Remember how I complained about English words in French?

Loan words are definitely not helping my students learn English vocabulary. They were supposed to write partitive expressions to make uncount nouns countable on the test last week. All of the images they had to identify were used in their daily lessons, so they should have known which words to use.

The correct answer is a loaf of bread. What did some of my students write? Cake. Which is understandable since most bread in France does not look like this and in French, un cake is this (whether it’s sugary, salty or fruity):

I would call this a fruitcake in English, but all the others I would tend to call bread, i.e. banana bread, zucchini bread, etc. because they look like small loaves of bread even if they’re not really “bread.” A cake to me is much larger (round or square), usually in flavors of chocolate, vanilla, cherry chip, marble, carrot, etc. and covered in frosting.

This is a bowl (or box) of cereal. If the students didn’t write cereals (because it’s plural in French), they would write cornflakes and I don’t think it was because of the barely distinguishable green rooster on the box (which was black & white on the test anyway). David tells me that you can use cornflakes to refer to cereal in general in French, even though it only refers to a specific type of cereal in English.

Other answers weren’t so wrong, such as a pack of chewing-gum instead of just a pack of gum. The chewing part isn’t said very often in everyday American English, and there’s no hyphen (which annoyingly seems to make its way into a lot of English loan words in French.)

Yes, my students should have learned the vocabulary we went over in class, but I understand how it’s confusing for them to think they’re using English words properly when they’re really not. If the word was borrowed from English, why would the meaning be changed in French? I hope they’re just as annoyed about it as I am.

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  • Erica

    I’m not sure, but i think “chewing gum” is British, just like the British say “swimming pool” and not just “pool”.

    Whenever I hear, “I’m going to the swimming pool later,” it just seems so silly and redundant … a pool is mainly for swimming !

  • Erica

    I’m not sure, but i think “chewing gum” is British, just like the British say “swimming pool” and not just “pool”.

    Whenever I hear, “I’m going to the swimming pool later,” it just seems so silly and redundant … a pool is mainly for swimming !

  • http://islandgirl4ever2.blogspot.com/ Leesa

    I run across things my students learn in their regular school “English” classes that are very influenced by British English…. I came across this last night and it threw me for a loop–
    French English teacher wrote on the board for the students to copy (a paragraph) about Guy Falkes (or however you spell it)…
    …. “he was hanged up” (as in he was hanged) but in American English I have NEVER heard this when referring to the hanging of a person… But, I have heard– hang up the phone, or hung up the phone… Hang up the clothes dry… Hang up your clothes … etc… I have to go look it up now because her teacher also wrote the word Parliament— as Parlement, for the students to copy and the latter is the French word…
    Take care,
    Leese

    Leesas last blog post..Off the "Crackberry??!!!"

  • http://islandgirl4ever2.blogspot.com Leesa

    I run across things my students learn in their regular school “English” classes that are very influenced by British English…. I came across this last night and it threw me for a loop–
    French English teacher wrote on the board for the students to copy (a paragraph) about Guy Falkes (or however you spell it)…
    …. “he was hanged up” (as in he was hanged) but in American English I have NEVER heard this when referring to the hanging of a person… But, I have heard– hang up the phone, or hung up the phone… Hang up the clothes dry… Hang up your clothes … etc… I have to go look it up now because her teacher also wrote the word Parliament— as Parlement, for the students to copy and the latter is the French word…
    Take care,
    Leese

    Leesas last blog post..Off the "Crackberry??!!!"

  • http://emmygration.blogspot.com/ Emmy

    Just to add my sixpence to this thread, I am getting increasingly cheesed off with the differences between British and American English. I am British, I would not say Guy Falkes was hanged up, I would say ‘he was hung up’ and also ‘he was hanged’ too depending on the phrase. Whatever. Let’s just accept that we have differences in spelling etc etc.

    I have a student in my advanced conversation class who is determined to get the point through that American English is superior for him and he won’t accept it when I correct his pronunciation (because I obviously don’t realise that it’s pronounced like that in American English, when in fact I doubt anyone would say his pronunciation of ‘law’ was correct anywhere in the world).

    In respect to English words in the french language, I recently did a lesson on music and how many times did I hear ‘tube’ creep into the conversation? ….yes, let’s all talk about pipes… it must be so confusing for them, let’s give them some credit.

