Five things you’re doing wrong in French

This week’s podcast episode is with YouTube superstar Geraldine from Comme Une Francaise.

We discuss over 30 minutes the following five points, not to mention a little about where she lives in Grenoble, why she calls her channel Comme Une Francaise, and I retell the story about how I accidentally called all the French guys “My darling” when I moved to France.

Here are the mistakes you’re probably making.

Falling for false friends

If you want to talk about preservatives, don’t just say the same word in a French accent. That means “condoms” (preservatifs).

Translating literally from English

Don’t translate literally. If you want to say “Well done”, don’t say “bien fait”, that means something completely different.

Pronouncing the French words incorrectly (sometimes to hilarious effect)

Be careful of your pronunciation. For example: The French word canard means duck, but the worryingly similar word connard means bastard. You’ll surely make your waiter laugh.


Falling for the cultural faux pas

Never hug a French person, they might have a heart attack, says Geraldine. You’ve gotta know when to kiss cheeks (always), and it’s good to know if you start on the left or right cheek and how many kisses (two, three or the mythical four).

Making subtle mistakes that will embarrass you later

You’ve gotta master tu and vous, for example, and you need to know when to avoid swearing. And if you’re at a more advanced level, you need understand textbook French, otherwise it might harm your chances of getting a job.

Now, these are the five tips in brief. There are much more in-depth explanations in the chat, which you can also listen to below.

As for Geraldine, she has featured in a few Patreon-only Walk Shows. Here are some trailers.

Sign up as a flaneur on Patreon to watch the 30-minute versions of these walks (and to see the upcoming ones live!)

And buy my new guide book here.

Lastly, if you like language stories like this one, check out the language section here or this recent episode: 19 curious observations about the French language.

5 thoughts on “Five things you’re doing wrong in French

  1. A couple other words to not mix up with the “ou” and “u” sounds . . . We were visiting French friends and it was time to leave, so I tapped my husband on the shoulder and said (or rather tried to say), “En route” (on the road). Instead, I put the “u” sound instead of the “ou” sound and it came out “En rut” which means “in heat”. Oh my . . . thankfully these were very good friends and we were able to laugh about it. But I made sure to work really hard on those sounds after that. A good tip to make this difficult sound: form you mouth to make an “oo” sound but try to say “ee” without changing your mouth shape — or the reverse works as well, form your mouth into an “ee” sound and try to say “oo” without changing your mouth shape.

    And as for four kisses, I currently live in Picardie and the die-hard Picards do four kisses. I also had a friend a few years back from Normandy who did four kisses.

  2. I love your podcast ! I’m trying to develop a group where I can share my french culture and search more exchanges too! I have many work to do. thanks a lot

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