Oh my, I said WHAT in French?

07 Jan

Created by New Orleans artist, Dr. Bob

As you can imagine, the language barrier is a biggie, so I would be remiss not to post (first of several) about this particular hairy monster that we must adapt and adjust to as best we can. To sum up the language ‘thing’, the motto is just, ‘be nice’. As a Southerner might say, “when you don’t know the language from a hill of beans, it’s best, just to be nice.” When I was fresh off the plane, I smiled so much, my cheeks hurt, but now I just have really strong cheek muscles and it has served me well. When I arrived, my french was relegated to just the basics–‘bonjour’, ‘merci’, ‘au revoir’ and of course those that all of us learned from Lady Marmalade in the 70’s (we all know the ones, let’s leave it at that!). Needless to say, a big portion of humble pie is always on the menu when you are learning a new language.

Let me tell you about one particular piece of humble pie I ate. I was already nervous, because I was to meet my husband’s family for the first time. I worked overtime before they arrived, cranking out the french lessons one after another using my language software, zipping through each one before the characteristic harp noise could signify that the right answer was chosen. Man, I was ready and thought I would be OK, as long as the topics stayed simple (insert misconception #1). But no one ever talked about dogs, cats, airplanes or boats, which is the useless dribble you learn first. I tried to insert the topics when I could, but frankly, I was even boring myself in doing so. Then, to add insult to injury, I mispronounced one of the simplest responses, ‘merci beaucoup’ (phonetically correct: mair sea/bow coow) instead, I pronounced ‘beaucoup’ incorrectly as, ‘bow cyu’.  In doing so, I essentially told my future brother-in-law, that he had a nice derriere. Not the lasting impression I had in mind, but boy, did I make one! He smiled and kindly corrected me, understanding what I meant to say while preserving both our dignities, thank goodness! Then I thought, oh my, to how many others had I said it incorrectly? I could only hope that they all understood too and knew that I tried my best, as evidenced by my good-hearted brother-in-law.

It really was and still is amazing, how accepting people are when you at least try to speak their language. I have been told by a few native French who have encountered more than a few other English speakers (namely Brits & Americans) who come and expect people to adapt to their way, with no intention of learning the language. This was shocking to me. Again, as a Southerner, my family would be aghast to know that I had been a guest in another country (similar to visiting someone’s home) and didn’t do my best to be a good one during my stay. I think learning just a few words of the language in whatever country you visit or live, is very much like visiting a friend’s home and bringing a small gift to show your gratitude. It is a gift to see the world and meet new people, so why wouldn’t we treat it as such?

Looking backward through the binoculars, it is difficult to humble one’s self in needing the help of others and becoming dependent on the kindness of strangers. So much rides on a first impression that to look foolish for not saying something properly, can be very disheartening and prevent you from dusting yourself off to try again. So, I can certainly understand why there are people who do not learn because of their fear of being humiliated or not being accepted. Sadly, the opposite is true from my experience. People want to help you when you make the effort. Just think of friends, coworkers or your own children who you knew were doing their best to learn and they smiled when you tried to teach them. The same philosophy works, be nice and try your best even if it’s only a few words, use them and you will be surprised how well and how far it will take you!


Posted by on January 7, 2011 in Daily life in France


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216 responses to “Oh my, I said WHAT in French?

  1. Mikalee Byerman

    January 7, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Love this … it’s very similar to what I used to tell my students when I was teaching college speech classes: No one wants you to fail. In fact, everyone wants you to succeed!

    But I think we sometimes go through life assuming the worst — that people don’t want to help, that people are just waiting for us to fall down or fall apart. But we humans tend to be a rather compassionate sort. I do think we lose sight of that sometimes.

    Thanks for the post…and for the reminder!


    • namharrubibah

      January 8, 2011 at 4:47 pm

      It’s good, Like you

      • expatriotgames

        January 8, 2011 at 5:03 pm

        Now, don’t make me blush! Glad you liked it Mikalee, thank you!

    • hezaire

      January 9, 2011 at 11:18 pm

      So true! I studied abroad in Paris and found that people (French people in particular) just want you to make the effort. Especially since it is, to many French, a truly beautiful language.

      Mispronouncing words in French is easy- I’m glad you’re not letting the fear of doing that stop you from learning! Congrats!

      • expatriotgames

        January 10, 2011 at 5:37 am

        Ms. Heather, thanks for your comment and the encouragement!

  2. runtobefit

    January 7, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    I agree…it’s always best to at least try. I know when I went to Paris I could tell they hated the fact that I didn’t really try and speak french, but, when I realized this and tried everything changed. They appreciate the effort…everyone always does.

  3. CultureChoc2010

    January 7, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    I am fluent in French but my husband is not. He never leaves the house without me when we are in France. He knows the bonjour, merci, etc….. but he panics when alone. I always tell him that he will be fine but he always says “Why should I go out alone when I have you for that.” I guess he will never change – but I’m hopeful.

  4. dearexgirlfriend

    January 7, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    i frequent Paris, and still cant speak French…but i totally find as long as i make a concerted effort everyone i come across is more than willing to help me!

