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French Ballet Terms (Elementary)

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i am putting this here in the hope it will attract the attention of estelle or other reliable and knowledgeable French-speaking posters.

i am under time pressure to put together the theory component of a couple of levels of our ballet examination syllabus. students are expected to be able to translate the names of syllabus steps which are new to them, at each examination level.

i would like to ask anyone who has an informed opinion to comment on the following, if there is anything there which you think should be translated differently - or pronounced differently.

i may not necessarily change what is here, for a number of reasons having to do with locally accepted pronunciation, and/or the meaning of the word in the context of the ballet step - but i am very keen to know if anything is wrong here, and would appreciate that being drwan to my attention. this stuff will probably get sent to the printers tomorrow or the next day - so please dive in and comment.

thank you! :)


royale ‘roy-arl’ royal

rotation ‘roe-tus-yon' rotation

compose ‘kom-po-zay’ composed

entrelace ‘on-tru-lu-say’ interlaced

un/une ‘urn/oon’ one

deux ‘dur’ two

trois ‘twu’ three

quatre ‘kut-r’ four

cinq ‘sank’ five

six ‘sees’ six

Numbers 3 to 5 should be demonstrable as entrechats.

grand saut de Basque

‘gron soe d barsk’ big jump of the Basque (country or people)

petit pas de Basque en tournant

pronunciation: ‘pe-TEE pah d Basque on toor-NON’

translation: small step of the Basque (country or people) turning

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Grace, it's not very easy for me to check the pronunciation, because sometimes I don't know exactly how what you wrote would be pronounced by a native speaker! And also some French sounds don't exist in English: for example the "u" in "une" is not like "oo", but probably it is too difficult in general for a native English speaker to pronounce it...

What you wrote seems OK to me, except perhaps that in

‘pe-TEE pah d Basque on toor-NON’

I'd rather write "pe-TEE pah d BASQUE on toor-NON" (however, one should keep in mind that in French accented syllables- I don't know if it's the right term, well, the syllables written with capital letters) are not very strong, less strong than in English- and even if you put the accent on the wrong place it would be understood by a French person).

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thanks estelle - seems like i haven't done too badly.

i understand what you say about the accented syllables. this is probably not going to be paid much attention to (by the readers), anyway!

i think i will change deux from 'dur' to 'duh' - last night i was thinking that was too much like homer simpson - but now i've remembered that he says 'doh'! not 'duh'! ;)

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just on the matter of that 'u' in 'une' i was watching Parkinson one quiet afternoon and Elaine Page (who had spent a lot of time being coached in french) say that it was like pronouncing 'e' with your mouth in the 'oo' shape.

now grace, i don't suppose you'll incorporate that (its quiet inconsequential i know), but it helped everyone on the program get it closer to being right!

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Dear Grace,

May I suggest a few changes? I don't want to seem rude to anyone, but I just thought I might know enough of both languages to help a bit (I am french, but my father is British and I am supposedly bilingual, and am in a bilingual school too). I hope it's not too late.

I would say "royale" would be pronounced as 'rwah yahl' and similarly would change "trois" to 'twah'. Also, "entrelacé" would probably be closer to 'on tru lah say' (the 'y' shouldn't be too accentuated or pronounced) and about rotation, same as english but just changing the 'a' into 'ah' would be fine. My first reaction to "deux" was 'duh', so this change you suggested seems fine to me. About the 'u', I know I managed to get my sister (well, step sister who isn't french) to say it, but at first she used to say it as 'you ne' which could be OK too.

Hope it helped.


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thank you su lian.

i see what you mean about 'rwah-yahl' . it IS too late for the first printing, but i will make this change for the next time around.

about twu OR twah, and 'on-tru-lu-say' OR 'on tru lah say' : i take your point, but i won't change these. my reason is that australians seem apt to pronounce the 'ah' sound as TOO long, like 'aaaaaah' or 'aaarrrr'. so i used the 'u' to try to keep it short...i hope that, with that explanation, you might find it more acceptable?

about 'rotation', i think i need to keep it the way it is, because we would pronounce the english as 'roe-tay-shun', so it is not only the middle syllable that needs to change, to get a reasonable french pronunciation. i hope you agree?

thank you again, for your interest and suggestions. :)

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I'm sorry it was too late. For the rest, it's fine as it is, and you know how Australians would pronounce it more than I do! I only made suggestions to help a bit, but I'm not a specialist and what I suggested might not be quite appropriate, so feel free to do it as you think it should be done. But I think it should be OK as it is now.


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