7 Surprising Ways to Practice French Online with Immersion

Reblogged from:  www.FluentU.com

Having a lazy French study day?

All you want to do is sit around in your pajamas and browse the Internet.

That stack of flashcards is just going to sit there collecting dust.

The French conversation program you picked up last week? You know you should start…but today? Psshh.

You don’t even have the attention span to watch a French movie or TV show.

Think your day’s as good as wasted? Think again.

You can create a French immersion experience around your inclination to kick back and veg (or as the French say,glander).

Here are some simple ways to make lazy days more productive.

Practice French Online: 7 Smart Methods for Immersive Browsing

1. Change all your language settings to French.

Just browsing in French will help you pick up everyday language as experienced by internautes (Internet users).

On Twitter, you’ll quickly learn that tweeter (to tweet) has been established as a regular -er verb. If you don’t already know the difference between the third person singular and plural conjugations of the verb aimer (to like), switch to French onFacebook and you can be sure you’ll never forget.

These are little things, but they add up.

You’ll receive your notifications in French, too, and come to associate certain sentences with information pertaining directly to you (so-and-so sent you a message, etc.). These phrases will repeatedly pop up on your screen, so you can’t avoid remembering them.

This is like a supercharged flashcard deck you don’t even have to make yourself!

If you’re not already a social media user, consider trying it out. Twitter is especially fantastic for finding people with similar interests and goals.

Don’t just stop with social media profiles — you can change the language on your web browser, operating system and e-mail accounts, too. Just be careful of doing this if your French isn’t very advanced yet.

You’ll want to take note of how to change everything back in case you find yourself panicking in unfamiliar territory. For example, “settings” is paramètres.

2. Use social media to observe and connect with French speakers.

Once you’ve gotten comfortable navigating around your various social media accounts in French, see if you can track down some French speakers.

You may already have a pen pal or language exchange partner, but socializing with native speakers on a larger, more casual scale has benefits, too. After all, it’s probably something you do all the time in English.

Following, “liking” or just browsing the profiles of French-speaking celebrities is a good place to start. From there you can branch out to connecting with other fans. But if you don’t have anyone in mind, you can simply search for certain French key words to find people who might interest you.

For example, if you love movies and you’re browsing Twitter, go up to what should now be the Recherchez sur Twitter bar and type in “J’adore les films.” This will bring up tweets from everyone who has used those words recently.

If you put those words directly in your profile information, it’ll help other movie fans find you.

You can also try searching for French words or phrases as hashtags. Go ahead and start slapping these onto your own tweets while you’re at it! Here are some popular ones:

  • For books or reading: #lire #livres
  • For music: #musique #écouter (this one can also be used for radio or podcasts)
  • For cooking: #cuisine
  • For the latest news: #nouvelles
  • For technology: #technologie

Due to the character limit on Twitter, French-speaking internautes will try to make hashtags as short as possible, which often means cutting out the article. You might think this would cause problems with linguistically ambiguous hashtags like #film or #cuisine. But if you have your language set to French, Twitter will conveniently direct you to French tweets.

Once you’ve connected with some French users, try posting some of your thoughts in French. If you’re a beginner, this might seem daunting, but it’s really a low-pressure situation. You don’t have to worry about pronunciation, and you can take as long as you want to compose what you’re going to say. No matter what, you’ll get some practice in, and you may even get some replies!

3. Surf shopping sites and classified ads in French.

You might be thinking: “Woah, hang on. I can see the benefits of French browsing, but shopping sounds dangerous. What if I accidentally purchase a poodle for a thousand euros?”

Slow down and take a deep breath! For one thing, a lot of the “shopping” you do on the web is the online version of window shopping, and that’s where you want to start. It’ll help get you to the point where you’re comfortable buying, too.

Where to look.

Most larger shopping or classified ad sites like Amazon, eBay, and Craigslist offer service in France and French-speaking countries that you can easily access through menus on their home pages. As long as you’re dream shopping, though, you may as well dream big. Type immobilier and Paris, Bruxelles (Brussels) or any other place into a search engine to browse real estate in that area. Once you’ve found your dream house or apartment, dream-furnish it by searching for meubles. Or just skip right to your dream voiture (car). Just make sure you keep your credit card information out of these ventures!