  5. jodie

    January 7, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    I really enjoyed your blog. I was staying with a family in southwest France for a few weeks . I couldn’t understand why they were puzzled when I announced that I was going to wash my hair…what they heard was I was off to wash the horse….they lived in a large apartment building.

  6. wadingacross

    January 7, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    Heh, as a Cajun from Louisiana who barely knows his ancestral tongue, I concur!

    French does have some funny sayings and it’s easy to make some mistakes.

  7. jevcat

    January 7, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    Love it. Years ago a German couple visited the church I grew up in. My family background is largely German, so I learned a few words as a child and had studied it in college, but was basically limited in speaking to the sorts of phrases you remember. I wanted to make the couple welcome and went over to introduce myself at the coffee hour. The wife spoke English but the husband didn’t. I was telling the wife my sad tale of studying without speaking and said all I could do was reel off those standard introductory sentences. I said a few sentences, the husband understood what I was doing and started giving me back examples. We both started laughing and trading things like “How are you?” “What is your name?” “What time is it?” To someone who knew no German, it must have looked as though we were having a wonderful conversation — we weren’t, but communication was taking place, anyway. (By the way, have you read or heard David Sedaris on learning French? He is very funny.)

  8. RFW

    January 7, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    I enjoyed your comments. Reminded me of my latest experience in Paris – had brushed up with Rosetta Stone and 8 years of school French in my pocket. Every time I met a Parisian, I first politely asked in French if they spoke English. When one museum guard answered “Oui,” I babbled on in English, asking questions. He stopped me mid-sentence and said – “Madam, you must speak slowly. I understand your English like you understand my French.”

    • expatriotgames

      January 7, 2011 at 6:57 pm

      LOL! Most excellent RFW, great story and thank you!

  9. 80years1

    January 7, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    Ha ha this made me laugh. My husband is french and I dont know how many times his mom and I had issues communicating. Oh the memories over a pair of socks. Thanks for the post

    • expatriotgames

      January 7, 2011 at 6:53 pm

      Oh, that makes me so happy and thank you! I love making people laugh, always have. Often, I laugh at myself because, well…why not? Now, you must tell of the socks, details, details!

  10. avecelan

    January 7, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Oh I am so glad that I found your blog! Living in France one day is my dream. I too, am a Southerner by birth but have spent the last 7 years in Chicago.

    • expatriotgames

      January 7, 2011 at 6:49 pm

      Wonderful Sonya! I’m happy to be at your service then! Please do chime in with anything you would like to know more about, OK? With your experience in both the north and south of the US, you can really offer some unique perspectives, so keep dreaming and you’ll get there sooner than you think!

  11. ferkung

    January 7, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    I’m always interested in what sounds we naturally make, even within the US, when we see a word. But expanding that to a whole new palette of sounds like the nasal n and sounds that I’m not familiar with in French — it really lets you analyze how you speak.

    This mentality can be expanded to most forms of communication, like music and literature too. I’m a big fan of using other cultures ideas in my contemporary classical music, but I always run into (and embrace) “merci bow cyu” moments — somehow it’s a bit less crippling in art, but it’s such a neat feeling to just not “get it” culturally, if only until it’s explained to you.

    • expatriotgames

      January 7, 2011 at 6:46 pm

      Indeed! I can write for hours on just that topic, but then I would scare everybody away except for you ;0). Thank you for your added insights and keep up the good work with your music and thanks for reading!

  12. Mikayla

    January 7, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    They really do appreciate you attempting to speak the language! I visited France with my mother a while back and we were looking for directions to this well-known department store. However, my mother (being a little ignorant for foreign courtesy) had immediately started asking one young woman about directions…in English. The French woman said, “I’m sorry. I do not speak English.” Then, in French, I said, “Ou est le centre-commercial avec…Le Printemps?” What do you think she did? Gave us directions…in fluent English. It’s a great lesson to know to be respectful. Happy trails in France!

    • expatriotgames

      January 7, 2011 at 6:42 pm

      Lol, ah mom! Well, kudos to you, Mikayla! And thanks for sharing!

  13. TheEverydayMuser

    January 7, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    I speak a lot of languages, and I love speaking them. I’m Italian-American, and when I turned 10, my mother insisted that she start teaching me Italian. Language is beautiful, and when you really want to learn a new one, nothing can stop you except the fear of making mistakes. I’ve made so many mistakes and learnt a lot from them, but I’ve never felt foolish by making mistakes. I just feel good that I now learnt something new from my mistake.
    Knowing another language is like possessing another soul. Period.

    • expatriotgames

      January 7, 2011 at 6:38 pm

      What a wonderful thought, Ashley…you must be one great soul! Thanks so much for your comments!

  14. Kelly

    January 7, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    How is it going now? Do you find immersion makes it easier? I spent only a couple weeks in Paris and Troyes and was feeling pretty confident (and people were very helpful!) as long as I only had to conjugate verbs for “je”… my poor husband was left out of every transaction!

