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French phrase of the day: Dialogue de sourds

Today's French phrase of the day is 'Dialogue de sourds'.
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
For when a debate could do with a little less talking and a little more listening.

Why do I need to know dialogue de sourds?

Because it perfectly captures the futility of conversations which are more like two overlapping monologues.

What does it mean?

It’s literally a “dialogue of the deaf”, which does in fact exist in English but is much less common than the French idiom. A more widely-used English expression which gets at a similar idea is something which “falls on deaf ears”.

A dialogue of the deaf describes a discussion between two parties where neither party is really listening to the other or making an effort to understand their point of view.

The term appears in a recent article from Le Monde about discussions between the UK and the European Union concerning trade barriers with Northern Ireland. Come to think of it, it could probably be applied to most steps in the Brexit negotiations.

People who participate in a dialogue des sourds believe they’re engaging in a discussion, but the whole process is futile because nobody will ever deviate from their original stance and so progress will never be made.

Use it like this

On assiste à un dialogue de sourds entre la France et les Etats-Unis – We’re witnessing a dialogue of the deaf between France and the United States

Malheureusement, le débat ressemble à un dialogue de sourds – Unfortunately, neither side in the debate is making any attempt to listen to the other


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