Category Archives: Learning French

Y en. (Not a French donkey.)

By   April 10, 2008

I hate y and en. These little words have caused so much confusion for me in French. The basic rules are:

1) y replaces a prepositional phrase (except those beginning with de). It translates as “there” or “it” and sometimes it is not translated into English.

On va à Boston demain. We’re going to Boston tomorrow.
On y va demain. We’re going there tomorrow.

Elle ne joue pas au foot ? She doesn’t play soccer?
Si, elle y joue ! Yes, she does!

2) en replaces de or any contraction of it as well as the noun that follows a number. It translates as “of/about it” or “of/about them” and sometimes it is not translated into English.

Il veut du lait. He wants some milk.
Il n’en veut pas. He doesn’t want any.

J’ai deux chiens. I have two dogs.
J’en ai deux. I have two (of them).

Neither one can replace a person. For example, Elle pense à lui cannot become Elle y pense. And both y and en are placed before the conjugated verb, like other pronouns, or after the imperative. This means you have to think quickly and figure out if you need to replace the prepositional phrase before you even say the verb. Sometimes word order in French is worse than in German…

But those are the overly simple examples that I always learned from grammar books. It’s much more complicated than that. One problem is with verbs followed by à or de before nouns. Either I forget that they require a preposition and so I don’t use y or en at all when I should. Or I throw in the y or en, but still use the prepositional phrase at the end. ::sigh:: I just can’t win.

French V Tutorial 90. Verbs followed by by à or de before infinitives or nouns

Il n’a pas besoin de l’ordinateur. He doesn’t need the computer.
Il n’en a pas besoin. He doesn’t need it.

Ils ont renoncé au tabac. They gave up tobacco.
Ils y ont renoncé. They gave it up.

Another problem is verbs that automatically use en or y. Sometimes I have no idea what prepositional phrase they’re replacing; you’re just always supposed to use the verb this way. And if you do forget the y or en, sometimes the verb changes its meaning and you’ll sound really stupid. (Notice that there are a lot of reflexive verbs in this category, another part of French grammar that drives me crazy. But I’ll save that for another day…)

s’y faire – to get used to
s’y prendre – to go about doing something
y arriver – to manage / to be able to do something
en vouloir (à quelqu’un) – to be mad / to hold a grudge (at/against someone)
en baver – to have a hard time doing something [Notice that baver means to drool!]
en venir – to get at / imply something
s’en sortir / s’en tirer – to manage in life / to make it (i.e. recover, survive)
s’en faire – to worry
s’en aller – to go away

And let’s not get s’y faire or s’en faire confused with se faire, which when followed by an infinitive means “to get oneself + past participle” : Tu vas te faire tuer. You’re going to get yourself killed.

And I get even more confused with verbs that require de, but also already have en before them! [David tells me this is not actually grammatically correct French, but this is the way that French people speak.]

en avoir marre de quelque chose – to be fed up with something
s’en fiche / s’en foutre de quelque chose – to not care about something

And the kicker? Verbs like these, which sometimes have opposite meanings!

s’en douter vs. douter: Je m’en doute means I imagine so; whereas j’en doute means I doubt it.

There are other examples of how one little sound changes the entire meaning in French. Yet another reason why I think French was invented as a cruel joke on foreigners trying to learn it.

Tu en veux ? vs. Tu m’en veux ?
Do you want some? vs. Are you mad at me?

And the cruelest one of all, which includes a vowel sound that doesn’t exist in English:

dessus vs. dessous
above vs. below

Seriously. That’s just mean.

P.S. If you didn’t get the title, just pronounce y and en together as one word… and you will be making the noise that a donkey makes in French (hihan instead of heehaw).

La langue française me rend folle.

By   March 15, 2008

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!!

On learning and teaching

By   February 17, 2008

I cracked open my French vocabulary books after a much-too-long break from them, and rediscovered why I love learning new words. Vocabulaire expliqué du français; niveau intermédiaire begins with a chapter on prefixes and suffixes, which are mostly the same in English thanks to Latin. But there was one prefix I didn’t know in French: para- which means against.

