Part of the cultural context of this accent is the understanding that this is an L2 accent. L1 and L2 are the terms used in linguistics to describe differing degrees of familiarity with a language. An L1 is a language acquired in early childhood, in which a speaker feels totally fluent, which arises from intuitive understanding, and with whose community of speakers they identify. An L2 is a language with less fluency, less intuitive recourse, and/or less identification with a linguistic community than occurs with an L1. A person who grows up speaking French as their L1, and then learns to speak English is speaking it as an L2, and has a whole set of intuitions, skills and habits of speaking and thinking about speech that they are likely to carry into the way they speak English. They have what we’ll call, an L2 accent.

Two different speakers of English may have different accents, but they have arrived at that difference through a different path than the L1 French speaker, learning to speak English. We’ll have to bear that in mind as we try to recreate this accent.

The history of French, its origins, its speakers and its ling relationship with English, could conceivably bring us to a standstill. Instead, let’s just say that English speakers have strong feelings about the French and their accents. The feeling is mutual.  If you want to get into it, it might be fun to take at a recent (satirical) book by French linguist Bernard Cerquiglini called, “La langue anglaise n’existe pas”. C’est du français mal prononcé . Of course, you’d need to read French.

We could also spend more time than we have talking about how many people around the world speak French – and why.  Still, it is interesting to look at the statistics:

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