How to buy (if you want to).

Amazon.fr is a good place to start. The Amazon Currency Converter lets you see exactly how much you’ll be paying before you purchase. French Amazon also offers a “Help in English” page which can be found by following the Aideoption to Autres sites d’aide. This page will walk you through all the steps of purchasing, explaining what the various buttons and options mean.

Every shopping site is a little different, but extensive, habitual browsing is the best way to get to the point where you know what you’re doing. A couple of things to be aware of when ordering products from overseas:

  • You may have to pay significantly more for shipping if you’re ordering from a different country.
  • Most DVDs purchased from France will be manufactured for Region 2 players, so if you’re in the U.S. or Canada (Region 1), you’ll want to purchase a region-free player to make sure you can watch them! You’ll also want to make sure your devices meet other compatibility requirements.

This might all sound a little intimidating, but getting comfortable is about familiarity. Besides, opening up your shopping options is a good idea. French-language books and movies can be priced significantly higher in English-speaking countries, or they may be entirely unavailable.

4. Search for anything that interests you in French.

You probably already know there’s a French Wikipedia.

Start using it, and start searching in French elsewhere, too!

Any subject related to French culture, especially when modern, is likely to produce longer articles in French than in English. And even for more general subjects — why not try French first?

Whether it’s history, music or pop culture, allow your natural curiosity to lead you. On a lazy day, you might not be jotting down every word you don’t know or even finishing every article, but you probably don’t always do that in English either. It’s a heck of a lot better than nothing!

5. Use search functions to check your grammar and spelling.

You may have a good dictionary and a comprehensive grammar book, but sometimes you just need to know quickly if you can say something.

For example, if you’re thinking about posting on a message board about your love of wine, and it occurs to you to say, “J’aime le vin bien,” a quick Google search (in quotes) will reveal that people don’t actually say that. Another search for “J’aime bien le vin” will show that you simply had the adverb in the wrong place.

Obviously, you can’t check longer or more complex sentences this way, and you definitely can’t trust everyone online to be using correct grammar. But by breaking your sentences up into grammatical parts and seeing how many results they yield, you can get a pretty good idea of whether a certain phrasing is generally acceptable. Google will also try to redirect you if you spell something incorrectly.

If you haven’t discovered it yet, WordReference is another invaluable resource for doing quick French research while you’re online. You may also want to check out these translation apps.

6. Look for and subscribe to French language video and text sources.

You already know that the internet is a great place to find language tools of all varieties, but sometimes you’re not in the mood for a full-blown lesson or anything that’s going to take up a significant amount of time.

This is where French-language YouTube channels come in handy. You don’t need to watch instructional French videos — just regular people filming themselves or their friends. Regular people playing and reviewing video games. Regular people describing their hometown or telling you about their latest vacation.

There’s lots of good material out there, and you can always find high-quality videos on FluentU to keep you company on even your laziest of days.

It’s also pretty easy to find French language message boards and blogs based on subjects that interest you, from gardening and scientific discoveries to a specific band or musical artist. Reading through whatever you can understand and getting a feel for how people communicate online in French will give you exposure to yet another aspect of the language.

In the meantime, you can find and keep up with French language publications through your social media accounts. Some of them may even find you!

7. Pretend like you just found the Internet (and it’s French).

Regardless of how old you were when the internet became commonplace (or whether you were even born), everyone has probably had that exciting moment in which they fully comprehended its possibilities. Still, you probably don’t sit around all day just thinking about how great it is. Now’s a good time to remember and start browsing for pleasure anew!

Rediscover the novelty of The Worldwide Web in your French learning. Experience the joy of following suggested links until you don’t remember how you ended up on a particular site. Hop from friends list to friends list on Facebook. Let your eyes wander. Take in site options, recommended content, ads and promotions.

