Idun, many of my French friends tell me that Brits tend to have trouble with pronouncing the letter u. I think that much as th is so tough for them - simply because it's not a form learnt in childhood - which is where most language learning truly sinks in. After a certain age it becomes harder and harder to tackle these nuances of speech.
I was at a roadside cafe on the way home one day and there was an English chap in front of me ordering coffee. He asked in schoolboy French but got stuck at one point and said, half to himself|: "I can't remember the word for milk." "Lait," responded the woman who was serving him. His response : "Oh, yes, thanks. Late."
Now he was trying so one could hardly get annoyed with him but I did find this odd. He heard her pronounce the word correctly and yet, just seconds later, repeated it back to her incorrectly. How does this happen?
Thousands of Brits descend every year to our deparment in June. All around them they hear French commentators and drivers pronouncing it correctly and yet still say "La Saarth", much as an Essex man might pronounce the word South!
I get that certain things are hard to pronounce (desous/dessus - a right b*gger, for instance!) but what I don't understand is how people hear one thing and then repeat something different back in very short order.
Well done Pads for having a good go at this because I really believe that it's the key to much misunderstanding. I also meet Brits who genuinely think that all French people actually pretend to misunderstand when it's actually quite genuine - as in the deja vu example which Idun cites.
"I couldn't sleep very well last night. Some noisy b*ggers going around in automobiles kept me awake." Ken Miles