The French Language of the Pays de Savoie

The area where I live in France is called Savoy and it used to be a part of the Italian Kingdom of Sardinia. In 1860 it was annexed to France and split into two départements: Savoie and Haute-Savoie. Together they are known as the Pays de Savoie in French and they make up 2 of the 8 départements of the Rhône-Alpes region.

Chambéry is the capital of Savoie, which also includes Albertville, the site of the 1992 Winter Olympics. Annecy is the capital of Haute-Savoie, which includes Chamonix and Evian-les-Bains. I have spent nearly 5 years here even though I do not like mountains (I prefer flat land, lakes and forests – I’m from Michigan!) but I do like the close proximity to Switzerland and Italy, as well as Lyon.

I will be leaving France in less than three weeks and I realized that I had never posted about the variation of French spoken in this area. Here are a few features of the Savoie dialect of French, which shares some similarities with Swiss French. If you ever travel to/study in Savoie, you might hear:

Il faut y faire instead of Il faut le faire – y often replaces the direct object pronouns le, la, and les

ou bien is a common saying at the end of a sentence, similar to hein which is like a tag question in English, though used much more often in French

la panosse is used for mop instead of la serpillière

Since this is the French Alps, many other expressions are related to snow and cheese:

Most people already know about Tartiflette, the potato and cheese baked dish made with Reblochon. However, another cheese is very popular, Tomme, which has produced a pejorative expression for an apathetic woman: une grosse Tomme

la trafole and the adjective trafolée refer to fresh snow that already has ski tracks in it

terrainer means that the snow is melting and the ground is showing: Ça terraine.

For more vocabulary, check out the website (entirely in French) Termes régionaux de Suisse romande et de Savoie

In addition, the local minority language, which extends beyond Savoie to Neuchâtel, Mâcon and Grenoble, is called Arpitan and its official website is

Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.