    Emmys last blog post..bus STOP

  • http://emmygration.blogspot.com Emmy

    Just to add my sixpence to this thread, I am getting increasingly cheesed off with the differences between British and American English. I am British, I would not say Guy Falkes was hanged up, I would say ‘he was hung up’ and also ‘he was hanged’ too depending on the phrase. Whatever. Let’s just accept that we have differences in spelling etc etc.

    I have a student in my advanced conversation class who is determined to get the point through that American English is superior for him and he won’t accept it when I correct his pronunciation (because I obviously don’t realise that it’s pronounced like that in American English, when in fact I doubt anyone would say his pronunciation of ‘law’ was correct anywhere in the world).

    In respect to English words in the french language, I recently did a lesson on music and how many times did I hear ‘tube’ creep into the conversation? ….yes, let’s all talk about pipes… it must be so confusing for them, let’s give them some credit.

    Emmys last blog post..bus STOP

  • http://emmygration.blogspot.com/ Emmy

    ahhh, ok, i got the wrong end of the stick there…. I’ve been in situations before where i was unable to comment on a teacher’s work as it might be correct in American English…so it’s vice versa for you guys. We spell it parliament in the Uk, and the teacher got it wrong on the hang up guy falkes. We don’t say that. Always a delicate situation and like my student who defends his ‘american’ pronunciation, teacher’s would probably do the same…. tricky.

    Emmys last blog post..bus STOP

  • http://emmygration.blogspot.com Emmy

    ahhh, ok, i got the wrong end of the stick there…. I’ve been in situations before where i was unable to comment on a teacher’s work as it might be correct in American English…so it’s vice versa for you guys. We spell it parliament in the Uk, and the teacher got it wrong on the hang up guy falkes. We don’t say that. Always a delicate situation and like my student who defends his ‘american’ pronunciation, teacher’s would probably do the same…. tricky.

    Emmys last blog post..bus STOP

  • http://tiempoquematar.blogspot.com/ rehtse

    Hi, I may give my opinion about using english words changing the meaning, I’m spanish and although most of anglicisms were adopted on their original meaning, as most people don’t know the language they use to change the meaning and finally it loses its original one.

    rehtses last blog post..Ya me rula el audio!!!!

  • http://tiempoquematar.blogspot.com rehtse

    Hi, I may give my opinion about using english words changing the meaning, I’m spanish and although most of anglicisms were adopted on their original meaning, as most people don’t know the language they use to change the meaning and finally it loses its original one.

    rehtses last blog post..Ya me rula el audio!!!!

  • http://twentyeighthofmay.wordpress.com/ Sally

    Hello,

    I second what Emmy says: we write ‘parliament’ in British English. French English teacher is wrong there, I’m afraid.

    And ‘chewing gum’ is definitely British. I don’t think I would ever say just ‘gum’, in fact.

    Re Guy Fakes, I would probably say ‘he was hung’. Actually he was hung, drawn and quartered, poor bloke.

    Sally

    Sallys last blog post..Some top advice …

  • http://twentyeighthofmay.wordpress.com Sally

    Hello,

    I second what Emmy says: we write ‘parliament’ in British English. French English teacher is wrong there, I’m afraid.

    And ‘chewing gum’ is definitely British. I don’t think I would ever say just ‘gum’, in fact.

    Re Guy Fakes, I would probably say ‘he was hung’. Actually he was hung, drawn and quartered, poor bloke.

    Sally

    Sallys last blog post..Some top advice …

  • http://doubledouble-petitcafe.blogspot.com/ Steph

    Hey, I’ve been reading your blog for awhile but have never commented. I’m also a native English speaker here in France and I feel your anger towards the loan words. Another one of my favourites it Brownies. I either get “Ah, tu nous as fait un brownie” or “C’est bon ce brownies”. There’s no consensus except to be consistently wrong ;)

  • http://doubledouble-petitcafe.blogspot.com Steph

    Hey, I’ve been reading your blog for awhile but have never commented. I’m also a native English speaker here in France and I feel your anger towards the loan words. Another one of my favourites it Brownies. I either get “Ah, tu nous as fait un brownie” or “C’est bon ce brownies”. There’s no consensus except to be consistently wrong ;)

  • http://kiwigirl-infrance.blogspot.com/ Kim

    I’m not an assistant but in everyday language in France I am continuously thinking about whether something is British English or American English when speaking with my French friends or even American and British friends. I speak New Zealand English which is a mix of British and American (we spell using British English) with some NZ words. I can only sympathise with the assistants, it must be difficult to teach!! In NZ we would say chewing gum, parliament and Guy Fawkes was hung. And I would say swimming pool and not just pool. The French try and correct my English pronunciation all the time! The NZ accent makes a word like “pen” sound like “pin”, “Ben” like “bin”… so French people are always telling me how to sound out the words to make my “pen” sound more like the British “pen”!!