Be susceptible to advertising. If you haven’t caught on, the things you might consider your worst natural tendencies can be helpful and even necessary in learning a language. If you only learn French in a controlled, disciplined environment, it’s never going to become a truly integrated part of you. So go ahead and stare at ads, the ones you’ve trained your eyes to ignore. Those with moving or changing text are best because they challenge your reading comprehension speed.

Learning French is hard work, but it should also be fun. It should be an activity you can enjoy not just when you’re feeling motivated and social, but also in passive, solitary moments.

So, stay in bed with your laptop. Curl up on the couch with your tablet. Relax on the patio with your smartphone. You can afford it, because — regardless of what it may look like — today you’re getting stuff done.

 

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Les Faux Amis / False Friends

15 French ‘false friends’ you need to watch out for

When struggling for the right word in French, it can be tempting just to use an English word said in a French accent. Unfortunately, French is littered with pesky “false friends” that have very different meanings. Here’s 15 to avoid.

Some of these false freinds  can be relatively harmless, if a little inconvenient.

Ask for the “librairie” in France and you’ll be directed to a bookshop rather than a library (bibliothèque), for example. But others can result in ridicule or embarrassment. Anyone who has been in France for any amount of time will be familiar with the most famous of these: “a préservatif” not being something you would add to food to make it keep longer (conservateur in French), but in fact a condom.

But there are plenty more of these false friends you’ll want to avoid so you don’t embarrass yourself or your French guests.

1. Excited / Excité

You want to tell your French friend you’re very excited to come visit them in Paris this summer. “Excité” sounds like the word you should use, right? Unfortunately not. You just told your friend you were “aroused”, probably not what you were going for. Enthusiaste is better.

2. Trainee / Traînée

A particular one to be aware of for anyone working in France. If you’re just starting a new job, don’t try introducing yourself as a “trainee” said in a French-sounding sort of way and hope your new colleagues understand, it sounds very similar to the French word “traînée”, which can mean a smear or trail or, much worse still, a woman  of an extremely promiscuous nature. “Stagiaire” is the right word.

3. Chat / Chatte

A pitfall for anyone who knows ‘ch’ in French is pronounced the way and English speaker would say ‘sh’, but is still lacking in vocabulary. The verb to chat – ie, have a light conversation with someone – in French is bavarder. But chat pronounced with an ‘sh’ sound in the beginning can mean ‘cat’ or, if you pronounce it with a hard T at the end, slang for a woman’s private parts (chatte in French).

4. Apology / Apologie

So you’ve accidentally let out a loud burp at a French dinner party. Cringing of embarrassment, you quickly let out an “apologie”. The only trouble is that in French, you’ve just told them that you “condone” or “justify” such table manners. “Pardon” and “excusez-moi” are both polite apologies to use.

5. Bless / Blesser

The verbs have quite opposite meaning. While a well-meaning English-speaker might feel the temptation to throw out a “blessez-vous” when someone sneezes, try not to. In French, the verb “blesser” translates into “injure”. The expression to use here is: “à vos souhaits”.

6. Chair/ Chair

Looking for a chair at a party? Use the term “chaise”. “Chair” in French means flesh and you might get some weird looks if you tell the party hosts that you’re looking for some.

7. Slip/ Slip

This one could easily get your knickers in a knot. Especially since “slip” in French translates into “men’s briefs”. If you’ve had a slip and you want to tell your French friends about it, better to use the verb “glisser”.

8. Pill/ piles

You have a brutal headache and you head to the local pharmacy in search for pills to cure you. To the French, it will sound as if you’re asking for “piles”, or batteries. To avoid confusion (and to make sure you get rid of your headache), better to ask for brands like Aspirine or Doliprane.

9. Air Con/ l’air con

No, no matter how much of a French accent you put on in pronouncing this one, it is a deceitful ‘false friend’ that could land you in hot water. It would be hard to offend a French person more than telling them they have “l’air con”. In the ears of a French person, you’ve just told him or her that they’re “stupid”.

10. Sensible/Sensible

Identical, right? Not so. “Sensible” means “sensitive” in French and it’s probably not the best word to use when describing yourself in a job interview. Try “raisonnable” instead.

