La langue française me rend folle.

Sometimes there are certain aspects of the French language that drive me crazy. Verbs of movement is one example.

French does not use adverbs of motion the same way that English does, so it is not possible to translate literally “He ran across the street” into French. Sure, you can say il a couru for he ran and à travers la rue for across the street. But if you put them together in one sentence, it doesn’t make much sense. It’s the same for “I drive to school.” You cannot put je conduis and à l’école together in one sentence.

Instead, you must use a general verb of motion, then specify the place, and then use a gerund or prepositional phrase that describes the “manner” of movement. And this constantly confuses me because the literal English translation is so awkward.

He ran across the street. = Il a traversé la rue en courant. = He crossed the street by running.
I drive to school. = Je viens à l’école en voiture. = I come to school by car.

I never know how to say up or down or through or away, or which verb of movement I should use. I’ve been trying to think of examples, and having David check them to make sure I’m getting the hang of this. Here are some of my sentences:

He limps up the stairs. = Il monte l’escalier en boitant.

The children crawl down the hill. = Les enfants descendent la colline en rampant.
The man hops toward the window. = L’homme se dirige vers la fenêtre en sautillant.
We tip-toed out of the room. = Nous sommes sorties de la pièce sur la pointe des pieds.
She swam across the lake. = Elle a traversé le lac à la nage.
I’m flying to Berlin. = Je vais à Berlin en avion.

But now here’s a sentence I’m not sure how to translate: The car rushed towards me. I spotted this on an exam for some seconde students, and David wasn’t even sure how to translate it correctly. Should I use en fonçant as the gerund at the end? Then what’s the regular verb? So so confused. I know I’d lose those 2 points it was worth…

And this has nothing to do with learning French, but it pertains to French culture. I get really annoyed that French people close the door to a room that no one is in, especially the bathroom. Americans tend to leave the door open so that you know there is no one in there and you can enter without having to awkwardly/slowly turn the handle to see if it’s locked (or even more awkwardly, it is unlocked but someone is in the bathroom and they forgot/didn’t want to lock it!) To me, a closed door = a locked door, which would fit perfectly in French since fermé can mean both closed and locked. But oh no. A closed door in France certainly does not mean it’s locked or that you cannot enter.

I asked David why the French leave the door closed, and his response was “If the door is closed, that means that no one is in there.” Umm, ok, but when someone is in there, he or she closes the door too. So a closed door means that someone is in the room AND someone is not in the room. See?? It makes no sense!!

Canaille is confused.

Every time I try to print something… “What is this loud machine?”

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I’m a March hater.

I hate the month of March because it’s so long and boring and just shouldn’t exist anymore. Nothing important ever happens and the weather sucks. I’m just waiting for my job to be over so I don’t have to waste so much money on gas. I’m tired all of the time because of the commute […]

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Travailleur Temporaire to Vie Privée et Familiale

I love that I just now received my travailleur temporaire carte de séjour for being an assistant when I have five weeks of work left. Really, what was the point?? Anyway, I got the list of documents that I need to provide for my first vie privée et familiale card due to being PACSed. For […]

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Last trimester

La rentrée has been a little difficult for me. My schedule changed so now I work all day long Thursday & Friday, but only afternoons on Tuesday and every other Wednesday morning. My school is currently doing the bac blanc which means some of my classes are cancelled because the students are doing the practice […]

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Freedom of speech, anyone?

I’m annoyed by this. France bans naming teachers on school-rating website PARIS (AFP) — A French court on Monday ordered a website that allows pupils to rate their schools to stop naming teachers, after the country’s educational establishment denounced it as “public lynching”. The website,, which opened late January based on similar sites that […]

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Day trip 2: Lyon

Another day trip! This time it was to Lyon, the former capital of Gaul. As soon as we arrived, Jessica & I jumped on the over-priced tramway (1,50 €) and headed straight to Le Centre d’Histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation. We were there for over two hours and didn’t even hear the […]

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Random news about France…

Gastronomy: Sarko declared French food the best in the world and wants it recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Umm, how does food qualify as a place? And is anyone else really sick of people saying French food is better than all other food? How snobby can you get? Anyway, if you register on […]

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That crazy Sarkozy!

Sarko insulted a random man at the Salon de l’Agriculture yesterday because the man told Sarko not to touch him. Politely translated, the exchange went something like this: Man: Don’t touch me.Sarko: Then get lost.Man: You disgust me.Sarko: Get lost, poor jerk! (Sarkozy actually said casse-toi and pauvre con, which can be much more rudely […]

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Chamonix & Mont Blanc

Lucy & I decided to take a day trip to Chamonix yesterday. We’ve lived in the Alps for a year and a half, but still haven’t actually seen much of the Alps… So after two hours and three trains, we made it to Chamonix, which was surprisingly warm for February. Then after another hour of […]

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Why is Jennie no longer in France?

I created this blog in September 2006 when I moved to France from Michigan to teach English. Many of the earlier posts are about my personal life in France, dealing with culture shock, traveling in Europe and becoming fluent in French. In July 2011, I relocated to Australia to start my PhD in Applied Linguistics. Although I am no longer living in France, my research is on foreign language pedagogy and I teach French at a university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling and being an American abroad.


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