Finally I understand why umbrella is parapluie in French (in Italian, it’s ombrello). It literally means against rain! Then parachute makes sense, which English borrowed directly from French. Against fall! And parasol – against sun! I love that learning more French helps me understand more English.

Atterrir makes more sense now as “to land.” Somehow I never noticed that the word terre was inside of that verb. Duh. Even avenue has a more distinct meaning than I thought. It was originally reserved for the streets that led directly to a castle, for example, and it’s called an avenue because that’s how people came (venu) to the castle. And why do we walk dans la rue, but sur la route? Because a rue has houses and buildings on both sides, so you are walking among them; whereas a route leads you through open land, with no obstructions on either side.

Sometimes I get so frustrated at the French language and all of its illogical rules and annoying borrowings from English (like every “French” word that ends in -ing!), but I get so excited when something becomes more clear. I usually have to know why something is a certain way in order to understand and remember it well, so if there’s no real reason – like why French borrowed le brushing to mean blowdry or le catch to mean fake wrestling – it drives me crazy. I need order and logic!

I’m only 50 pages into this book and I already feel like I’ve learned so much. I’ve actually been really lazy about studying French lately (or any language for that matter…) and I’m not sure why. At least I’ve been doing exercises online for the TCF (Test de Connaissance du Français) on their official site and on RFI’s site. I should be fluent in French by the time I have to take this test in order to immigrate to Quebec, but I just want to be prepared… even years in advance. And apparently the TCF for Quebec only lasts 45 minutes – it’s just 30 listening comprehension questions and 6 spoken expression questions! No grammar or reading comprehension, which is what I’m best at, of course.

I’ve also been attempting the Exercices PDF at Amélioration du français and trying to read more in French. I recently bought Hélène Berr’s diary (she’s being called the French Anne Frank) and even though I know it’s going to depress me, I’m really interested in reading about her life in Paris after the German occupation. Plus I already learned a new word just in the second sentence: giboulée, which sounds like part of a chicken, but it actually means a rain shower.

But because I’m not content with just studying one language, I’ve also been trying to memorize more irregular verbs in the simple past tense in German. I’m still teaching irregular verbs in English to my private student, and I’m beginning to see why it’s so difficult for her. Sometimes there are just no rules for the changes (why does sein become war; why does go become went??)

I always try to incorporate methods that I use for learning languages into my teaching. Obviously just studying grammar does not help you become fluent, or otherwise I’d be fluent in so many languages now. Having exposure to the real, authentic language is the only way to learn. Listening comprehension is so underestimated in language classes. I’ll never understand why teachers insist on speaking all in French when they are trying to teach their students to speak in English. How are you ever going to learn correct pronunciation, stress and intonation if you never hear the actual language?

Currently, the bulk of my assistantship job is helping Terminale students to pass their oral bac exam at the end of the year. The students will receive some sort of visual document that they’ve never seen before, have 10 minutes to prepare a speech about it (describe it and analyze it), and then they must talk for 10 minutes. It’s actually quite hard, especially if you don’t practice for it. Luckily, I found all of the documents used on the 2007 exam online, as well as a certain formula to follow when constructing the speech.

So my students have learned how to prepare for their exam, but they haven’t really learned what to say. Even after several years of English classes, their vocabulary and pronunciation need a ton of improvement. I feel like I need to teach them the basics of English, which they should have learned in middle school. But that’s not even what bothers me most about teaching Terminale students – it’s that I’m teaching them how to pass an exam, not how to speak real English. Sure, they’ll be able to explain a black & white document, but if they went to an English-speaking country tomorrow, could they survive? I highly doubt it.

P.S. I love that the Quebecois say dormir comme un ours instead of dormir comme un loir.

