Culture Clash!! The risks of using French phrases in English

Are you au fait with both the French and English language? Do you pronounce the French capital as Paris or Par-ee when you say it in English? And is it smart or rude to “dumb down” your language for a foreign audience?

This week on the podcast (a new season!!)… Oliver, Lina, and Eddie discuss all this… and also how three small French words created a tempest of opinions in Earful Tower circles this month. 

The podcast episode

Listen to the podcast above to hear the full discussion, but if you’d rather read about it, the embedded Facebook post below (and the hundreds of comments) are a good insight into the clashes that come with mixing languages.

Meanwhile, if you’re on the east coast of Australia, here’s the link for more tour dates for October’s Earful Book Tour.

Lastly: Do you want to support this work? Buy one of our books below, or even better, become a Patreon member and unlock loads of Paris bonus content, including PDF itinerary guides to the city.

4 thoughts on “Culture Clash!! The risks of using French phrases in English

  1. It doesn’t surprise me that this phrase generated so much discussion. This is the essence of language. Considering your expat situation, and the fact that you live in France as a native English-speaker, it’s an important dynamic to embrace in your writing. This is the translation of one culture to another in action.

    Also, I have a bone to pick with the French language. There are so many anglicisms that have been adopted, and which are false, if I may say so. A “jogging” doesn’t mean “sweatpants” in English, a “pressing” is not a “dry cleaner,” “footing” is not “running,” “relooker” is not used as “to makeover” in English, “shampooing” is just “shampoo”…and the list goes on!
    These pseudo-anglicisms are so prevalent in day-to-day speech. According to the Académie Française, the extent to which the French adopt anglicisms goes far beyond words such as these. It is also in the grammar. Just check this out:

    By the way, a “double entendre” is not used in French the way we use it in English. So we do this too, but I find it’s less dramatic.

    An American living in Paris since 2011, I find myself adopting a French way of speaking English, using French grammar rules in English. I immediately catch myself when I do this, and I realize that it’s almost inevitable. I’ll always speak somewhere between English and French. I work in French, and I speak French every day. Additionally, I am passionate about subjects like this. (I got my Masters in Cultural Translation (translation theory) at the American University of Paris.) This is an important topic in our modern world.

    In any case, this is what happens when cultures meet and meld. It’s fascinating!
    Finally, as you said, the bottom line is this: The main purpose of language is to be understood, regardless of grammar or phraseology variations.

  2. “À la mode” means “with ice cream” only in the U.S. In France, it still means “fashionable.”
    Having learned how to pronounce “lingerie” correctly, I just can’t go back to the American mispronunciation (lawn-jer-AY). Same with “chaise longue,” which they pronounce as “chase lounge.” I’m not going to correct somebody, but I can’t bring myself to say it wrong anymore. I’ll ask for the underwear department or a lounge chair.
    Similarly in French, I can’t bring myself to say “chamallow” for “marshmallow.” Luckily, it never comes up in conversation now that my kid has grown up.

  3. Do you know the children’s song: “Savez-vous planter les choux?
    A la mode a la mode.
    Savez-vous planter les choux?
    A la mode de chez nous.
    It’s a keeper.

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