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

Advertisements

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…

View original post 559 more words

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!!

 

 

 

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”

commonly applied french proverbs flair beauty impress1 9 Beautiful French Proverbs That Will Impress

“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”

commonly applied french proverbs flair beauty impress3 9 Beautiful French Proverbs That Will Impress

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”

commonly applied french proverbs flair beauty impress4 9 Beautiful French Proverbs That Will Impress

“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”

commonly applied french proverbs flair beauty impress5 9 Beautiful French Proverbs That Will Impress

“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”

commonly applied french proverbs flair beauty impress7 9 Beautiful French Proverbs That Will Impress

“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”

commonly applied french proverbs flair beauty impress8 9 Beautiful French Proverbs That Will Impress

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
French Immersion Online HERE

Language Lundi #1

On any given Monday, I will post French language exercises of various levels, to help you improve your language learning – bonne chance & stay tuned!

C’est en forgeant qu’on devient forgeron! (Practice makes perfect)

Unscramble the letters to find four verbs:

eanhrtc

sadrne

rotirs

laclieciru

(all answers below)

crossword 2-24-14

Credit: LivingFrance

Answers:

Verbs: chanter, danser, sortir, accueillir

Crossword:

Across: 1-sourd; 4-obeir; 7-geste; 11-taupes; 13-litteraire; 14-essence; 15-magasin; 16-deja; 18-etes; 19-herbace; 21-athee; 22-belge; 24-pluie; 28-sentier; 29-haïr; 30-vent; 32-dejeune; 34-disparu; 36-toutlememe; 37-rasoir; 38-etant; 39-fumer; 40-annee

Down: 2-orage; 3-repassage; 5-bellemere; 6-intime; 8-epais; 9-tyran; 10-peigner; 12-singes; 17-entre; 20-chien; 23-grandpere; 25-livraison; 26-mesurer; 27-briser; 31- devenu; 32-droit; 33-jeton; 35-utile

Do you speak Versaillais?

Match the English phrase with its Versaillais equivalent.

(Trouver la phrase correspondante.)

1. Fancy dress ball                              a. Palefrenier

2. Sutler                                                 b. Tapisserie

3. Farrier                                                c. Bal paré

4. Scoundrel                                          d. Dauphin

5. Coach                                                  e. Cuirasse

6. Harpsichord                                      f. Vivandier

7. Groom                                                  g. Maréchal

8. Frill of a shirt                                     h. Jabot

9. Tapestry                                               i. Manchettes

10. Armored breast plate                    j. Hauts de chausses

11. Eldest son of the king                    k. Faïence

12. Crockery                                            l.  Rigole

13. Small channel                                 m. Carrosse

14. Breeches                                            n. Clavecin

15. Huntsman                                        o. Ecurie

16. Candlestick                                      p. Cavalcade

17. Parlor                                                 q. Bougeoir

18. Chancellor                                       r. Chancelier

19. Arbor                                            s. Levée et couchée du roi

20. Rising and retiring                        t. Salon

21. Horse procession                           u. Bosquet

22. Stables                                               v. Chasseur

23. Foil                                                     w. Fleuret

24. Marsh                                                x. Gredin

25. Cuff ruffle                                        y. Marécage

26. Hamlet                                              z. Le Hameau

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Answers :

1c; 2f ; 3g; 4x; 5m; 6n; 7a; 8h; 9b; 10e; 11d; 12k; 13l; 14j; 15v; 16q; 17t; 18r; 19u; 20s; 21p; 22o; 23w; 24y; 25i; 26z

(Source : fusac.fr)

Learning French – Oui, French Today!

Of course, one can learn a language at any age, although it has been proven easier to do before the age of 13,  due to the brain’s stages of development.

I went back to university as an adult to earn a B.A. in French – a “fait accompli” in three years time; the focus was mostly on learning to read and write French. Bien sûr, there were the required grammar classes and a lot of literature classes, but surprisingly not many French conversation classes. So, learning was how to speak textbook French, which is not always what’s truly spoken.  Afterwards, when I lived and worked in Paris, this all became amusingly quite evident (read about it in “Solitary Desire – One Woman’s Journey to France” – available on Amazon)!

Spoken French is like spoken English, where words are slurred together, spoken quickly, and includes slang.  I have a good friend who takes lessons via skype with French Today (click on the image icon on the left sidebar on my blog for direct access) to improve her speaking ability, and she highly recommends the company.  They also have a variety of listening programs & lessons in communicating in modern day French.

What a great idea, as well, to give as a gift to a Francophile friend!  Let’s speak French (Parlons français) and oui, let’s speak French Today!