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Funny French Mistakes

So most of you know that I am in France right now doing my best to learn the language. If you have ever attempted another language you know it can be super hard and sometimes rather hilarious & even more often embarrassing. There have been quite a few times I have struggled through conversations only to find out later they were talking about something else. And it’s funny.

So today I thought I’d share with you some funny mishaps that have happened to me while trying to communicate in French.

funny language mistakes

I have heard that some of the first words people learn in another language are often the cuss words. This isn’t the case for me. In fact, I still only know like 2 or 3. I don’t cuss in English, I’m not gonna start in French. Or knowingly anyway…

So one day I was hanging out with my friend and she asked me if I wanted to have coffee with her. Sure, I said! Sounds fun. She asked me where I wanted to go – this cafe or that. My response was “I don’t give a f**k.” This was the only way I knew how to say “oh, I don’t mind” and I had picked it up from my husband’s teammates.

Now, like I said, you guys, I don’t use bad language. So when I saw her face after using this phrase when it came to which location to have our coffee, I was quite confused. Thankfully, she was kind enough to tell me that phrase was a little harsh when to referring to the simple things and gave me another phrase to use.

That is the last time I learn any French from basketball players!!

This one happened recently, just last week. I was talking with a friend and we were discussing how she was similar to my husband and I was similar to her boyfriend with some things we did. Then she used a phrase that means “that’s funny” in French. But to me it sounded like “it’s brown.” So I’m sitting there looking around for what’s brown trying to understand what she was talking about.

The only thing I noticed was that she and my husband were wearing brown shoes and her husband and I were wearing black shoes. Oh, my gosh, you guys, I should have just laughed and acted like I understood. But no, I commented on it. Then they sat there discussing what they thought I understood, finally realizing I didn’t understand and explaining this slang to me. Oh man, embarrassing but funny.

These two are both funny and somewhat embarrassing. However, there are times when the language barrier has worked in my favor. For example, 3 years ago in my older son’s first year of Kindergarten here he had a teacher that had a small waist and a bum that was a little bit on the larger side. WHO KNEW that 3-year-olds notice these things?? I certainly didn’t! After exiting the classroom one day he says “Mommy, my teacher has a big booty.”

See, where normally this would have made me want to crawl away and hide (I still kinda did) I had to realize that one – she didn’t speak English (phew!) and two – even if she did speak a little, he said “booty” instead of butt or bottom and it’s kinda slang. I came to the conclusion that I’m pretty certain she didn’t understand.

The same thing happened just a couple weeks ago with my younger son in a grocery store to an older lady. What is it with my kids and big booties? I guess they are half black after all. It’s in their blood!

Oh, I’m sure I have many more I’m forgetting and many more to come. I am pretty sure I’m not alone here – have you made any funny/embarrassing mistakes in another language? Or ever in your own? Please share in the comments and we can all get a good laugh!

This also might become a series because I’m pretty sure I’m not done with saying stupid things in French.

Happy Monday!

29 Responses to Funny French Mistakes

  1. vero et December 2, 2013 at 5:54 am #

    Well. In learning french:
    There is excité. But that’s not the pg version of excited I’m french. Now imagine saying ” je suis excité” to your mother who is fluent as per you date later.

    And the lovely mix-up of pregnant and old in French. (Why do they have too be so similar )

    • Natalia December 3, 2013 at 3:41 am #

      What word do you use for pregnant? I use ‘encente’ is that wrong? I mix up so many words, I’m sure I’m hilarious to talk to! Si vous êtes français, tu peux écrire votre comment en français aussi. C’est bonne pour moi.

  2. The Domestic Fringe December 2, 2013 at 10:10 am #

    Too funny. I’m challenged when it comes to foreign languages, so I can just imagine how I would screw things up!

    • Natalia December 3, 2013 at 3:38 am #

      I can understand how if you don’t like foreign languages it would e horrible. My husband is one, he’s more of a math mind and really has no desire to speak French. So he relies on me or his teammates!

  3. Love this! I definitely called someone yellow instead of young one time. I still get confused with those words!

    • Natalia December 3, 2013 at 3:37 am #

      Oh man, I HATE words like that, that sound so similar. I never know which one I am saying! Heavy is another hard one for me to say. I’m sure you definitely feel my pain!

