I have a friend who used to visit West Africa regularly and spoke a fluent version of French which served him excellently in Dakar and points east but got him looked at oddly by persons familiar only with the French of the Hexagon. La Grande Rousse has linked to a couple of sites with expressions current in Burkina Faso (though I’d love to see a more extensive analysis of the dialect): Un peu de mooré (scroll down to Quelques expressions locales) and Parler français à Bobo-Dioulasso au Burkina Faso (with .wav files). C’est niak! Bon, y a pas le feu, j’vais chosiner.

If your French is up to it you should read La Rousse’s ardent entry “Parce que je suis tombée dedans quand j’étais petite…” in which she reminisces about her word-soaked childhood: À l’école primaire, les enfants me regardaient d’un air bizarre et les copains, copines, me reprochaient « d’utiliser de grands mots ! » It resonated with me, and doubtless will with many of you.


  1. Does the francophone world make a clear or at least scientifically informed distinction between French and various forms of French Creole?
    I’m asking because from what I gather, the Portuguese-speaking world does not. That is, there are places such as São Tomé e Principe which are proudly listed among the Portuguese-speaking nations but where the actual language spoken by the bulk of the population is a Portuguese creole. Or so I’m led to believe.
    Among anglophones, no one mistakes Tok Pisin for English. Maybe the lines are blurrier in the Caribbean — are there any nominally English-speaking islands where most people speak something which is more creole than English?

  2. I’ve always liked the sound of French spoken by West Africans. Even though I learned French the Parisian way, I found African French more “laid back” and easier to understand (slang excepted, of course, but I don’t know Parisian slang either). Then again, I’ve only ever come across African French via immigrants to the U.S. or to France.

  3. What is amazing about African French is that smiling, friendly and happy people are speaking a language that I learned from unsmiling, rather cold and not too friendly people, the Parisians. And please don’t tell me how warm the rest of the French are. I lived there etc and I know. But the African francophones are a delight to behold and listen to. Once in this country I had a ten year old refugee student from what was Zaire who spoke gorgeous Belgian French, but barely wrote it as the war interrupted his schooling. The only code-switching with his African language (Lingala?) was when he spoke of animals, such as monkeys. Most educated francophone Africans speak, read and write it well, though at times their intonation patterns are distinct.

  4. Lived one Métro stop from Barbès for a year. Lots of atmosphere, lots of accents.
    Liked it a lot, although definitely not for everybody. You can really see some sights around that way.

  5. Barbès is amazing (and you get great food there — it’s where I learned about brik).

  6. Je me souviens tres, tres bien du quartier de Barbes. I remember the lines of third world men waiting their turns outside of store front whore houses, and having to be told what they were doing there.

  7. I couldn’t believe at first that the ladies on the corner were doing business. Or, more accurately, I couldn’t believe they were getting any business.
    I grew to quite like them in an odd sort of way. It can’t be an easy life.

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