cross-linguistic netspeak

I’ve been taking some French lessons on Livemocha, in preparation for a possible trip to Belgium this fall. One of the neat things about Livemocha is the social networking feel, and the ability to chat with other users.

(Okay, admittedly, this has resulted in me getting awkwardly propositioned by a bunch of random lonely guys who seem to be on the site to “learn English”, but that is an entire post in itself.)

The interesting thing is that I interact with people who regularly use “netspeak” – shortenings, acronyms, emoticons, etc. – in French. For someone still flailing through Lesson 6 of French 101, struggling to remember the present tense conjugations, netspeak is a whole strange beast in itself.

Some of it – like mdr, mort de rire, or “dead from laughing” – makes a certain amount of sense and requires vocabulary knowledge. The cool part is the substitution of numbers for sounds – and this actually helps a little bit with pronunciation.

For example, in English we have the common construction l8r for “later”, where the 8 stands for the sound in the middle of the word. The one that I encountered most recently in my French conversations is b1sur – bien sûr – “of course”. I also see cb1, c’est bien.

I had a bit of L1 interference here, because whenever I see “1”, I think “one”, as in the construction ne1 (“anyone”). This led to me thinking, for a moment, that b1sur was a short form of bonsoir. -.- I thought I was so clever.

If you’re interested in more French short forms, I found a bunch of fun ones here.

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2 thoughts on “cross-linguistic netspeak

  1. Tamayn says:

    Yeah, it turns out that French people are just as bad about shortening as English people. Sometimes they make sense like qqn, or quelqu’un, but other times, it’s just confusing. The funny thing is that French students are throwing text speak into papers in lycee. My brother in law, a philosophy professor, complains bitterly about it. Sometimes I’m happy that English is less of a sacred cow than in other languages.

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