Just Above Sunset
July 11, 2004 - Speaking With Dogs

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This caused quite a stir this week!


We're Not Making This Up...

Thursday, July 08, 2004  9:48 AM ET


TORONTO (Reuters) - A blind Quebec student, who was denied entry to English classes at a Canadian university because his guide dog responds only to French commands, will be allowed to attend class, the school said on Wednesday.


Yvan Tessier was turned away from an English immersion course at the University of New Brunswick because he would be forced to give his dog, Pavot, instructions in French.


Students in the course are expected to communicate only in English, at all times, during the intensive five-week course. That was to include talking to the dog, but the university relented, saying in a statement that Tessier will be allowed to use "essential commands in his native French language to his guide dog."


Earlier, Tessier said he would file a complaint with the human rights commission if the university stuck to its decision.


"They don't have the openness of spirit to understand that it's better for me and my mobility to operate with my guide dog. It's only 17 commands in French; it won't compromise the English program," he said from Fredericton, New Brunswick.


… "We were astonished by this," said Pierre Noiseux, a spokesman at the foundation which placed Pavot with Tessier.


"The dog doesn't speak French or English. He doesn't know how to spell 'en avant.' He doesn't know it's French. He just knows that 'en avant' means forward."


The university, in the eastern Canadian town of Fredericton, New Brunswick, said it turned Tessier away because it did not have enough time to prepare for his special needs.


"In the past, the service has been provided that we do teach their guide dogs commands in English, so the dog learns English as well," a university spokeswoman told CBC Television.


Tessier said it would take too long to teach Pavot English commands. The Mira Foundation said it was also dangerous to teach the dog new commands just as Tessier arrives in unfamiliar surroundings.


"He's in a new city, he needs a dog that will be really alert," Noiseux said.


"Sure we could take the dog, bring him back and recode. But why would I do that? The guy is French."


From our correspondent in Chicago –


French polluting the English language?  It's an interesting switch.  Whatever would les immortels de l'Académie française think of this?  There's nothing at all funny about what happened to this guy, of course, but it reminded me of two animal expressions I recently learned.  It might be said that this guy a du chien, or is good looking or charming.  But he was definitely asked to faire le beau, or sit up and beg, just like the chien.  And that's not at all funny.


From our friend Nico in Montréal -


This reminds me of police dogs that are taught commands in German, so that not just anyone can order the dog around, even if the K9 agent speaks no other German but 'Platz', or 'Hinlegen'. 


Maybe there should be an international dog command standard set.  Gather all the best-trained dogs and linguists, invite Dr. Dolittle even.  Bark, Whine, Howl.


From Rick the News Guy in Atlanta –


One of the things my sister says to her Seeing-Eye dog, a word used to denote displeasure with something the dog is doing, is "Fooey!"  So how does one say "Fooey" in French?


From our correspondent in Chicago (just returned from one of her frequent trips to France) –


I'm not altogether sure, but it may be something along the lines of "pfft", preceded by a clucked palate, shaking head, insouciant shrug of the shoulders, or some other similar expression from the Frenchman's considerable armory of negative expressions. 


From Rick the News Guy in Atlanta –


I think my sister's dog would probably just sit there and tilt its head at this "cluck-(headshake/shrug)-Pfft" thing, sort of like that RCA "His Master's Voice" dog - all of which would be lost on my sister, of course, because she's blind.


So how does one say "Fooey" in French?


The word from Ric in Paris -




Actually, 'merde' is better.  It's an all-purpose word, always seasonally correct.  'Caca' is baby-talk.  'Cacahuètes' are peanuts, a substitute for 'nuts.'


- from the Montrouge language lab, ric


Well, that clears up everything.





Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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