce can be called a pesto. At what point can a dish no longer lay claim to the name of the original?
I Believe In And Strive For Excellence
Invariably these people have no understanding that pronunciation and accent are two very different things, and that mispronunciation can result in a unintelligible word, or a complete change of meaning, often with unintentionally hilarious results.
Think of a foreigner learning English who says ‘cough’ like ‘bough’ – what would you make of ‘I have a cow’?….There are people in the world who want to be excellent.
And there are people who are happy to be half-assed. The excellence group keeps learning, striving, and contributing, while the half-assed adopt an arrogant and defensive position.
“So what, who cares?” is their motto. When half-assed starts a restaurant, he is happy to boil some frozen fish in stock and call it a a ‘boo-lee-base’, despite the fact that is about as far from a bouillabaisse as his pronunciation is from being correct.
If you are happy with that, more power to you. I would never stand in the way of someone who is willingly and proudly ignorant – some of the funniest things I’ve ever heard come from precisely this category.
I Should Also Add That You Should Never Be Embarrassed About Not Knowing How To Say A Word
All but the snottiest of the French, or Germans etc are more than happy to meet you half-way if you ask them for help with a word. It’s the loud-mouthed, arrogant twit who is the object of ridicule, not the person who is genuinely interested in learning more.
So I’m never afraid to ask, or to have to say ‘let me check that one first’ if I’m unsure of a word, or anything, in fact.
I also never correct people who mispronounce words in the course of a conversation – because I am listening to what they are saying, not waiting for a put-down op. If they ask, that is quite different.
Rudeness Doesn’t So Much Offend Me As Bore Me
Rude people all think they are unique, and that they are the first person in the whole world to offer the same dreary, ill-conceived opinion.
If this is you, then know: you are not the first, you will not be the last, and you are forgotten faster than I can hit the delete button, but if you want to waste your time, knock yourself out.
If you are a polite person, and you do spot an error, or know something I haven’t mentioned, please comment away. I have no problem being corrected – if there is a better explanation, I’d love to hear it.
I constantly revise posts as I come across things which are relevant. I’m not a fan of ‘cut and paste’ syndrome – I like to do my own research where possible.
If you do enough research on the web, you will find errors being perpetuated via cut and paste so many times, that eventually they are accepted as gospel. ‘Chypre‘ is my most recent example of this.
I recently added up, and I’ve studied no fewer than 8 languages at university level, 9 if you include school.
I do not speak all these languages fluently – in fact there is some debate whether I speak any language fluently, although I do know a thing or two about pronouncing them, if I say so myself.
I’m apt to add in words from other languages whatever I speak, because the way they are said in another language conveys my sentiments better.
And some languages (like Zulu) are confined to song lyrics (Johnny Clegg and Juluka and Savuka), and equally useful sentences such as “don’t throw out my cats”, and “I would like some tea, please”, which I gladly share here, because you never know when they may come in handy:
I’ve forgotten most of my Latin, except for the general principles, but I try to drop sentences like *’Crassum culum pinguem habet’ into conversations to remind people that despite my extreme absent-mindedness, I have a brain and culture on my side. That, and the ability to walk my dogs in very high heels….
My Decision From The Beginning Was Never To Charge For Use Of This Information
It is and will remain a completely free resource on the web, in keeping with my belief than information and education is a right, not a privilege. I do have advertising and affiliate programs I belong to on the site, and I make no apology for that.
This site takes up a huge amount of my time, and I have 3 petulant Porkshire Terrors, and 2 ornery, ancient cats – all with voracious appetites – to feed. I have to keep it all going somehow.
And seriously, anyone who tells you it’s easy to make money out of a website is having you on. I do this because I love it, not because it’s keeping a roof over my head.
* Crassus has a fatty ass.