P.S.S. If you look at page 7 of the documents used on the 2007 exam, you’ll see an ad from the Michigan State Police. LOL

School & Public Transportation Vocabulary

By   December 6, 2007

un débrayage – short stoppage in work, not necessarily caused by a strike. Can include short protests against something that cannot be changed, complete with speeches that cannot be heard over the noise of uninterested students happy to have an excuse to miss class. Also the cause of unexpected trous in one’s schedule (see below).

un trou – break or pause between classes in one’s schedule. For the lucky, they only last one or two hours. For the unlucky, they can last between 3 and 6 hours, such as was the case on Tuesday when I had a huge trou between 11 am and 5 pm and again on Thursday between 10 am and 3 pm.

un conseil de classe – staff meetings for a certain class, usually held after school. Teachers are obviously required to complain about these meetings regardless of when, where or how often they take place during the school year.

perturbé – adjective used to describe the state of public transportation during a strike. Supposedly means disturbed in English, but more commonly means non-existent, as in, “there’s no way you’re getting to work/school/anywhere today because SNCF workers are angry at Sarkozy.”

un autocar – a bus (but not un bus; confusing, I know!) that goes from city to city rather than within one city. Also used as an alternative to trains during a strike and during early hours when train stations are not yet open. Autocars run late 98% of the time, so they are a legitimate reason for being late to your 8 am class.

les horaires du service hiver – train schedule that is valid from December to July (because apparently winter goes until July?), characterized by the most inconvenient times that will force me to arrive to work either 10 minutes late, or 2 hours early.

Je cherche une voiture automatique.

By   October 30, 2007

I’m trying to find an automatic car that isn’t too expensive so that I don’t have to take the train to work anymore. Comprehending car ads in French is no easy task. And thanks a lot,, for recently removing the search function that specifies boîte automatique instead of boîte manuelle. ::sigh:: I am not looking forward to going back to work without a car. And there’s no way I’ll be ready to drive a manual car anytime soon, especially not for an hour through the mountains.

Ok, let’s try to decode some ads. First, you have to choose what type of car: Berline, Coupé, Monospace, Break, etc. I have no idea what these mean. Let’s just leave it on Berline. Type in maximum price and location. Don’t care which marque or modèle, and voilà:

R19 ESS AN 92 TBE 122.600km CT OK pneus neige. Hmm. What does R19 mean? I understand ESS means essence (gas) instead of diesel, and the year (AN for année) is 1992. Uh, TBE??? 122,600 km – I still can’t think in kilometers… The CT is OK, that’s good to know, if only I knew what CT meant. Ah, comes with snow tires. And now I have a headache. But it doesn’t matter anyway because it’s a boîte manuelle!

Plan B. Let’s try looking at Top Annonces that came in the mail today. The cars are sorted according to the make, which means nothing to me since I have no idea if a Twingo is better than a Clio or a Renault or a Fiat. Most don’t even list the prices. I realize this will be waste of time as the abbreviations are even worse (more confusing) than online ads, and I cannot find any that specify boîte automatique.

Attempt 3. Ebay is my last hope. Score! I can search for automatique and have mostly boîte auto in my results! Wish me luck!

* * * * * * * * * *
Automobile abbreviations & vocabulary:

AN – année (year)
AV – à vendre (for sale)
bosse – dent
carrosserie – body of car
carte grise – registration
clim – climatisation (air conditioning)
CT OK – contrôle technique OK (vehicle inspection OK)
CV – chevaux (horsepower)
ESS- essence (gasoline)
MEC – mis en circulation (put into service)
moteur HS – moteur hors service (motor doesn’t work)
p – portes (doors)
pr pce – pour pièces (for pieces)
px à déb – prix à débattre (price to debate / or best offer)
TBE – très bon état (very good condition)
vdue en l’état – vendue en l’état (sold as is)
vitre – window of car

And my favorite driving words:
dos d’âne – bump (donkey’s back)
nid-de-poule – pothole (chicken’s nest)

Je suis de retour.

By   October 24, 2007

So I arrived in Geneva late Tuesday afternoon. My luggage, however, did not. It was sunny and 75 when I left Michigan. Here it’s cloudy and 50. And it took us 3 hours to drive back to Annecy from the airport when it normally takes 40 minutes. Welcome back to France, indeed.