    Kims last blog post..Songs of my childhood

  • http://kiwigirl-infrance.blogspot.com/ Kim

    I’m not an assistant but in everyday language in France I am continuously thinking about whether something is British English or American English when speaking with my French friends or even American and British friends. I speak New Zealand English which is a mix of British and American (we spell using British English) with some NZ words. I can only sympathise with the assistants, it must be difficult to teach!! In NZ we would say chewing gum, parliament and Guy Fawkes was hung. And I would say swimming pool and not just pool. The French try and correct my English pronunciation all the time! The NZ accent makes a word like “pen” sound like “pin”, “Ben” like “bin”… so French people are always telling me how to sound out the words to make my “pen” sound more like the British “pen”!!

    Kims last blog post..Songs of my childhood

  • Michelle

    I am currently an American High School French teacher. Years ago, I lived and studied for a short while in Tours, France while on an overseas-study trip during college. I also studied German and worked in Goslar, Germany during college as well. I think the important thing to consider about all of these pronunciation and vocabulary differences is that there is not only one right way to speak any language. Language use will vary for a lot of reasons depending on when, where, with whom and how it is being used. In communicating with my friends in France, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany as well as friends and family who live all over the U.S., the important thing is that we are all able to create meaning no matter how something is stated. I personally find these differences absolutely fascinating and it is one of the reasons I love to study language (French and German). I find it interesting to compare and contrast the variations of English and I teach any I know – I wish I knew more! All of you Brits and New Zealanders, keep on using your “chewing gum” and “swimming pool” words! Even though, as an American, I probably would not say it that way, I love it that you do, and I have no trouble understanding what you mean anyway! Current research on language acquisition shows that grammar is less important than being able to construct meaning. By the way, I also acknowledge to my students that I, as a foreign language educator, am not a native speaker and will never be able to present the language as authentically as a native speaker. We all make mistakes even in our own language and I welcome constructive criticism if I have made an error.

  • Michelle

    I am currently an American High School French teacher. Years ago, I lived and studied for a short while in Tours, France while on an overseas-study trip during college. I also studied German and worked in Goslar, Germany during college as well. I think the important thing to consider about all of these pronunciation and vocabulary differences is that there is not only one right way to speak any language. Language use will vary for a lot of reasons depending on when, where, with whom and how it is being used. In communicating with my friends in France, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany as well as friends and family who live all over the U.S., the important thing is that we are all able to create meaning no matter how something is stated. I personally find these differences absolutely fascinating and it is one of the reasons I love to study language (French and German). I find it interesting to compare and contrast the variations of English and I teach any I know – I wish I knew more! All of you Brits and New Zealanders, keep on using your “chewing gum” and “swimming pool” words! Even though, as an American, I probably would not say it that way, I love it that you do, and I have no trouble understanding what you mean anyway! Current research on language acquisition shows that grammar is less important than being able to construct meaning. By the way, I also acknowledge to my students that I, as a foreign language educator, am not a native speaker and will never be able to present the language as authentically as a native speaker. We all make mistakes even in our own language and I welcome constructive criticism if I have made an error.

  • Phil

    I don’t know about how it’s said in American English, but in proper British English there are two past participles for “to hang”. People are “hanged”, whereas objects (pictures, clothes, etc.) are “hung”. Thus one would say “Guy Fawkes was hanged”. In fact, before capital punishment was abolished in the UK, back in the sixties, the judge would solemnly read the sentence, “you shall be taken from this place and hanged from the neck until dead…”

  • Phil

    I don’t know about how it’s said in American English, but in proper British English there are two past participles for “to hang”. People are “hanged”, whereas objects (pictures, clothes, etc.) are “hung”. Thus one would say “Guy Fawkes was hanged”. In fact, before capital punishment was abolished in the UK, back in the sixties, the judge would solemnly read the sentence, “you shall be taken from this place and hanged from the neck until dead…”

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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 January 2010, I started focusing more on teaching and learning languages in general. 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 the university so these themes appear most often on the blog. I also continue to post about traveling (though now my trips are usually in Australia) and being an American abroad.

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