11. Blanket/Blanquette

Don’t be surprised if, after asking your neighbour to lend you a “blanquette”, he or she turns up on your doorstep with a ready-cooked meal. “Blanquette” is a much-loved veal stew ( Blanquette de veau) which has little to do with keeping you warm at night. But “une couverture” will help you cover up.

12. Terrible/Terrible

This is a tough one, because although the word can have the same meaning in French as it has in English, it is often used to express just the opposite, i.e. that something is “great”. And it all depends on your tone of voice. You safest bet to convey that something is terrible in the Anglo-saxon sense of the word is to use the word “horrible”.

13. Tongue/ Tong(s)

This false friend will hardly get you into any trouble, but it sure could cause some confusion with almost any French listener who might wonder where exactly this conversation is going. Tongue will most likely sound like “tongs” (pronounced with a silent s) which means thongs, or flip-flops. If you want to stick to discussing your tongue, say “langue”.

14. Introduce/ s’Introduire:

As if an introduction in France wasn’t a fraught experience already, one of the most two-faced of ‘false friends’ in French is the verb “s’introduire”. Naturally, you would think it means ‘to introduce’. It actually means to penetrate, insert or enter. So next time you meet a group of French people and you want to suggest you should all introduce each other”, the verb you’re looking for is “se présenter”.

15. Luxurious/luxurieux

This one is particularly nasty because even though “de luxe” means luxury, as you would imagine, if you want to say “luxurious” don’t try to say it with a French accent, because it will probably come out as “luxurieux” which means “lustful”. If you want to say “you went to a luxurious hotel at the weekend” your French guests might start thinking you spent the last few days in the company of DSK.

 

Source/Credit: The Local

In Support of Total Immersion

A French American Life

I grew up during the old-school era of second-language learning. We filled in the blanks, conjugated verbs, and memorized vocabulary lists. Entry level classes, and sometimes even intermediate and advanced classes, were taught in English. Speaking in the second language was a part of those classes, but not a huge part, and when we did speak, it was awkwardly and amidst classmates making fun of each other’s accents.

Today, language learning is (thankfully) progressing toward total immersion. In my college classes, and in the high school and junior high classes that I’ve observed, instructors use the target language to teach. Students are expected to participate by speaking, and by writing and reading in the foreign language. Oh, how far we’ve come! It seems so obvious that to learn a language, the best method is to be immersed in that language. After all, that’s how we learn our first language, right? Hearing it…

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Some French Idioms

Idiomatic expressions cannot be understood from the meanings of the separate words, but have a separate meaning of their own – a great way to sound more French in a conversation and most expressions are already familiar in their English meaning.  Bonne chance!

Un clou chasse l’autre.
Life goes on. (Literally: One nail chases the other.)

Avoir un faim du loup.
To be very hungry. (Literally: Hungry like a wolf.)

Tomber dans les pommes
To faint (Literally: To fall in the apples.)

Quand le chat n’est pas là les souris dansent 
When the cat’s away, the mice will play.

Je ne suis pas dans mon assiette
I don’t feel up to it/well.

C’est dans les vieilles marmites qu’on fait les meilleurs soupes
Literally: With the best methods you get the best results.

Mettre les petits plats dans les grands. (making a special effort to please)

Long comme un jour sans pain. (Interminable)

Comme le petit Jesus en culotte de velours
Something that tastes delicious and smooth. (Literally: Smooth as little Jesus in Velvet shorts)

Pedaler dans la farine.
To get nowhere fast.

Trop de cuisiniers gatent la petite marmite.
Too many cooks spoil the broth.

Coup de faim.
A small hunger pang.

On ne fait pas d’un âne, un cheval de course même en taillant ses oreilles en pointes. A wolf in sheep’s clothing is still a wolf.  (Literally: You can’t transform a donkey into a race horse, even by trimming his ears.)

Metro, boulot, dodo.
Same thing everyday. (Literally: train, work, sleep)

Il pleut des cordes. 
It’s raining cats and dogs.  (Literally: It’s raining ropes.)