  4. hillary December 2, 2013 at 11:50 am #

    Oh to be a French-speaking fly on the wall! Haha 🙂 This made me giggle!

    • Natalia December 3, 2013 at 3:36 am #

      You would get a kick outta me! When are you coming to visit? 🙂 Although I’ll settle for a Google Chat soon 🙂

  5. Mary Massie December 2, 2013 at 12:00 pm #

    My mom is a native Spanish speaker and so English idioms can be difficult. We were at a woman’s retreat and were leaving the site to go shopping with a bunch of ladies. My mom wasn’t sure about leaving the campus and told everyone she felt like she was going A-hole. Took us all a minute but we finally got she meant AWOL.

    • Natalia December 3, 2013 at 3:36 am #

      LOL I love it!! I can totally relate, I would do the exact same here it seems like. Good for her though for trying!

  6. Rebecca @ My Girlish Whims December 2, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

    Haha! I really enjoyed these. I remember learning one phrase in french class that meant “cool” (I forget what it was though now… but something like super chouette or something like that) and I used it while studying abroad and all the french kids laughed, apparently it was a phase only little kids say and was like the equivalent of me saying “swell” or something like that. But then they told me not to stop saying it cause I sounded so cute 😛

    • Natalia December 3, 2013 at 3:35 am #

      So funny!! I love it! Today someone told me my accent was adorable… LOL! I guess that’s better than ugly!

  7. Kate December 2, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

    Haha these are hilarious! I would love some more posts about stuff like this and anything to do with French, because I’m learning it right now!

    • Natalia December 3, 2013 at 3:34 am #

      Oh how neat! It’s a tough language, but so beautiful! Good luck!

  8. Alison December 3, 2013 at 6:12 am #

    haha…that’s hilarious. I’m glad you can make fun of yourself! I remember learning French in school and we would all want to use the word “seal” because it sounded like the F-word in english. Silly. And of course, my husband, who is fluent in French (his father is Belgian), has many more he can attest to.

    Here we have learned some catch phrases for Arabic, but I don’t think we’ve learned anything much to be too awkward. As a music teacher I have to refrain from having them sing a tune with “la, la, la!” because it literally means “No, no, no!” The kids thought it was funny the first time I did that without really thinking about it. A co-worker of mine who teaches P.E. said that they were doing a game where they run around making the noise/actions of animals, and he shouted out for them to be “bees” and he started saying “bzzzz…” like we would in English… but his Arabic co-worker told him that it’s slang for “tits,” and the kids couldn’t stop giggling. He was basically asking them to say, “tits!” over and over again while running around flapping their arms. LOL. Oops?

    • Natalia December 3, 2013 at 11:48 am #

      These are hilarious, I love it!! I know about the seal on because my son came home saying it one day and i was like “oh shoot, what is he learning in school!!” Then when he pointed it out and everything I felt better, but lol!! So do you teach in English or do you speak fluently? So neat that you get to teach! I haven’t been able to ever work here. But I am planning on going to school next semester.

      Anyway, love your stories, thanks for sharing! it’s always good to laugh!

  9. Lisa December 3, 2013 at 9:37 am #

    Oh my gosh! That is hilarious!! It’s definitely NOT a good idea to learn French from the team..haha. Yikes! You know learning our own English language is hard enough. I mean they are adding words that are not really words to the dictionary all the time. Like twerk or twerking. WTH? Really?

    • Natalia December 5, 2013 at 6:48 am #

      Seriously, English is a beast too. But funny enough the majority of people I meet in France say English is easier to learn than French! Makes me feel a little better anyway!

  10. Amanda D December 6, 2013 at 5:57 pm #

    love this because after taking french in high school and college I can really relate!! The cursing one is really funny though 🙂

    • Natalia December 9, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

      Yes, it was so funny. I’m sure I have many more to come!

  11. Carito April 18, 2014 at 7:35 pm #

    You say you hate words that sound similar but English is way worse! For English learners often is very hard to distinguish similar words like beach/bitch, sheet/shit.. And there are tons of words like that. My husband made fun if me because I was incapable of saying “focus”. I guess, it sounded like “F*** us? Now I think I got but it took a while.

