19 curious observations about the French language

This week we have Ben and Adeline, the brains behind a new French-learning company called Ilini, and they share some truly interesting things about the French language.

This is an episode for you language lovers and language learners out there.

Now, I’d recommend you listen to the episode to make the most of these tips, but heck, if you’re wanna gobble down the 19 observations in 30 seconds, then scroll down for the list.

Oh yes, and Ilini is a website that helps you learn real life French via videos that are a mix of entertainment and news. Check it out if you want to improve your real-life French skills.

The 19 observations:

Small talk

1. You can respond to “how are you” (‘ca va’) with “The peach”.

Yes, if someone asks how you are and you’re in good form, you can respond with “La peche”. It means you’re feeing good. Try it.

2. … You can also respond with “the potato”.

How are you? The potato. Yep, you can  also say “la patate” if things are going well.

3. If you’re having a good time, you’ve “got the banana”

Yep, if you’ve got a big smile on the face, you’ve got the banana. Why? Well, it’s the same shape as your smile.

4. You can answer “how are you” with “always”.

Oui, if someone says “ca va”, you can respond with “toujours” meaning that things are always good. It’s quite a pleasant response, give it a shot.

5. Or you can respond by just saying ca va in response. 

In fact, you can even have a whole conversation using ca va six times in a row. More on that in point five in this list.

6. And it’s not uncommon to say ‘meh’ in response

Or, in French, it’s just ‘bof’. And apparently it’s a totally acceptable response to ca va.

Complaining

jan lewandowski/Flickr
jan lewandowski/Flickr

7. If you want to complain, you can say you’re bowl is full.

If you have le ras le bol, you’re saying your bowl is full, and you’ve had enough. There’s not really a good translation for it in English – but the French use it all the time.

8. You can complain by saying “it makes me defecate myself”.

In French: Ca me fait chier

9. And in the same style, the French don’t “piss you off”, they “shit you off”.

In French: Faire chier quelqu’un

Funny French expressions

10. If someone’s lying, they’re “Telling salads”.

Or as the French say: Tu me racontes des salades

800px-Flickr_-_cyclonebill_-_Salade_niçoise_(1).jpg

11. If you’ve got the blues, you’ve “got the cockroach”.

Or as the French say: Jai le cafard

12. If someone’s annoying you, they’re “breaking your feet”

Or as the French say: Tu mes casses les pieds

English Words that don’t exist in French

Yep, lastly, here are seven common English words that don’t have a good, single word translation into French.

13. Healthy

14. Cheap

15. Hug

16. Siblings

17. Successful

18. Sleepy

19. Abroad

That’s the list. Listen to the full episode if you want to hear these ideas explained a bit more.

And once again, sign up for Ilini here. It’s free to get a taste.

Lastly, if you wanna get some great extra Paris content from The Earful Tower, consider signing up on Patreon 🙂

8 thoughts on “19 curious observations about the French language

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      1. “Fratrie” is a valid translation for “siblings” in many cases. But you won’t hear it as much as “siblings” in everyday language. That’s because there is in fact an important nuance: “fratrie” is a singular word that refers to a group of siblings, to one single entity. It carries an abstract connotation. The singular form of siblings – a sibling – remains without a French equivalent!

    1. “Fratrie” is a valid translation for “siblings” in many cases. But you won’t hear it as much as “siblings” in everyday language. That is because there is in fact an important nuance: “fratrie” is a singular word that refers to a group of siblings, to one single entity. It carries an abstract connotation. The singular form of siblings – a sibling – remains without a French equivalent!

      1. Thanks Benjamin. For reference, the Le Monde article where I saw the word, referred to the subject of the article as “benjamin d’une fratrie de quatre enfants”- youngest of 4 siblings.

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