Gender issue: should you say “la chèvre” (the goat) or “le chèvre”? Well, it depends on what you want to say. The animal is designated using the feminine “la”. We use “le chèvre” when we talk about goat cheese. It is simply a quicker way of saying “le fromage de chèvre”. So “manger du chèvre” is very different from “manger de la chèvre” in which case you’re eating goat meat, not goat cheese.
Through the evolution of the world’s languages, there have been many cross overs, words that have been adopted from one language to another. They can be identical or very similar. In either case, our natural tendency is to aplly the meaning that our own language lends that word. Sometimes, those familiar words are true “amis” (friends) but many times they end up being faux-amis. Here are some examples:
#1 chat: (shah) means cat, nothing to do with talking.
#2 éventuellement: means possible, not eventually.
As of this year, I have had a daughter in French Immersion for five years. During that time, I have heard and read many grammatical errors. Some from my kids and even some from teachers. French is a super tricky language and no one is immune to falling prey to some obscure exception in a sea or grammatical rules, most of them very dry and confusing.
That being said, as a big French Immersion fan and avid supporter of proper language skills, I shall make a humble attempt at addressing the most common of those pitfalls and hopefully provide some clarification or some tricks to help both students and FSL French teachers. I will be adding to this list over time
1. “J’ai allé”: ask any Early French Immersion teacher and they will likely tell you that they’ve heard that a thousand times. Literally, it means “I have gone” and is used to say “I went”. The correct phrase is “je SUIS allé” or “je suis allée” when the speaker is female.
2. é or er? é indicates a participe passé et er indicates the “infinitif”, the un-conjugated form of a verb. Many learners struggle when deciding whether their should end a verb with é or er. The problem that we face is that both choices would generate the same sound so knowing what the word should sound like does not help. Here’s an example:
– le cahier que je vais montrer – le cahier que j’ai montré. (the notebook that I am going to show – the notebook that I have shown). Here’s the trick that works every time: replace the verb in question with one that sounds different in each form: verbs like prendre (pris) or faire (fait) work great. If you can replace the verb by prendre or faire, then the infinitif form is the right one (er). If that doesn’t sound right, then it’s é.
Example: le cahier que je vais pris or le cahier que je vais prendre. In this case, “prendre” works so we will use ‘er’. Le cahier que j’ai pris or le cahier que j’ai prendre. In this case, “pris” makes sense so we will use ‘é’. Note that the sentence might not make sense but that’s not the point.
3. “C’est qu’est ce que je fais”. Ouch, that one hurts my ears. If my own children are any indication, it’s a tough one to eradicate! Basically, after “c’est”, you can never say “qu’est ce que”. That’s it. Instead, say “c’est CE que je fais”. If you have found a way to teach this one, please share, I’d love to know it!
I’m not sure where you learn “couci couça” but every (!) FSL student seems to have retained that one expression. Many times, that’s all that’s left from several years of French lessons. Please allow me to say this, at the risk of schocking many of you: no one really says that in France anymore. You might have heard it but that doesn’t make it common, or cool 🙂
Okay, that’s enough, I got it out of my system, now let’s move on to what you should actually say. And it’s simpler than couci couça or comme ci comme ça, which is also seldom used.
Salut/bonjour, comment ça va? (Hi, hello, how are you?)
1) ça va, et toi? / bien, et toi? (I’m fine, and you?)
2) ça peut aller/ on fait aller / pas trop mal (couci couça, alright but not super great)
4) pas terrible ( not great at all)
5) ça va pas du tout (I’m not good at all)
6) pas mal (not bad)
There you have it. A collection of simple words that will make you sound like someone who actually lived in France.
photo credit: <a
On this page, I will share some expressions that can be used by French Immersion students and others to add colour to their French.
First expression, to get this page started:
“On n’est pas sorti de l’auberge!” Translating to “we’re not out of the woods”. The only difference is that “woods” is replaced by “inn” in the French version. As is often the case, there is no definite answer to how the expression originated. It is a very common expression in (Parisian as they say) French.