Being in Michigan was so great, and so easy. Everyone spoke English. I drove my car everywhere. I shopped on a Sunday and the cashier bagged all of my stuff. I didn’t feel rushed or stressed at all. And now I’m back to speaking French, which still gives me a headache. I have to rely on the train to get to work. I can’t get anything done after 7 pm or on Sundays. But mon amour is here. And good health care. And an income.

I do think my biggest struggle living here is still not speaking French completely fluently. I’m always nervous when I go out because I don’t want people talking to me and then feeling like an idiot when I don’t understand. The other big problem is not having a car. I have no control over when the train leaves or arrives, or if it’s going to be late, and it stresses me out everyday.

But I know I can speak French. I had no problems talking to the airport and getting my luggage delivered today. And that was all on the phone in French, something I’ve dreaded for years. I know I can do this, I just need to try harder. I haven’t studied in such a long time; I haven’t made a real effort to improve. Recently, I found an article written by an American who moved to Paris for his job and had to learn French. I have no idea why I never found it before since it’s been around since 1998. It’s extremely helpful in explaining actual conversational French. It would have been so useful when I first arrived last year.

Fluent French: Experiences of an English Speaker by Erik T. Mueller

And David & I are going to look for a car for me very soon. He knows how much I hate taking the train and how much I miss driving. I just hope I can afford one! I still haven’t transferred most of my money from my US account and the exchange rate just keeps getting worse and worse. :(

And just for fun, Brandy in my parents’ huge backyard (a.k.a. why I hate living in an apartment).

Why French Grammar is Hard

By   September 3, 2007

Sam’s recent post about the three nouns in French that are masculine when singular, yet feminine when plural (amour, délice, orgue) got me thinking about other ridiculous grammar rules in French. So I give you (some of the) reasons why French grammar is a cruel joke for those trying to learn it:

1. Use of ne and deletion of pas in negative statements. Although you can drop ne in spoken French and just use pas to show negation, you cannot do this in written French. However, you can drop pas in written French and just use ne to show negation; but thankfully only after certain verbs: cesser, daigner, oser, pouvoir, and savoir.

2. Use of ne in positive statements. Just when you learned that ne can exist on its own as a negative particle, now you have to separate it from the ne explétif, which is just a ne thrown into a sentence for no good reason (and it does not make the sentence negative!) It must be used 1) after certain conjunctions: avant que, à moins que; 2) after expressions and verbs of fear: de crainte que, de peur que, craindre que, avoir peur que, redouter que, trembler que, empêcher que, éviter que; 3) before a verb that follows a comparison of inequality: plus, moins, autre; and 4) after adverbs of doubt and negation used in the negative to express a positive idea.

3. Agreement (or not) with past participles. Some verbs require être as the auxiliary verb in the passé composé. The subjects and past participles of these “être verbs” must agree in gender and number. For all of the other verbs, avoir is used as the auxiliary in the passé composé and there is no agreement, except when there is a preceding direct object. Then the direct object and past participle must agree. (WHY?) Furthermore, all pronominal verbs take être as an auxiliary, and the subjects and past participles must agree as well, except when the pronominal verb is followed by a direct object OR when the reflexive pronoun of the pronominal verb is an indirect object. Piece of cake, right?

4. Masculine to Feminine. Adjectives must agree in gender and number with the nouns they qualify. Not too hard. If only it were as simple as just adding -e to form the feminine. No, no, there are several ways to change masculine to feminine: -x changes to -se; -il, -el, and -eil change to -ille, -elle, and -eille; -et changes to -ète; -en and -on change to -enne and -onne; -er changes to -ère; -f changes to -ve; -c changes to -che; -g changes to -gue; -eur changes to -euse if the adjective is derived from a verb, -eur changes to -rice if the adjective is not derived from the same verb, and -eur changes to -eure with adjectives of comparison. Plus there are five adjectives that have an alternate form (bel, fol, mol, nouvel, vieil) when used before masculine singular adjectives beginning with a vowel! Oh, and there’s a dozen or so adjectives that change meaning depending on whether they are placed before (figurative meaning) or after (literal meaning) the noun.