    • expatriotgames

      January 7, 2011 at 5:58 pm

      Oh! You were in Troyes, so you were sipping well, good for you! LOL! Yes, conjugation is STILL not my friend, but hey, we are working it, aren’t we? Thanks so much and good luck to your hubby, he’ll get there in his own time. Regarding now, I guess it will be a ‘keep reading’ kind of thing since I’ve only been in France a year, so still much to learn and share. Easier with immersion? Eh good question, not sure…lots more pressure and I’ve had my breaking points, but given the choice of sink or swim…I’m still dog paddling ;0).

      • Kelly

        January 7, 2011 at 6:39 pm

        Sadly, my husband has no talent for languages at all. He lived on beer and oranges while on assignment in Germany, because he could say “bier” and there was a produce stand by his hotel and he could point to oranges.

        When we were in Troyes, he decided he wanted to order for himself. He ordered a bageutte avec jambon et buerre. I was surprised and said I thought he wanted cheese – he said that’s what he ordered. I said only in an extreme definition of cheese and offered to change it for him, but he said no – he ordered ham and butter and would eat it!

      • expatriotgames

        January 7, 2011 at 7:15 pm

        Oh Kelly, I’m just howling over here! Well, I’m sorry, your honey is not as quick a study as you, but I have to hand it to the guy, he’s man enough to ‘eat’ his mistake, so he’s got to be OK! I think I will forever think of you when I buy oranges, ha! 😉

  15. Steve

    January 7, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Paris? Nice! Hey we’ll keep you up to date on all the latest shenanigans here in the land of Freedom Fries. Your not missing much for the time being.

  16. whenquiet

    January 7, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Magnifique Madame! Felicitations! From another southern expatriot belle in France.

  17. Ms. H

    January 7, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    I have visited France on several occasions, and was pleasantly surprised to find everyone welcoming and helpful. I had heard such horror stories about how the French hate Americans. I never encountered that, and I firmly believe it is because I made every attempt to speak French (the little that I recalled from 3 yrs of HS French classes) rather than assume they should know English. It isn’t all Americans they hate – just the ones that assume the world should speak the way they do at home.

    • expatriotgames

      January 7, 2011 at 5:30 pm

      Very well said my friend, thank you Ms. H!

  18. humanitarikim

    January 7, 2011 at 5:15 pm

    I have picked up some Spanish over the years and once when on a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico I was shopping in one of the local markets. The people there were so delighted when I tried to barter with them in Spanish. They really are appreciative of the effort and polite when corrections are needed. Great post! I completely agree with you.

    • expatriotgames

      January 7, 2011 at 5:28 pm

      Thank you Kimberleigh! Interesting how bartering is seen positively, especially in their native language. Very interesting insight, thanks for sharing!

  19. acleansurface

    January 7, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    When I was in Prague I remember the local guide teaching us a few simple words and telling us to try to speak the language to everyone we met. He said it would make the people smile to hear us say them with our accents, that it was charming to them. I thought about how much I love hearing people speak English with an certain accents, and it made sense.
    They smiled.

    • expatriotgames

      January 7, 2011 at 5:26 pm

      Thanks so much for sharing this Rayme, you’re right! It does make one smile to hear the accents. Thanks for reading!

  20. skinsphins

    January 7, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    I know the feeling. I’m a Virginian living in Toulouse for the past four years and my accent is – to be kind – attrocious. Still the FR people I speak with are just happy that I’m trying. Good luck with your expat adventures.

  21. notesfromrumbleycottage

    January 7, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    I am always amazed at what a little effort and courtesy can get a person. Congrats on being freshly pressed.

    • expatriotgames

      January 7, 2011 at 5:54 pm

      Yes ma’am you are right and thank you for the ‘atta girl’, Karyn 🙂

  22. catbird2

    January 7, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    Nice post. I traveled in France briefly and found the same thing a lot of your commentors found – as long as you make the effort, people are willing to help. Once someone even got off their train to show me and a group of friends to the right platform! A s’il vous plait can go a very long way.

    I also spent time in Russia and Ukraine, trying to master sounds not usually made by English speakers. Among the weird things I said to strangers were “I’m not a girl” and “yesterday I ate a salt shaker.” Good times.

    Best to you on your journey!

    • expatriotgames

      January 7, 2011 at 7:24 pm

      LOL, just priceless! It’s a bit like speech therapy when making the new sounds isn’t it? Thank you catbird2!

  23. Lightning Slim

    January 7, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    I’m a frequent vistor to Montreal, where Anglo-Canadians are often regarded with a cross between suspicion and amusement. Arrogant Anglos who try to push their own agenda will have a hard time of it, and may never learn the secret of the city: most Montreal residents speak perfect English, and will take pity on the traveller and reveal it when some attempt is made to meet them halfway!

    • expatriotgames

      January 7, 2011 at 7:26 pm

      Lol…great comparison Slim, I feel ya! ;0). Yes, pity! Right now, I will take all the pity I can muster, thanks for your insightful comment!

  24. Ava Aston's Muckery

    January 7, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    Brings back fond memories of a recent trip to Paris and all of the language mistakes I made. Having traveling abroad, it does help have compassion for those in this country struggling learning our language.



    • expatriotgames

      January 7, 2011 at 7:33 pm

      It really does, you’re right. I salute anyone who gives it a go, takes courage and that alone is worth some compassion. Thanks for your comment, Ava!

