Why You Know More French Than You Think

The vast majority of us would like to learn French or understand it more. It is considered the language of love, a smooth language which is easy to listen to; it is considered as one of the most beautiful languages.

French is widely spoken, with 220 million people speaking the language around the world; giving you an incentive to learn French. Not only is it one of the official ‘working’ languages of the European Union alongside German. There has been speculation that English may not be an official language for too much longer.

French is a pleasure to listen to. French architecture is magnifique. French cuisine is incredible. Learn French culture and try this galette des Rois now that 6th January is around the corner. You can pick up French much easier than you can German or Spanish. You just have to ask them to speak a little slower. 😉

I learned French at school from 11 years old and have loved it ever since. Although it has taken me many years to vaguely master a French accent, it is definitely rewarding once you can crack out some phrases and roll your r’s correctly.

Half of what you’re saying is French

Up to 45% of English words are in fact derived from French words. The core vocabulary does originate from Old English but in fact 26% is made up of Germanic languages and 29% is from French (and Anglo-French languages).

If English is made up on French, old English, German, Latin and a bit of Greek, then this is another reason to look at other modern languages in order to understand our own.

French words we use in English without realising ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

À la – (in the style of) This hat à la Thomas Shelby in Peaky Blinders
Ballet – Spandau or Swan Lake, we like.
Brunette – what we all try to dye another colour
Bureau – office…
Cliché – Example: she dropped her books, he picked them up; they got married.
Debacle – a situation which ends dramatically
Décor – what you call the pointless things in your house
Éclair – what you’ll see in patisseries (French bakeries are the best in the world, just so you know).
Entrepreneur – a creator of a business, usually call themselves innovative
Genre – type
Sabotage – to destroy, destruct, damage or obstruct something for political advantage
Savoir-faire – responding to a situation appropriately
Sommelier – wine expert in a restaurant
Touché – if you win an argument, literally means ‘hit’ or ‘touched’
Vinaigrette – salad dressing with oil and vinegar
Vis-à-vis – face to face

Remember that even the French respect franglais

C’était complètement what the fuck, tu vois ?
Oui, je sais. Anyway…
Checker – to check

Celebrities that speak French

Here is something that may or may not surprise you: Jodie Foster, Diana Kruger and Joseph Love Hewitt speak French. I was in awe of their courage to learn languages; you can also notice who has put the most work in to learn French. Check out this video of Diana Kruger speaking fluent French.

Urhg. I just adore her use of ‘fin‘ and ‘quoi‘ which are really just fillers but indicate fluency because it sounds natural and idiomatic (things native speakers would say).

Practice softening your accent

Get past “Bonjewer (Bonjour), je m’appelle X” and think of ideal, everyday phrases (le langage quotidien) you’d like to be able to say.

Starting a new language can be daunting; the important thing is to allow yourself enough time. Start on Duolingo, read some new words everyday and also try to write some useful sentences down now and again. I find it really useful to put French radio on, which you can stream directly, whilst getting ready in the morning to improve your language level.

Even if you’re not listening, you are still going to feel very French afterwards and maybe you will dress nicer. Trust me on this one.

Book a trip to Paris and visit the places where the locals go to eat. My personal favourite has to be the 11th arrondissement in Paris, where I spent 6 months living and breathing languages –
particularly French. If you want to understand the French culture and etiquette better try this book.

If you’re eating charcuterie and drinking some Saint Émilion Grand Cru to help learn French, you will find your B1 French is actually B2.

Get a tandem partner – there is nothing nicer than finding new friends and laughing at each other’s mistakes together over a coffee.

Real-life tandem situation:

I have an example – it is in German due to me living in Berlin.

Friend: “Boah, es ist echt kalt geworden.” (it’s really gotten cold now)
Me: “Ja, es gab so viel Mist heute morgen…” (Yeah, there was so much *fog* this morning)

(‘Mist’ in German means crap, not fog. Fog is ‘Nebel’).

Me: “…”

I leave you with some music

One of my favourite has to be Stromae. He is from Belgium, but in my opinion (may be controversial) this language is definitely French. I find Belgians roll their R’s really, really nicely. It helps you learn French if you have some audio to play with. What do you think?

I heard of Fauve whilst I was living in Paris in 2012. I like the poetry at the start and the quote:

“Le plus important n’est pas ce que tu es mais ce que tu as choisi d’être.”

The most important thing is not who you are, but who you have chosen to become.

Are you going to learn French? If you started, what stopped you and why?

Let me know on Facebook, Twitter or in the comments.