5. Singular to Plural. Almost all masculine singular nouns ending in -al or -ail change to -aux to form the plural. But all feminine nouns ending in -ale form the plural by adding -s. Also, if the singular ends in -eu or -eau, add an -x and not an -s for the plural. And don’t forget those seven nouns ending in -ou that add -x instead of -s too: bijou, caillou, chou, genou, pou, joujou, hibou.

6. Non-agreeing adjectives. Of course there are exceptions to the agreement rule. Compound adjectives, such as bleu clair or vert foncé, do not agree. Neither do adjectives that also exist as nouns, such as or, argent, marron. And then there’s châtain, which can be masculine or feminine depending on your mood and whether or not you feel like adding an -e to the end. Either way, it will be grammatically correct. Cent agrees only when the number is a multiple of one hundred (trois cents, but trois cent un), while mille remains invariable at all times.

7. Disjunctive Pronouns with à. These pronouns are supposed to follow prepositions, but when that preposition is à, things get complicated. Sometimes à + a person is replaced by an indirect object pronoun (lui, leur). However, in certain verbal phrases, indirect pronouns are not used, and the disjunctive pronoun remains after à. Compare je lui ai dit and j’ai pensé à elle.

8. Articles. If you accidentally use the wrong gender of an article, you could be saying a completely different word. Le livre is a book; la livre is a pound. There is neither elision nor liaison with articles before nouns beginning with an aspirate h. Which words have an aspirate h? A lot of words that are not derived from Latin, but you really just have to memorize them one by one. And you had better not pronounce a z between des and haricots!

9. Inversion. Subject and verb must be inverted after these adverbs when they begin a sentence: à peine, ainsi, aussi, du moins, peut-être, sans doute, and toujours. (Aussi means so or therefore when it begins a sentence, not also, but of course you already knew that.) Inversion is also used for emphasis or just because it sounds nice to French peoples’ ears, such as after adverbial expressions of time or place and to avoid putting monosyllabic verbs at the end of a sentence. Quelle horreur !

10. Subjunctive Mood. This mood expresses a subjective statement of opinion, rather than factual information as with the indicative. It cannot be used when two clauses have the same subject (in this case, the infinitive is used). The subjunctive must be used after verbs expressing fear, doubt, desire, and other emotions. It only follows penser, croire, and trouver when they are negative. However, it is not used with ésperer, even though the subjunctive is required after this verb in the other Romance languages. And it must be used after random conjunctions that seem to have no connection to statement of opinions, such as avant que, pour que, jusqu’à ce que, à moins que, bien que, sans que, etc. The beginner student will probably assume this tense is not very important or very common in French since textbook authors insist on waiting until chaper 12 to teach it, but don’t be fooled. It is very common.

11. Passé simple. A verb tense that no longer needs to exist. In modern French, it is very rarely used in speech. You will find it in many books that you would like to read, but can’t because you never learned how to recognize the forms of the simple past. It’s too bad that this tense is shoved to the very end of textbooks so the semester is over before you get to it.

There are several other reasons why French can be a nightmare to learn (all of those homonyms, faux amis, huge number of slang words, pronunciation of nasals, vowels and r, informal reduced speech, etc.) but these grammar quirks have always stuck out in my mind as being the most ridiculous.

FIA Addiction

By   August 24, 2007

Just when I decide I need to get off my computer and do things in the real world more often, I agree to start writing summaries of French in Action episodes for the FIA Wiki created by my new favorite blog, Mystère et boules de gomme ! I’m going to write up a new page for one or two episodes every day. I have all of the videos and the textbook full of transcripts, so it won’t take too long. And I’m going to justify my extra computer time by saying this will be a part of my daily French study time instead, which it really is!

Food confusion

By   August 17, 2007

Last night, David decided he wanted to make fajitas. So we went to Leclerc and finally found the tiny international section (international meaning Mexican and Chinese). There was one brand of fajita mix, Tex-Mex something, so we grabbed it and started collecting the other ingredients… onion, pepper, chicken… and corn? I never ate Mexican food much in the US because I can’t handle spicy food, but I’ve never heard of a fajita made with corn.

