Sunday, May 8, 2011

Three French Expressions

Having taught English for many years, I developed a great fondness and respect for the language. I happen to believe, rightly or wrongly, that not all languages are equal and some languages seem very empty and colorless. (Don't ask which ones.) Sadly, I think English is growing that way more and more every day. 

Anyway, I found these fantastic French expressions which would confuse any student but are so dead-on accurate. If this is anything to go by, the French language has a lot of charm.

  • Je te vois venir avec tes gros sabots
    Now we are finally getting to the point (literally: "I see you coming with your big clogs")
  • Être comme une poule qui a trouvé un couteau
    To be at a complete loss (literally: "To be like a chicken who has found a knife")
  • Avoir trois métros de retard
    To always be one step behind (literally: "to be three subway trains late")

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  1. I love that I could understand without the translation! And I thought I'd forgotten any French at all.

  2. I've heard that we remember a lot more than we think we do. I know that, when teaching English, a false beginner- that is, somebody who has has some English lesson at one point in his/her past, is quite a bit easier to teach than somebody starting completely fresh.

    I don't know French at all but I was nearly able to understand the words. I think trying to understand the meaning of the phrases would probably have been beyond my marble-capacity. Thanks so much for commenting!

  3. I always think of little expressions like this when I'm teaching English. I learned early on, though, not to try to share them with students because you can hear them blinking in the silence. I don't think it's because they're not interested-- it's because your language has to be quite good for the words to have any force. Otherwise, they just remind you of how little you know, and expose you to the Great Mysteries of language-- not a place you want to be when you're struggling with 3rd person 's.'

  4. @Stranger, great observation.
    And the opposite of this is the foul word! Beginning students are always drawn to the naughty words and there is a very logical reason for it. When you are learning a language the overall feeling is total helplessness and a lack of effect. (This is also a reason why doctors and lawyers and people in positions of authority generally make difficult students. Being helpless is a very uncomfortable feeling is you aren't used to it.)

    But when you throw out a bad word, you have immediate impact and the look of shock must be very pleasing to an otherwise ineffectual speaker. A random "SHIT" or "Fuck" for no reason can indeed give you a instant sense of empowerment, but at the cost of your public image.

  5. For that reason, it's interesting to hear how non-native speakers over-swear. Especially in the US, where everyone swears a lot anyway...


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