  25. patchworkdaydreams

    January 7, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    I live in Flanders and I’ve had to learn Dutch and I made a few really funny mistakes early on. But practicing really does help. and with Flemish people it’s kind of easy if you don’t know a word to throw it in in English. Most of them speak Dutch, French and English so as long as you’re trying, they’re understanding when you need help. I’ve even asked customers at my job for words in Dutch I don’t know and they usually gladly supply the right word and sometimes even the conjugation.

    • expatriotgames

      January 7, 2011 at 7:31 pm

      Well, you are a brave woman indeed…Belgium is going through a tough time right now. I wish your comments could be seen by everyone living there (let’s try, shall we?). You have a wonderful outlook, how about running for office? They need you!!! Thanks so much and congrats to you!

  26. followingcaminho

    January 7, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    It’s so true about languages. From my own experience I know people appreciate a lot your efforts even if you can say just a few words. I speak a few languages and it’s natural to me to learn at least greetings when I go abroad – it gives me a little bit of self-confidence and it’s always well seen by the natives.

    I’m Polish and I truly admire foreigners who try speaking my language. It’s beautiful! 🙂

    Good luck with your French! Remember – practise makes perfect :).

  27. Chloe Sullivan

    January 7, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    I went to France when I was 15, and I was shocked at how polite people were. Everyone always told me that the people in France were rude. It was quite the opposite. I had my basics down, but other than that I was lost (I was also visiting 3 other countries that I had to learn the basics for), but people were just grateful for my attempt. I agree with you about about learning the language of the country you are visiting. If we (as a nation) think people should know English when they visit the US, then we should be expected to know the language of the counties we visit.

  28. Anya

    January 7, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    I like your analogy of learning the other language as bringing a small gift when coming over someone else’s house. It could also be seen as following the customs of that other home, like taking off your shoes at the door. Both are signs of respect, and most people understand them as such and appreciate the attempt. It’s unfortunate that some Brits/Americans who think the whole world is their playground give all British or American tourists a bad rep. But we can fix that, one “merci beaucoup” at a time 🙂 .

    • expatriotgames

      January 7, 2011 at 7:51 pm

      I like your thinking, Anya…thank you! That sounds like a good plan to me 🙂

  29. Bruce Garrard

    January 7, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    I am reasonably fluent in French having studied it two years in high shcool and two years in college and then lived in Paris for another year where I learned to speak French comfortably. I can relate to the story about the girl being misunderstood about washing her hair or horse since the words for hair and horse are very close. I even laughed out loud when I read that letter.

    It reminds me of an experience I had a couple years ago that demonstrates the weakness of our memories:
    Having not used French for awhile, I was in Montreal and encountered a very nice looking woman at a door and wanting to be polite, like my Mother taught me, I stepped back a little to allow her go through the door first, fishing in my memory for the right phrase to use, and I said “Allez vous en” and I was surprised by her rude response. It took me awhile to think it through and to realize that what I had wanted to say “You may go first and pass in front of me” which would be “Vous pouvez passez”. Instead I had used a slang phrase which means roughly “Get the hell out of my way” or “Go away”!!
    If that woman reads this, please, I want to apologize, I didn’t mean what I said. I’ve never gotten over my embarassment for saying the wrong thing at that time.

    • expatriotgames

      January 7, 2011 at 7:49 pm

      Ah, poor Bruce! Well, maybe the universe was getting even with her for some odd reason and it may have helped her live life on the other side for a while? Sorry buddy, I think you’re swell. We’ll all keep practicing. Try to shake it off and hope she’s reading! Peace and thank you!

  30. Jean

    January 7, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    While the theory of knowing abit of language when visiting a country, the theory fell slightly apart when we went to Europe this past summer..after I left France (before that was Germany), I gave up when we were in the Czech Republic, Copenhagen and Sweden. Laziness is just bad…oh well at least I visited the city museums, art galleries and had the local food (instead of MacDonald’s).

    Normally shyness to try a local language is not really me, since we speak lousy Chinese at home. All barriers go down to inovertedness.

    • expatriotgames

      January 7, 2011 at 7:57 pm

      Wow, that IS tough to visit that many places at once. Gotta cut yourself some slack, Jean. We do our best and sounds like you did, relax ;0). Thanks for being honest!

  31. CrystalSpins

    January 7, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    It only takes three to five phrases to wait a table entirely in German. I learned that the summer I worked at a restaurant/brewery. Every German person who came through the area must have stopped at the place and as soon as my manager found out I knew a little bit of German (I can read and write it far better than I can understand the spoken word and I’m even less adept at remembering how to say things) I started getting all the people who spoke with an accent in my section. I mean French, Spanish, Russian — everything.

    Most of them knew English very well of course. And the German folks usually came back the restaurant several times because there was a waitress who knew how to say “And for your dinner?”


    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 1:47 am

      Lol…nice! Yes, the accents are agonizing aren’t they? Not that the people are, it’s just you begin to realize how voice intonation, fluctuation, pronunciation and all the other ‘tions’ make it so difficult to even recognize the words you DO know! Whew, sorry for the rant, but I feel much better now Crystal, thank you ;0). Great tip about the phrases, that’s an excellent way to “eat the elephant one bite at a time”…don’t know who said that originally, but wasn’t me, hence the ” “.

