Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Funny Things French People Say

In my work as an English teacher and even in my daily interactions with the French, I'm exposed to a never-ending stream of hilarious malapropisms. I always say that I'll write them down but usually forget. So for the sake of adding a little laughter to your day and mine, I've decided to keep track of some of that funny stuff in this blog.

A typical example involves misuse of prepositions: In response to my amusement at one of his English mistakes, my partner says to me, "Stop laughing on me!" Of course that just makes me laugh even harder...

Pronunciation also causes some problems: During an activity where my students had to make up lies in order to give a negative response to their partner's questions, one student asked the other, "So I hear you ate children." As if hating children isn't bad enough, she's accusing her of eating them!

Of course she meant to say hate, but French people tend to make the h silent when they see it, and to pronounce it when they shouldn't. For example, one of my students couldn't say the word "I"; she would say things like "Hi like pizza, Hi went to the movies," etc. Or they'll say "I hate lunch" instead of "I ate lunch." "I'm very hungry at him" instead of "I'm very angry at him." So I spend a fair bit of my class time working on the h sound, and of course laughing my butt off - luckily my students are pretty good natured about it all!

One last anecdote for today comes from another teacher, with of mix of pronunciation issues and general vocabulary confusion: One of his students recently asked him if he was a "cheese gamer." Hunh? After much confusion, they finally realized he meant to say "chess player." Ahhhh.

Speaking English with the French can take a fair amount of detective skills to uncover the hidden midden in the incomprehensible stuff they sometimes come up with. But that's part of the fun, and it's true in any foreign language I suppose; I make plenty of mistakes myself when I speak French. And when I lived in Ecuador as a college student, I said so many ridiculous things in Spanish that my host family started calling me "payasa" (clown). The important thing is to have a sense of humor about it all!

In that spririt, stay tuned for the next installment of "funny things french people say. " :-)


Elizabeth Cater Syracuse said...

When I was in Costa Rica in college, I was trying to ask my host mother where the garbage can was on my first morning. Instead of saying Donde esta la basura, I said donde esta la garbanza. We just stared at each other a few minutes until I realized what I had said. We definitely had a good laugh and bonded over that one!

vicki hartman said...

funny stuff, d!

and i hear you on the neighbor thing. i really like having people around, but don't always want to interact!
this blog is great!!!

Diana said...

Yeah, the language mistakes can be a good bonding experience. My first and classic mistake with my host family was trying to tell them that I was embarrassed (about a mistake, I'm sure). But when I said 'estoy embarazada,' turns out I was saying that I was pregnant. Talk about false friends! I had even more to be embarrassed about after that one, good thing we could laugh about it!

DQ's Windmill said...

Very funny! Now I'm going to be thinking of some more examples!
PS, I also visited Plum Village a few years ago - it's so beautiful:)