    • Natalia April 19, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

      Oh it’s true, English is tough too. I mean, I think all languages have got to be tough. And there are some silly ways we do things. But the whole masculine feminine and the sentence structure of French is so stinkin’ hard. English is a lot simpler that way. Because words don’t have to match in the sentence. But I’m sure every language has got something tough!

  12. Vanessa July 17, 2014 at 4:16 am #

    How about this: at a dinner table, when offered more food after you’ve had enough, what you *should* say is “j’en ai eu assez,” I think, which is “I have had enough.” What you should *not* say under any circumstances is a word-for-word English-French translation of our phrase, “I am full.” That’s a rude way to say “I’m pregnant.”

    The worst thing I’ve ever heard of, though, was the mistake that my friend Sultana made in a crowded supermarket. (I forget the name of the country, but it was one of the warm-weather ones that speaks both Arabic and a funny version of French.) In a crowded supermarket, the counter attendant could not understand her request for a bowl of ‘zibda,’ butter. In a moment of frustration, she raised her voice and expressed it syllable by syllable, “Zib! Da!” so he could understand. The whole supermarket fell silent. The attendant turned away from the counter and refused to serve her. Nobody in the store would look her in the eye.
    Apparently, that second phrase means private organs. 🙁

    • Natalia July 17, 2014 at 4:48 pm #

      SO FUNNY! I love hearing other people’s stories, that’s so great. Good to know on the first one, I haven’t made that mistake before, although I’d be susceptible to it!

  13. Tina July 30, 2014 at 8:27 am #

    So, I have to share my most frustrating time trying to blend into another culture. I lived in France for a year and became quite fluent in the language. After I was married, my husband was assigned to work in Lima, Peru for 3 years. Because of the similarities between French and Spanish, I was often able to get by either Spanish-izing English words or French words. One time, I was shopping for a formal dress and wanted one with sleeves. I didn’t know the Spanish word for sleeves, so I fell back to my French. In French, the word is “manches” and so I Spanish-ized it to “Manchas”. The woman got very offended and acted like I was pulling a bad joke. She said we don’t sell anything with manchas, senora. I used my hands to indicate sleeves every time I tried to tell her what I was looking for, but the only word I could find to use was manchas. We tried for probably half and hour to find a dress with sleeves, but the lady just got more and more snooty and disdainful. We finally left that store, empty-handed and frustrated, leaving a very offended sales lady. When I got back home I looked up the spanish word for sleeve. I wasn’t far off: It is Mangas, for those who may need to use it someday. Then I looked up the word “Manchas”. I had been asking her for a formal gown with STAINS!! We just shook our heads and still get good giggles over that night. 🙂

    • Natalia July 30, 2014 at 8:41 pm #

      Oh my goodness, I love hearing other people’s language stories! That’s so great! So funny, you’d think that she’d catch on. I totally French-ize English words if I don’t know. Or just say them with a French accent. Sometimes it works out!! Thanks for sharing your story!

  14. April August 10, 2014 at 8:51 pm #

    I just have to say… I stumbled upon your blog by luck of pinterest & being the francophile that I am, I’ve been glued to your blog this evening! I’m not even a mom (yet 😉 but I do have plans to live in France (I love, love, love Paris & expect to stay long-term my next visit 🙂 And I’ve been wondering what it might be like to raise children there, live as an ex-pat (or part-timer) and really work my way through the language. So thanks sooo much for your insight!

    PS Are you familiar with Geraldine’s Comme Une Française french classes? She has an amaaazing youtube channel with tons of ‘street french’ as I call it. I watch religiously 🙂

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your awesomeness, sister! ☀

    • Natalia August 12, 2014 at 10:30 am #

      I m so glad you like my blog, thank you!! And you know what, so funny, I was just reading Comme use Francaise this morning! I love her too and subscribe to her channel and her e-mails – such a great resource! Raising kids abroad has it’s challenges, but it’s so worth it to experience a whole other world and allow your kids to see it too. I feel bless to have been able to do it so far! Thanks for commenting, I love meeting new people!

  15. Frédéric October 23, 2016 at 10:35 am #

    Funny stories! You can’t get away with these funny, improbable french mstakes.
    It’s somehow what makes the charm of discovering a new langage!

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