  32. Stalkee Brew

    January 7, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    This always happens to me! It’s understandable, but I really hate when (occasionally) people in other countries laugh or make fun of your attempts to speak the language. It’s hard for anyone at first!

    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 2:04 am

      Ooh, I’m glad you said occasionally…hmm. Lucky for us, we know it builds character! Thanks for responding!

  33. planetnomad

    January 7, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    British comedian Eddie Izzard does a hysterical bit about working in his French sentences in France. He had learned, “The mouse is under the table. The cat is on the chair. The monkey is on the branch.” He says, “To use my vocabulary, I had to start traveling in France with a cat, a mouse, a monkey, a chair and a table, and frequenting wooded areas!”

    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 2:01 am

      Lol! OK, I will check him out! Thanks for sharing that, Beth!

  34. Tori

    January 7, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    As a southern girl who has rarely left the confines of the cow fields, I can’t imagine the stress of adapting to such a foreign language in order to make a really important first impression! Most days, I’m content with having a basic understanding of the English language!
    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 2:00 am

      You know, there are PLENTY of cow (along with sheep, goats, horses) fields here too, you might be more at home than me! Thanks for taking the time to comment from your busy day and for the congrats, Tori!

  35. Dylan McCracken

    January 7, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    I love this post and, more to the point, the entire blog! J’aime la langue française AND the culture of the American South. This is definitely the blog for me!

    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 12:24 am

      Vous êtes très gentil, merci bien Dylan !

  36. Talitha

    January 7, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    This is my life! I am an Australian living in Sweden with my partner. While I am not at the mercy of Swedish due to Swedes broad education in English however, like all places Swedes do not expect to speak English in their own country and if I was not willing to learn I would find myself very bored, ignored and feeling completely lonely. So I’m learning and slowly getting the hang of it 🙂

    Good on you for trying from the very first day. I was completely silent until I was intermediate! Terrified to sound like an idiot I just didn’t say anything. Now I have started talking and my talking is so behind my reading, comprehension, and writing just because like you I should have been learning to speak from day one!

    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 1:27 am

      Hey Talitha, we all come at it [learning] in different ways. You do what works for you, just “be nice” as you learn at your pace and be proud of what you’ve ALREADY accomplished, which is so much already. Believe it or not, your results are much like mine: reading is much easier than speaking and understanding. Stay in touch and don’t get discouraged, OK? You heart is in the right place, keep in there and the rest will come! Thanks for your support and hope I gave you some too!

  37. pearlsandprose

    January 7, 2011 at 9:28 pm

    You are so brave. I’m fluent in French and can’t imagine landing in France knowing so little of the language. Kudos to you.
    It definitely makes a difference if you try to speak the language, even if your accent is atrocious.
    I’ll be back, because I miss France a lot.
    And congrats on Freshly Pressed!

    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 1:35 am

      Brave can also be a nice way of saying stupid (OK, enough self-deprecating humor ;0). Truly, thank you for your lovely words. How did you become fluent in French? There’s a story there that I want to hear, as I know it couldn’t have been easy!

  38. treegod

    January 7, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    Soy un “expat” Ingle´s y vivo en España, y entiendo exactamente lo que dices 🙂

    I read a story about a British reporter visiting a Spanish town where lots of expats live and asking a local “Are there many foreigners around here?”
    The reply: “There’s a dutchman that lives down the road but the rest of us are English.”

    Ok, I don’t speak a lot of Spanish (after four years I should, I admit, speak it near fluently) but I don’t go round thinking I’m NOT a foreigner! LOL

    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 12:19 am

      Lol, touche! Muchas gracias por todos vuestros comentarios, que aportan una perspectiva refrescante y le agradezco que tomarse el tiempo para comentar!

      • treegod

        January 12, 2011 at 5:58 pm

        De nada 🙂

  39. treegod

    January 7, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    We live a world with more than one language. I think it’s only common sense and logic to speak two or more languages, even if you don’t live abroad

    I’m sorry, I repent, I wish I hadn’t wasted 6 years in school “learning” French and then not speaking it. Now I live in Spain with my French-speaking Swiss girlfriend. And many people around here speak Catalan, not just Spanish LOL

    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 12:12 am

      Oh treegod, I know your pain! I was so excited about going to Barcelona (love it there too) and thought, “cool” I can dust off my Spanish–wrong! Still learning French (which Catalan is very influenced by) I was all confused. Then I got back to France and started thinking in Spanish again. Needless to say, my French teacher was not happy with me :0. Good luck to you two and many thanks!

      • treegod

        January 12, 2011 at 6:03 pm

        Well, I now have a calendar for this year with a French phrase everyday, and my girlfriend can correct my pronounciation. Today’s phrase: Je voudrais un té glacé. By the end of the year I should have gotten a bit better (no, I will do!!! That’s the attitude 😉 )

        BTW, do you have difficulty with the difference between tu and tout? My English lips betray me lol

      • expatriotgames

        January 12, 2011 at 7:01 pm

        You would like an iced tea, was in your FRENCH calendar? How odd don’t you think? Anywhozen, in answer to your question, I’m down with the tu and tout, but not the tu and toi and the order in which they are used in a phrase. You’re right, we WILL get it! Thanks again and good luck!