A lot of French people ask me about Mexican food because they seem to be fascinated by it. Unfortunately, I don’t even really know the difference between an enchilada and a burrito. I described tacos to David and he seemed to want to try them. Though there was a little miscommunication with the word tortilla. Apparently in North America, a tortilla is the soft shell used to wrap up the food, while in Spain and South America, a tortilla is an omelette with potatoes.

There was a similar confusion with the word kebab. In France, kebab refers to döner kebabs, which are similar to gyros or shawarma, eaten with pita bread. But when I hear the word kebab, I think of shish kebabs, pieces of meat shoved on a stick and cooked over a grill (les brochettes).

Not that I ever really eat these types of food. I’m still a pasta, pizza, nutella, and cereal girl.

Rage against the… books?

By   August 11, 2007

I have this habit of taking online French placement tests, just for fun. (Most language schools’ websites have free tests you can take.) The majority of these tests focus on verb conjugations and agreement between nouns and adjectives. In other words, grammar. This is why I always get near perfect scores on these tests even though I know I’m not fluent. Yes, I know French grammar as well as English grammar, but that doesn’t mean I can speak the language that well.

I also have a ridiculously large collection of French textbooks and teach yourself French books. The table of contents is always something like this: articles, question words, feminine adjectives, prepositions, partitives, present tense. Six chapters later, you can finally learn the past tense. Why do textbook authors think that everyone speaks in the present tense???

Browsing through the many French books that are available, you’ll notice that most are designed for the traveler who doesn’t actually want to learn the language, but rather memorize sentences that one would rarely use in his native language. A lot of textbooks are written this way as well, as if they expect that is the only type of French you will want to know – forget those who will never visit the country or those who will actually move there (for which there are two different types of French altogether).

Do you really need to know how to ask where to buy film if you are never planning on going to a French-speaking country? Maybe you just want to learn how to read French literature. What about opening a bank account, applying for a residency card, finding an apartment? Those little phrase books conveniently leave out those sections, as do most textbooks.

And the pronunciation (or should I say lack of?) in language books. ::sigh:: How do you expect anyone to learn to SPEAK or UNDERSTAND a language with no linguistic input? I understand that CDs are expensive and push up the price of the book, but if you have no phonetic pronunciation next to the words, (and I’m not talking about one little measly pronunciation section in the very beginning that everyone skips anyway) how is anyone going to learn to pronounce words and sentences correctly?

The vocabulary. Where is it? I see lists of common things with the general names, but where is the real French? The number of people who say cotton swabs instead of Q-tips in English is probably the same as the number of people who say correcteur fluide instead of Tipp-Ex in French. The vocabulary tends to be too abstract, as if you will never need to know the names of cheeses or pastries that you’d like to order. Apparently if there is no exact, direct translation into English, you don’t need to know it.

Similarly, forget about learning slang from regular language books. You have to look for books that are specially geared toward informal language (and there aren’t many.) Many years ago, I learned that travailler means to work, but how often have I actually heard people say that word? About 10 times less than I’ve heard people say bosser instead. Watching TV or listening to random conversations, you’ll hear words like frangine and piges and ça caille, but did you ever learn those in your French classes? I didn’t think so. You learned sœur and ans and il gèle instead.

I was told the only ways to form questions were 1) inversion of subject and verb or 2) add est-ce que to the beginning of the sentence. That’s fine for formal speech or writing. But what about just using subject + verb + question word? “Oh no, that’s incorrect. You CANNOT say that.” Perhaps the millions of French people who construct their questions like this in everyday speech didn’t get the memo?

Reduced forms, anyone? None of my textbooks taught me to reduce unstressed vowels. Phrase books definitely don’t mention this. What the heck does t’a’d’la monnaie mean? Ah, it’s tu as de la monnaie ? Or Est-ce que tu as de la monnaie ? as my books always taught it.

I understand that most textbooks are designed to teach you to read and write a language. But some of us would like to speak and understand as well. I just wish I could find more books that focus on meaning instead of form. Grammar-translation is not exactly the best method of learning a language.

End of rant. Thank you for suffering through it.