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“Fais de beaux rêves,” he whispers in my ear before he quickly kisses my shoulder and drifts off to sleep. That was the last time the handsome French man in my bed ever spoke to me in French because the next morning he would not only disappear from my bed but also from my life forever thus breaking my heart for a month and a half. He also disapproved my father’s theory that the best way to learn French or any other language is to have a lover who speaks said language.
This attempt to learn French happened quite a while ago and I am ready for another try to rekindle my love affair with French without having to put up with a French love affair.
While I am fluent in English and German, I always feel like having missed out by not speaking at least a third language, especially as a world traveler. The excuses/ reasons are simple enough: when French was on offer in high school I chose Latin instead and later Spanish, languages I felt would serve me better in life (laughing about that one now especially when it comes to Latin and my inability to order my tacos in Spanish when I was in Tulum). While I learned French in school for one semester it was just before graduating and once I left school life happened and I always seemed to have something else on even though my teacher attested me that I had a natural knack for good pronunciation.
But even with trips to Morocco, La Reunion and Belgium my attempts to learn French afterward were halfhearted and after even the Frenchman in my bed didn’t work out, I gave up completely. I became one of those travelers who rely all too heavily on my English skills, three words in Thai and a greeting in Russian and to be honest, it is not something I am very proud of. I think speaking French or any other language for this matter proficiently can be such an intricate part of the cultural experience when traveling, going way beyond mere practicalities and politeness. And if you think ‘phew, but where is French actually spoken?” I am here to tell you that French is the sixth most widely spoken language in the world and spoken in 29 countries all over the globe. From Belgium to Canada, from Haiti and Madagascar to Switzerland – let’s just say if you were to travel to every French-speaking country in the world you would be quite busy for a while and also spend quite a bit time on islands and in Africa – good enough reason to learn a bonjour or two if only to order a beer in Seychelles or return the goodnight greetings of a handsome stranger in Monaco.
The best way to learn French
My parents both speak French pretty well though at least my dad has to work hard for it: now retired, he gets up early in the morning, every morning, and sits down with a book to brush up on his French conversation skills. He is studious and so he gets by while my mother, a lot more prolific than him, likes to say she learned French in her sleep. She is not showing off but merely hinting at the fact that she used to hate school and always slept through classes, French included. Somehow it still stuck but unless you have a time machine this may not be an option if you want to learn French as a grown up.
And if you are anything like me, any sort of app or online class is a complete waste of time and downloading effort. I simply can’t stick to something like that without a set schedule and clearly defined structure and goals (how my Duolingo still recognizes me is beyond me!). I need a proper class setting and preferably a destination to experience at the same time, something that worked well for me when I was sent to Malta to improve my English as a teenager.
Learning French in France with
French in Normandy
Learning French in France is actually the best way to not only work on your theoretical French but also to get actually speaking – the part where most people fail when it comes to learning a new language. This is where French in Normandy come into play. French in Normandy is an accredited French language school in Rouen, the capital of Normandy and offers French classes for all levels. This means whether you have slept through your classes in school (and nothing stuck unless you are like my mother), you never had the chance to take French in school or you hate apps and online self-study like myself – you will find the best French language courses in France for adults here.
Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?
& Other French mistakes to avoid
I think we have established that you don’t want to be the person to ask that question. Every single French person has heard this question before and I dare say it is not original, doesn’t show off your French skills nor will get you the desired answer – even I, with my semester of school French, know as much.
But to be honest, it could be worse because while the most famous song lyrics of the French language are somewhat lame to mildly inappropriate, there are many other phrases which could be seriously embarrassing or get you into trouble. Avoiding those phrases is good enough reason to take up proper French classes so you don’t need to rely on any hot Frenchmen.
Here are my favorite funny French mistakes that will require you to put your foot very deep inside your mouth if you make them.
1. Presuming that you can just take an English word, slap a French accent on and be done with it is well… presumptuous and might become ever so slightly embarrassing. Best example: you want to make sure that a dish doesn’t contain any preservatives? Do not ask for “sans préservatifs” as it should be a given there are no condoms in your food. Préservatif is a condom, preservatives are conservateurs.
2. Canard = duck
Connard = jerk
If you are unsure of the proper pronunciation order the pasta instead.
3. It seems most languages draw a comparison between a female cat and the female sex. If you want to avoid this problem stick to “chat” in French and avoid the female word “chatte” unless you are absolutely certain it cannot be misunderstood. Asking someone to pet their pussy is just awkward.
4. Did you enjoy your stay in Rouen? Please don’t say “oui j’ai bien joui” because this means you just enjoyed an orgasm which might be a bit of an overshare. In colloquial French “jouir” refers to an orgasm (though I guess technically that falls under enjoyment too).
5. “Je suis excité(e)!” – While you are singing ‘I’m so excited and I just can’t hide it’ in your head, a French person will simply think you are horny. Not that both cannot go hand in hand but if you are excited because you just found a 2-for-1 croissant special, your announcement of sexual arousal might come across as a bit odd.
To avoid any confusion, make sure you mention the croissants or whatever else actually got you excited in the same sentence.
6. Un baiser = a kiss
Baiser = to kiss?
Not quite, baiser as a verb will get you beyond first base as it means “to f***”. Use wisely and when appropriate!
7. Beaucoup (bo-koo) vs. Beau cul (bo-kew) – one means ‘very’ the other one ‘nice ass’. And to know the difference take a French class where they teach you clearly how to spot and speak the difference.
How to learn French in France?
- Classes are kept to a maximum of 12 students which means that you get all the attention you may need in addition to lots of self-practice with your fellow classmates and at the local cafes, museums, and shops. Because in addition to choosing a program that offers 10, 15 or 25 hours per week, practicing outside the classroom is a big part of improving your skills – after all, this is why you came to study French in France.
- If you need to focus on something specific, French in Normandy offers various classes like business French, classes for seniors as well as DELF & DALF preparation, tests you will need to take to show your language proficiency if you are planning to study in France or work for a big company. Needless to say, I will be the one taking the cooking course on offer, something that combines learning French with culinary explorations including the art of macaron making (which I have still not mastered, a fact that really bugs me). If you are not keen on cooking don’t worry as the school offers a variety of other specialized programs too, I am even considering signing my dad up for “French and Golf”.
- It doesn’t matter how much or little French you already speak. A little test before you start your course will determine your skill level so you get put in the right class afterward. From learning French for beginners or just adding to your business French vocabulary French in Normandy has the right class for all levels.
- In addition to regular hotels, French in Normandy can even help you find the perfect accommodation for your trip. Those range from student residences (kind of miss those times from college…) to stays with a host family which is a great way to immerse yourself even further into French life and keep practicing your newly learned language skills even after school is over.
French in Normandy is one of the best French language schools in France and personally, I cannot wait to take a French cooking/language course there and explore what Normandy has to offer. You can check out all their courses and more about the concept and Rouen here.
Do you haven taken French classes before? Any tips?
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