  40. Susan

    January 7, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    wow wow and wow – I couldn’t begin to start listing all the things you get right here and that I wish all Americans were aware of re: the French and France. Thanks for a great post and a great blog overall – I’ll be anxious to see what comes after this – I’m sure it will be great reading at any rate!

    And now a favor – I link blogs like yours (altho none as good as yours so far 🙂 on my students’ Paris program site – I’m director of our Paris study program – do you mind if I link you? this is us so you know it’s legit.

    oh and that might be one of the most fun language-error stories I’ve heard – don’t worry: there will be plenty of other moments like that 🙂 – sounds like you have a great attitude about it tho.

    • expatriotgames

      January 7, 2011 at 10:13 pm

      Oh my goodness Susan, by all means please do use my blog as a resource. To be ‘linked’ to you, your wonderful program and Clemson University would be an honor, thank you! Would you believe, I almost went to Clemson when I was just a pup? In the end, I chose to be closer to my family and in the best program for psychology so it wasn’t meant to be then. You have a great school and a simply marvelous program. If I can help in any way, you know what to do! ;0)Merci pour tout !

  41. My English Thoughts

    January 7, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    I’m a French girl who’s got lot of ex patriot friends in Paris, I’m always trying to be careful in how I could speak to them because they are still learning my language. I’m trying to help them whenever I can, correcting their misspelling or others misunderstood about the French. Every time I’m talking with my English friends, I do ask them to correct my English, because even if I know they’re happy that I’m talking in English, I want to improve my level and could talk to them just like if there were no language barrier.
    I’ve always try too to learn some words of the different country that I’ve visited even if it’s Czech ! Just to know how to say, “Hello / Goodbye / Thank you ” could sounds sometime silly but it could makes a difference with people !
    I do hope you the best with French lessons and French language, and believe me, this language could be difficult even for us, French people ! 🙂

    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 1:11 am

      D’accord Isa, le français est très difficile cela est si vrai, je confonds mes adjectifs masculins et Femine tout le temp encore ! J’espère qu’un jour mon français sera aussi bon que votre niveau d’anglais, de l’excellent travail et je vous remercie pour vos deux commentaires, bon courage !

  42. StupidTimeMachine

    January 7, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    Hey Loved your post. I remember visiting France and just being exhausted all the time – my brain tired from trying to learn the language. We are actually a comedy group from New Orleans. So I was drawn by your Be Nice or Leave photo. I appreciated this post, and in exchange for you making my day, i submit to you this video we just did:

    Hope you enjoy

    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 12:48 am

      Oh man, you are so spot on! You are just wiped out by the end of the day, but you’ll never sleep better! Loved the video, thanks so much for the laugh, good luck in the contest and keep us posted on when you appear on Comedy Central (whoohoo! That’s me, rootin’ for ya! I’m a native Memphian originally, so ‘Nawlins’ had always been my home away from home). Go Saints!

      • Ms. H

        January 8, 2011 at 1:29 am

        I live in Memphis! (not native, but have been here for almost 15 years)

      • expatriotgames

        January 8, 2011 at 1:52 am

        AH! Well, how about that?! Excellent! Looking forward to Memphis In May…must have BBQ! Have a Huey burger for me too, will ya? ha.

  43. rohitprasad71

    January 8, 2011 at 12:37 am

    Excellent post…best way to love a new place is to get into their skin – in a positive way…

    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 1:16 am

      Agreed! Better to get ‘in’ than ‘under’, eh? ;0) Thank you!

  44. wherewander

    January 8, 2011 at 12:53 am

    you made me laugh!! I so agree with you, with making the effort, people do value it, maybe not all the French people, specially in Paris, but some of them do. And you get your reward.
    I said you made me laugh because once, I worked for a French company. I tried to learn some words, just like you, a small gift. The tapes (oh, it was a long while ago) started with “ecouter repeter” so I said I was trying to learn some French and repeated the lesson from “ecouter …” but instead of saying “repeter” I said (my bad pronunciation) “peter” which is to fart LOL and everybody laughed and I didn´t understand the joke till somebody explained it to me!!

    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 1:15 am

      Sounds like you could have written my article for me, Ellen! Ah, well…it endears us to people when we show our weaknesses and works out better in the end (no pun intended from your story ;0). Thanks for sharing, that is a great one! Keep ’em coming and thanks for reading!

      • wherewander

        January 8, 2011 at 4:03 pm

        you´re welcome!! I do enjoy it!!! and ok, I trust you, no pun intented from my story LOL

  45. barb weir

    January 8, 2011 at 1:13 am

    Don’t feel too badly! First dinner with my now-fiancé’s family I smelled some over-sprayed cologne and said “Ca sans mal” thinking it meant “That smells bad” but pronounced it more like “Ca sans a merde” which means “That smells like shit…Not a good first impression! If you need it in the future, ‘that smells bad’ is actually ‘Ca pu’ (forgive my lack of accents..) 🙂 Great blog!