Petit a petit, l’oiseau fait son nid.
We all make our own bed to lie in. (Literally: Little by little, the bird makes its nest.)

Je pourrais manger un curé frotté d’ail
I could eat a horse. (Literally: I could eat a parish priest rubbed with garlic.)

Charbonnier est maître chez soi.
A man’s home is his castle. (Literally: The coal miner is the master of his house.)

L’arbre cache souvent la forêt. 
Can’t see the forest for the trees.

Mieux vaut prévenir que guérir. 
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Ce qui est fait est fait.
There is no use crying over spilt milk.

VOILA!!

 

 

 

French Internet Slang: How to Chat Online Like a Native

You just received your first instant message from your new French pal!

Excitedly, you take a look.

That excitement quickly turns into perplexed frustration once you read the first line:

          Cc cv twa?

Before you can even begin to decipher it, a second line pops up:

TLM x ke tu es choouu!

What?! You’ve studied a great deal of French grammar, everyday slang and even idioms, “So why don’t I know what the heck this means?” you ask yourself.

The French tend to shorten many words down to the bare minimum when chatting online or sending a text message – even down to just one letter! And this can make for a few headaches and choice expletives when trying to communicate, which is why this guide will be so helpful in making sense of it all.

Here are some handy tips and common internet slang that you would encounter in an honest-to-goodness French casual online conversation. By the end, you’ll know the meaning of your French friends’ messages and texts tout de suite (straightaway) like a true French mec or meuf (guy or girl)!

14 French Internet Slang Basics

  • Abbreviations: DSL = desolée (sorry), PDP = pas de problème (no problem)
  • Apostrophes are almost never used: j’ai = jai.
  • Accents such as cedillas (ç) and circumflexes (â) are ignored.
  • Using letters that are pronounced the same but look completely different: o = au
  • Silent letters are cut off completely: hier = ier, parle parl.

Useful Examples of French Internet Slang

1. C
This may just look like a simple, innocent letter, but in French internet slang it takes on many forms. “C” can mean ça, c’est or ce.

Example: C la vi = C’est la vie (That’s life), Cvça va (How’s it going?).

2. Cc
When this comes at the start of a message it means Coucou!, a very informal way to say “hey!” to family and friends. For those who have brushed up on their French greetings, recognizing tis at the start of a message will be a piece of cake.

3. É
This can mean either et (and) or est (is, from the verb être, “to be”).

4. Ki
In French internet slang, the “qu” is often replaced with “k” to shorten the word. The above example is qui (who), and this is seen with other commonly used words, like ke =que (what), parcek parceque (because), kand quand (when).

5. G
If you know how “G” is pronounced in the French alphabet, then this should come relatively easily. It is used to replace j’ai (I have), while the letter “j” is used to replace je (I).

6. Twa
Another common practice is to replace the sound “oi” or “uoi” with “wa”. Twa toi (you), Kwa­quoi (what).

For example: Cc, cv twa? = coucou, ça va toi? (Hey you, how’s it going?)

7. Ac
Nope, not short for that brilliant invention we know as air conditioning! “Ac“ means avec (with), shortened to just the first and last letter. This is also seen with similar words like Dc donc (so/therefore) and Vla = voilà.

8. Biz
Bisous, the French version of giving kisses or love at the end of a message, is often seen as biz. You would never seebisous followed by “xoxo” or “xx,” as they both mean the same thing! It is also often used in conversation at the end of a phone call, “Biz, ciao”.

9. STP 
This is a perfect example of an abbreviation in French online chat: s’il tplaît (please). Another example is TLMtout lmonde (everyone).

10. Mdr
As a French translation of the English “lol” and used in exactly the same way, mdr or mort de rire means to be dying of laughter. You know you’re chatting like a true native if you add a casual mdrrr to an online conversation.

11. X
In the context of internet slang, “X” signifies the verb croire (to believe). For example j x ke would mean “je crois que” (I believe that…). You can also see here how the word “cross” in English relates to the French.

