lost

French Expressions You Don’t Learn in Class: Lost in Translation

(Photo by en.wikipedia.org)

Every French student has heard of the expression franglais or Franglish as a way to identify the use of English words in the French language. Where did this phenomena of language swapping between French and English come from? It’s a little hard to trace each word, but the mixing of French and English has two origins. The first is back in 1066 when Norman France conquered and ruled over England. French trickled down from the courts into the Germanic language that was spoken by the citizens of the country to form English. So first we can say that French influenced English, but the tables did turn about nine hundred years later in the 1960s. It was a time of the British invasion. Beatles music was heard throughout the globe and English started to trickle down into other languages, including French. The influence of English into French didn’t stop with the Beatles; it only continued from there. As popularity of American movies soared as well as Anglophone countries developing new technologies at lightning speed, the only natural thing was for English words / phrases to become a part of the French language, much to the chagrin of the Académie Française. But even though franglais exists, it doesn’t mean that there is a perfect flow between the French and English languages. Many things still get lost in translation. Let’s take a look at my top 3 lost in translation expressions- where’s franglais when you need it?!

1- I’m pulling your leg. This super common English expression is used to say you’re joking. An exact translation in French is je tire ta jambe. The only problem is that this doesn’t mean I’m pulling your leg in French; it means that I’m shooting your leg. Tirer is an interesting French verb in that it means to pull, but pull can be used in a few different meanings. You’ll see “Tirez” on doors in France when you need to pull and you’ll also hear “tirez” when watching un film policier for a scene where the bad guy gets shot. Why? Because tirer is also the verb to shoot. So when you want to tell your French friend that you’re just joking, say je blague instead.

DS2_4751(Is he expressing an undying lust or that he’s too warm in that sweater? Photo by http://www.bettertravelphotos.com/)

2- I’m hot. A natural part of conversation if you want to express that the air temperature is too warm. For us Anglophones, we’re used to using the verb to be to express all our wants, needs, desires, and current state of comfort. However, it is not the same in French. To express discomfort with the warm temperature in French, we say j’ai chaud. To use être in this scenario works linguistically in French, but what you’re saying is something completely different. Je suis chaud / chaude (for women) means that you’re horny. Now, this may work if you’re trying to seduce that cute French classmate, but not if you’re trying to ask your host family to turn down the heat because you’re too warm.

i miss you(photo by www.imagesbuddy.com)

3- I miss you. What I love about this saying in English is that I don’t have to think about it. It’s simple and to the point- I (Andrea) miss you (loved one). In French, if you translate this expression exactly by saying je te manque you’re not saying that you miss that special someone, but rather, that he/she is missing you! If you want to express that you are the person who is doing the emotional suffering because of your loved one’s absence, we say tu me manques or you are missing/lacking me. This is one that takes getting used to. My best tip is to remember that it’s the opposite of what you’re used to.

As you can see, even with the advent of franglais and the many similarities between the French and English languages, there are still many things that are lost in translation. The best way to learn them is by speaking with a native and immersing yourself into French via French news sites, TV shows/movies, and books/magazines.

Bonne chance!

-Andrea

 

  

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