  46. thewondermya

    January 8, 2011 at 1:26 am

    Hi !
    Absolutely loved your post. I’m a french native speaker blessed with an Australian partner. Related to your post 100 % ! Thanks for sharing !

  47. simon

    January 8, 2011 at 2:28 am

    This post made me smile !
    As an English man (not the well spoken type you see on films but the slow talking harsh accent from the northwest ) who had a spell living in Paris, i made this exact same mistake many many times before anyone cared to correct me , i never did master merci beaucoup my native accent could just not allow for the correct pronunciation so i just changed it to merci bien which for the most part was acceptable .
    There is a book that i read of an English guy in a similar situation as i, which made me smile , perhaps you would enjoy reading it too , its called “A year in the merde” by Stephen clarke

    I still remember the wonderful reaction i would get when i would say “Passez une bonne soirée” to wish people a good night …..tho i really never figured out why , probably another Hilarius miss pronunciation , who knows 🙂

  48. Jeannetta Vivere

    January 8, 2011 at 4:00 am

    That was cute ! I’m not good at other languages, terrible memory but I always try to at least learn the basics, it’s just the right thing to do when visiting a country.

    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 5:34 pm

      Agreed Jeannetta! (excluding the bad memory, of course ;0)

  49. Jim Clark

    January 8, 2011 at 4:12 am

    Good stuff! This reminds me of a story that is not my own, but still great, because it’s a perfect illustration that the concept is not exclusive to NON-English.

    A friend of mine was on a bumpy tour bus with her fiance, taveling the English country side. It was so very bumpy, that she was driven to impulsively yell louder than that ambient noise, “Ow, this bus ride is really hurting my fanny!”

    I leave anyone not privy to now look up why this is funny, but the entire passenger list completely lost it!!

    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 5:32 pm

      LOL! Yes, fanny in the US is a bit more benign…but in the UK, I see your point! Good one, Jim…thank you!

  50. brianhickey1

    January 8, 2011 at 4:34 am

    After reading all your comments and having a great laugh, I have decided if I ever go overseas I will hang a sign around my neck reading DUMB . However will they know?!

    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 5:27 pm

      Lol! Even if they don’t, it would still be like anywhere else…they would still wonder why you had a sign around your neck to start. Thanks for the return laugh, Brian!

  51. tokyo5

    January 8, 2011 at 4:49 am

    I’m an American…also from the southern U.S. who lives overseas.
    I moved to Tokyo twenty years ago.

    I know about language blunders. When I first arrived I didn’t know any of the Japanese language.
    And I’ve made some blunders as I was learning the language…for example, once I wanted to comment that someone had “a cute dog” but I mistakenly told them that they had “an unfortunate dog”.

    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 5:24 pm

      Lol, oh dear! Thanks for sharing your ‘unfortunate’ but ‘cute’ story with us!

  52. Andy

    January 8, 2011 at 5:18 am

    “Merci beau cul”! 🙂
    That’s the best part of the whole post. Thanks for the laugh! As someone who tried my best to study “Quebecois French” (which I have been told “Ce n’est pas la bonne francaise. C’est comme une langue de coucon!” by French individuals…) during my 5 years of study in Quebec, I never even thought of the humor/mispronunciation possibilities with that expression!
    Great post!
    “Félicitations d’être fraîchement pressé‏”! 😉

    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 5:20 pm

      OH NO! They really said that? Not nice 😦 sorry! Glad you got a laugh, will try to give you more! Thanks for commenting and for the congrats, Andy!

  53. Steph

    January 8, 2011 at 6:21 am

    so many relevant replies from all above ! yes, if you make the effort, that’s half of the job done, and remember, if you don’t try, you will never get, that applies for everything in life… doesn’t it ?
    I remember my early days in England, I was so scared to get out of the house to ask and buy something in the shops, but the staff was so helpful and kind and at the till, I was called ” my Duck”… mon canard ? that must be nice ! I loved it from that day….
    and my art history lessons, argh thank god they were some slides to go with the teacher’s talk, but he was so patient and so amazed I was making the effort, even if I was totally in the fog… bless him!
    I mean I got a proud 16/20 mark in English at Baccalaureat, but man, how useless was I too undertsand what people would explain to me on the pavement..the thing is, you can speak the language, but what is you don’t understand the reply ?
    ahhhh, so many funny memories !

    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 8:34 am

      Well said, Steph! That reminds me of another ‘souci’ that may be a future article, thanks for that, “my Duck” and keep sharing, if you’re caring ;0)

  54. Jaana from Finland

    January 8, 2011 at 6:55 am

    I’m a Finn and only 5 million people speak my language (Finnish). So we need to learn other languages… Our other national language is Swedish and it is compulsory to learn Swedish at school, so most of us are bilingual at least to some extend. I know Finnish is difficult, but still I wonder why some people, who have been living here for ten to twenty years, never bother to learn it. It would make life so much easier and one would adapt to the society in a whole new way. Still, many of us are fluent in English also, so one can cope in English almost everywhere :).