12. Chou
Chou is slang for “cute”, very different to its original counterpart mignon(ne), which would not often be seen when chatting online.  Make sure not to confuse this one with the French chou-fleur (cauliflower)! So if someone says to you “Tu es choouu!”, it is not a bizarre insult relating to the aforementioned vegetable, but rather a sign of affection.

13. Auj
Short for aujourd’hui (today), auj is quite recognizable from the first three letters, and is one of the few abbreviations that you could likely figure out right away on your own. Bon anniv bon anniversaire (happy birthday) is another abbreviation with a very clear meaning.

14. A tt
And one final classic example that sums up the “short and sweet” approach to French internet slang.

Any idea?

Drum roll please….

À toute à l’heure! (see you soon !).  This is also often heard in conversation as “A toute!”

 

Source/Credit: Unknown via email

 

Kitchen French: 7 French Food Idioms

It’s no secret that the French love their cuisine.

The hexagon boasts some of the best chefs, restaurants and ingredients in the world.

So it’s not all that surprising that this love has made its way into the very language… occasionally in very surprising ways!

As you’re learning French, you might hear phrases popping up here and there referencing food items. Often, these expressions will be confusing out of context, particularly if they’re unfamiliar. But French food idioms are fairly commonplace, and many of them are used in everyday conversation.

Here are seven of the most common French food expressions. Get to know them, and you’ll be seasoning your French conversations with them before you know it!

7 French Food Idioms

1. Raconter des salades. (Telling salads.)

In English, we call them tall tales. But in French, when someone tells a story that seems a bit too crazy to be true, it’s called a salade.  

The connection may seem farfetched, but this expression, which dates back to the 19th century, actually has a very interesting origin. The metaphoric expression operates with the understanding that a successful lie or tall tale is just like a good salad. A salad is a mix of ingredients that comes together to form a flavorful, varied dish, just as a good lie or tall tale combines exactly the right amount of humor, imagination, truth and untruth.  

In France, the expression is often used in the same way you might hear an Anglophone saying, “Stop pulling my leg!” When Oncle Guy is telling you about the enormous poisson-chat (catfish) he caught on his last fishing trip, so big he had to carry it home in his brouette (wheelbarrow), feel free to say, “Mais arrête de raconter des salades!”

2. Occupe-toi de tes oignons! (Mind your onions!)

When someone’s putting their nose in things that don’t concern them, this phrase will definitely come in handy. And don’t worry; it has nothing to do with the unsavory breath that can sometimes come with consuming one of France’s favorite alliums.

Occupe-toi de tes oignons is fairly similar to the English phrase, “Mind your own beeswax!” The only difference is that where Anglophones tell would-be meddlers to concern themselves with honey, French busybodies are told to tend their onions. In a country that’s not only an agricultural powerhouse but also well renowned for onion and garlic consumption, it’s really no surprise!

3. J’ai la pêche! (I have the peach!)

If you hear someone say this phrase, don’t go looking for a peach in his hands. Someone who says, “J’ai la pêche” means that he’s in high spirits or has a lot of energy. Americans often find it confusing or frustrating that there’s no real translation for the “I’m excited!” that we use so liberally, so those who enjoy declaring their good spirits will find this expression quite handy.

But peaches aren’t the only ones to be attributed to such a good mood. While “J’ai la pêche” was once a fairly slang expression reserved for youths, older folks said “J’ai la banane”, an expression that compares the shape of a smile to that of a banana. Nowadays, nearly everyone is saying “J’ai la pêche” though.

Good moods aren’t reserved for fruit either. “J’ai la patate” and even “J’ai la frite” can be used to mean the same thing. Pick your favorite; edible props are optional!

4. C’est du gâteau. (It’s cake.)

The American expression “easy as pie” is somewhat unfitting. After all, a good pie’s difficult to get right! The same holds true for the French equivalent expression; where we’d say easy as pie, the French say easy as cake. And cake in France, with its many layers of genoisefondant and crème pâtissière positioned just so, is just as difficult to get right as the perfectly flaky pie crust and latticed design Americans aspire to.

