Thursday, June 3

English teacher

Another Thursday of little grammar lessons!

Last Thursday I began writing about words that present special challenges to writers. Today I'd like to continue that discussion with the use of foreign words.

One of my readers asked that I write about a word that many of us use when we mean to say "Ta-da! Here it is!" That word is often pronounced "wa-lah," or, as a couple of my readers pointed out, it's more correctly pronounced "vwa-lah." If you're speaking, your listeners will hear the sound "wa-lah," and they'll know what you mean. But if you're writing, you should know that this is the French word "voila." It's a great word, and it's a fun word to use. . . you should try it. But spell it "voila."

Another such word is the Italian word that sounds like "chow." It's a wonderful, useful word that can mean "hello" or "good-bye." It is spelled "ciao."

One more Italian word we often use is the word that conveys the thought "Do you get it? Do you understand?" in one word. When English-speakers say this word, it sounds like "ka-peesh." But it's not spelled "ka-peesh," or "kapish," or even "capiche." It's spelled "capisce."

To tell the truth, I think that French and Italian people probably get a kick out of our using some of their words. But I think that if we're going to use their words, we should be respectful enough to spell them correctly. If you don't know how to spell a foreign word, simply do a quick internet search for it, spelling it however you THINK it might be spelled. You should be able to find the correct spelling pretty easily. If you want to be absolutely grammatically correct, you should also italicize a foreign word when you write it. You may not want to go that far, but I would encourage you to check your spelling. And have fun with it!

Are y'all tired of this? I want to write these posts only if they're helpful. Let me know if you'd like for me to continue!



  1. Richella,

    I have enjoyed the series. I use to love my english classes in school but the older that I have gotten, I have forgotten stuff and I forget the spelling of words. (okay, run on sentence:) If you like doing the series, keep it up. If it is to much work, don't. I am okay with either.

  2. I don't understand why people pronounce "voila" as "wa-la." The V in French never sounds like a W, as in German. "Vwa-la!"

  3. I love these posts! I don't comment often, but have really enjoyed these little lessons/reminders. Thanks!

  4. Yes, totally with Rebekah- after 5 years of French with a French woman, we never said it with a "w" sound!

  5. Forty years out of high school, I need these grammar lessons!

  6. Learn something new everyday! :)


  7. I just found your blog and would love for you to continue this series! I hope in the future you'll go over something I have trouble with- commas.

    I also would love to see you discuss these common blog errors: "would of" (would have), and "should of" (should have). Thanks! I am loving your blog!


  8. Please continue.


  9. Hi Richella,

    It's been awhile (sigh). But, as a writer (a technical writer - before having children), I so worry about that state of our language with today's writing habits, such as texting with acronyms and excessive use of capitals or exclamation points. So, I think any contribution to teaching correct grammar is completely necessary! Thanks for helping in your corner of the world. I am going back to check...have you done a post on the use of they're, their, and there?

  10. Keep up the good work. I love reading your vocabulary lessons and this lesson was spot on. I am amazed at how often I see bloggers misspell voila.


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