As with the English expression, “c’est du gâteau” can occasionally be used ironically. It’s perfectly appropriate to utter “C’est du gâteau” after the successful – if arduous — completion of a not-so-simple task. Don’t go too crazy, though, or people may accuse you of telling salades!

5. Vouloir le beurre et l’argent du beurre. (Wanting the butter and the money from the butter.)

Wanting the butter and the money from the butter. Sound familiar? It should; this French expression is very similar to our “Have your cake and eat it too.” Just as you can’t have cake and eat it, you can’t have butter and the money you made from selling it. The French will often accuse their interlocutors of wanting just that when they ask for too much.

A slightly less polite version of the expression tacks on yet another desire having to do with the milkmaid, but you’ll have to get Oncle Guy drunk on Pastis to get the punch line!

6. Ça ne mange pas de pain. (It doesn’t eat bread.)

When something “doesn’t eat bread,” it means that it’s not problematic or too expensive. Similar to “no skin off my back,” this expression is used to mean something like, “it couldn’t hurt.”

Careful with this one; it’s not used to describe something beneficial, but rather something that isn’t negative or couldn’t do any harm. Want to double-check that you locked the door? Why not? It’s quick and easy to do, and it couldn’t hurt. Ça ne mange pas de pain. Your shoulder’s still hurting after three days? Maybe you should see the doctor. After all, ça ne mange pas de pain. 

7. Oh purée! (Oh mashed potatoes!)

One of the first things that many foreign language students attempt to learn are the gros mots or curse words and dirty expressions. What they might not learn right away are all of the expressions so frequently used to replace these less-than-savory phrases.

While the French tend to be quite liberal with their gros mots, they have just as many toned down versions, designed to be used in mixed company, phrases such as punaise (thumbtack), mercredi (Wednesday) and fils de sa mère (son of his mother).

One of these watered down expressions can be quite humorous if you’ve never heard it before; after all, seeing someone accidentally hammer his thumb and scream out, “Mashed potatoes!” could seem a bit surreal. But purée does fall into the category of gros mots safe to say in front of great-aunt Marguerite, so be sure to keep it in mind. 

 

SOURCE:  FluentU (French Language Learning by Immersion)

9 Beautiful French Proverbs That Will Impress

Want to astound native speakers with your French?

Then along with your French slang and French idioms, you must learn some French proverbs!

These beauties are filled with both imagery and wisdom, and can be used in everyday situations.

Here are nine French proverbs (brief sayings encompassing advice and general truths) and their meanings, which will give sel (salt/savor) to your use of the language, and a certain poésie (poetic flair) in the way you communicate.

9 Beautiful French Proverbs That Will Impress

1. “Qui vivra verra”

“Qui vivra verra”  is a widely used and understood proverb that literally means, “He/she who lives, shall see.” This phrase is usually used when an outcome is unpredictable or uncertain, like in the English “the future will tell.” Although it is a very short phrase, it still rolls smoothly off the tongue with elegance.

2. “L’habit ne fait pas le moine”

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“L’habit ne fait pas le moine” translates to “The vestment does not make the monk.” Its significance, though, is that just because a monk is wearing a renunciate’s robe, it doesn’t mean that the monk is sincere in his intentions. The English equivalent would be, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” The sense of the phrase implies that appearances can sometimes mislead one’s better judgement. The philosopher Plutarch came up with his own rendition of this phrase. It goes, “A beard does not make a philosopher,” which in French is translated as “La barbe ne fait pas le philosophe.”

3. “Chacun voit midi à sa porte”

Chacun voit midi à sa porte” is a beautiful expression which, while being somewhat unfortunate, is nevertheless quite true. The literal translation goes, “Everyone sees noon at his doorstep.” It means that every individual is occupied, first and foremost, with his or her own personal interests, and each feels their subjective opinions as objective truths. When such tenacity occurs, the French would say, “Inutile de discuter,” it is “useless to argue,” since every man feels he is right. Innumerable are the contexts in which this phrase may be used, and it would impress a French person to hear it from a foreigner.

4. “Mieux vaut prévenir que guérir”

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Mieux vaut prévenir que guérir” is another widely used proverb, understood by all French natives. It literally means, “It is better to prevent than to heal,” and interestingly, it’s the first principle of traditional Chinese healing practices. The French are very attached to this saying, dearly using it on a regular basis. It is not surprising, however, since health is first priority – “Et d’abord, ne pas nuire!” (First, do no harm!), they say. The sense of the proverb is such that it is better to take the necessary precautions to prevent a sickness, than to have to treat and heal this sickness. It is sens commun (common sense) in France, undoing the dictum, “Ignorance is bliss,” for the bliss in this case is to not be ignorant, but preventive.

5. “Petit a petit, l’oiseau fait son nid”

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“Petit a petit, l’oiseau fait son nid” is a charming little phrase that’s widely applied, and translated as, “Little by little, the bird makes its nest.” This proverb designates patience and perseverance. It can be used in many situations, particularly in the process of something not yet accomplished, as opposed to something that has been accomplished. And only then, after much time and effort, one might also say (with a pronounced sense of triumph and achievement), “Paris ne s’est pas fait en un jour!” (“Paris was not made in a day!”)

6. “Qui court deux lievres a la fois, n’en prend aucun”

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“Qui court deux lievres a la fois, n’en prend aucun” is a marvel not only in its implication, but in its wonderful imagery. It is translated as, “Who runs after two hares at the same time, catches none.” The meaning is that an individual ought to concentrate on one task at a time with optimal attention, if that task is to be well done. If a person does two things at once, the likelihood is that the end result will be anchored in mediocrity, due to a half-hearted effort. Something well done is something done with total concentration. This proverb offers an important reminder, so it can be wisely applied to many various situations.

7. “Qui n’avance pas, recule”

“Qui n’avance pas, recule” is a truth that none can counter. It is translated as, “Who does not move forward, recedes”. There can be no standstill in life, only evolution or devolution. Either one evolves, or one devolves. To be stagnant is the same as to recede. “Expect poison from stagnant water,” the English poet William Wordsworth once wrote. This proverb can be used as encouragement in the need to persevere. It may be persistently employed, given its truth content.

8. “Quand on a pas ce que l’on aime, il faut aimer ce que l’on a”

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“Quand on a pas ce que l’on aime, il faut aimer ce que l’on a” is a beautifully worded proverb that’s full of good sense. Its translation is, “When one doesn’t have the things that one loves, one must love what one has.” It reflects the saying, “Want what you have and you’ll have what you want,” which is to say that you must be content with what you currently hold, however little it may be. In this way, we avoid the burden of wanting things out of reach, and become grateful for the things that are before us now. If you say this proverb at the appropriate time, the French will surely be intrigued by such wisdom, and perhaps commend you for it with a “perrier” or a glass of wine.

9. “Il n’y a pas plus sourd que celui qui ne veut pas entendre”

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Il n’y a pas plus sourd que celui qui ne veut pas entendre” is a proverb “qui court les rues” (that runs the streets, meaning it’s widely used). It translates as, “No one is as deaf as the one who does not want to listen.” This would be the case for very stubborn people, or those so caught up in their own self-assertions that they pay no heed to the advice or opinions of others. The French, especially Parisians, are intellectual ringleaders. You might say that in Paris, debating is almost a sport. When a debate leads nowhere because of the tenacity on both sides, this proverb is likely to be used by either one or both of the parties (if each believe they are right).

So there you have it – nine proverbs to refine and give flair to your use of the French language. If you keep these sayings in your repertoire intellectuel (intellectual repertoire), you will find your ability to impress the French significantly increased.

Do not forget that these are “widely applied” French proverbs, and their usage is very flexible. Within the space of a day, many occurrences would arise in which you could slip one or more of these in your day-to-day conversations. They will have instantaneous chameleon effect, because French people would (usually) only expect a French native to say these. You saying one will either amaze the French person, or give off the impression that you have refined mastery of the language. It is a cunning way to gain a foothold in French conversational territory, which is why rehearsing and applying them will only bring greater eloquence, clarity and cordial magnetism in your meetings with the French.

SOURCE:  FluentU
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