    It’s great that you are learning French. It’s difficult, if you ask me! But it’s true: everyone wants you to succeed and even if you do make a few mistakes, who cares. People understand.

    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 4:17 pm

      Hi Jaana…yes! You share in the same dilemma as our friend from Flanders. It is very important to preserve your language (and heritage) but also assimilate, but how do we balance the two? This is a hot topic and one I hope you will help us see more clearly as we delve more into this area in the near future! Thanks so much for your comment and the encouragement ;0)

  55. Strange Tributes

    January 8, 2011 at 7:50 am

    another blog that makes me crazy jealous! I love your adventures!!!!

    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 11:03 am

      Lol…well, at least you don’t get the bumps and bruises either ;0) Thanks for reading, ST!

  56. Summer

    January 8, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Loooooool!! i love french but its hard!!

    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 4:57 pm

      I concur! I think it’s the most beautiful of languages, but a real dickens to learn.

  57. Michi

    January 8, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    I was just having a similar conversation with one of my students the other day! I’m American but live in Southern Spain, where there happen to be several English colonies. It still blows my mind to meet people (a lot of them British) that have lived in Spain for over 20 years and have yet to learn the language! C’mon. If you’ve decided to set roots someplace, the least you can do is learn the local language, right?

  58. The Invisible Cookbook

    January 8, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    Like everyone else, I agree!! Am trying to learn Krio, Temne and Limba at the moment (some of the many languages in Sierra Leone) and have ended up dabbling in all while mastering none. Seem to end up speaking english in a Jamaican accent with one or two krio words thrown in… its similar to english but not similar enough… i know i end up sounding so very stupid, but am persisting with my attempts.
    Thank you for an entertaining and beautifully written post!!

    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 4:07 pm

      Wow Sophie, Krio…really? How absolutely fascinating! Would love to know more when you have time. Keep up the brave work!

    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 9:58 am

      Hello Reubenkinara, thank you for the vote of confidence in thinking that I am a good editor, but the truth is, that is an entirely different skill set and one that I would not profess to possess. In fairness to you in getting the best advise, I’m sure WordPress or Squidoo have great resources you can tap to get the expert advise you need. Regarding places to visit in France, you can check out Paris Pass: and see what interests you most. Bonne chance !

  59. Intlxpatr

    January 8, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    LOL, Rosetta Stone, and how many times have you mentioned the boys jump or the girls jump or the yellow car?

    The good news is, one day it just all integrates, and you realize that you are speaking French. You might search for a word now and then – as you do in English – but you can make yourself understood. Just hearing others speak helps you pronounce things right, it just comes.

    I lived in a French speaking country, and one dear French woman, elegant, dignified, told me how she loved ‘penis butter.’ I did not correct her. I could not. I doubted it would come up in conversation often, and I trusted if it did, others would be kind.

    Once, in Arabic, I asked for a 12 inch penis. The word is similar to zipper. Aarrgh.

    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 4:46 pm

      My goodness Intlxpatr, you are SO right! I really got tired of seeing the same people in the same outfits (from appearances, looked to still be set in the 70’s) talking about the same things. Also, you win! That has to be the all time BEST language blooper ever! Thanks so much for filleting your soul for our benefit, kudos my friend! But did you ever find the zipper? Inquiring minds, you know! ;0) Thanks for the chuckle but I may look twice at my peanut butter.

  60. psychodoodle

    January 8, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    😀 oops….. u sure he didn’t have a nice derrière and you said it wrong? 😉
    just kidding, i’m sure it was pretty embarrassing… 🙂

  61. seashu

    January 8, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    I know what you mean! Although I haven’t been to France, I take French and my French teachers cannot empathize enough that when in France, at least try and speak French even if you fail completely. The French love it when you at least try! And on the other hand, my dad actually did visit France and he described the French as ‘snobby’, but I have a feeling he tried to ask everything in English…

    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 9:46 am

      As others have also said, very true! Well, sometimes a daughter can influence a father more than anyone. Maybe you can help him see the city of lights in a new light, Seashu. Thanks for the comment!

  62. showbizchik

    January 8, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    had to giggle at this as I have recalled some of our old conversations when you were in the “getting to know you” stage with your hubby. Do you remember the night he corrected us both on “creme brulee”??? Too funny. It would be cute for you to do a counter-post on some of the funny miss-said words and phrases HE has used. Love this blog, dear friend. Keep it up 😉

    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 6:39 pm

      Hiedi-ho! LOL, well…true! ;0) Thanks girlfriend!

  63. Allison Huyett

    January 8, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    Dear Ms. Bell Sacre,

    You have an fascinating French name and a nice, Derry Air about you and the Dr. Bob art is devilishly divine.

    Sincerely and Merci,
    Allison Huyett and the six cats in my synch: Wizzer, Domino, Billy, Tuxedo, Mojo and Simon

    • expatriotgames

      January 8, 2011 at 6:37 pm

      I propose, you are pro at prose! Thank you, Allison, et al.

  64. Allison Huyett

    January 8, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    p.s. make that an a

  65. Bakbakee

    January 8, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    I studied French till a year back. And I didnt want to study French further, so I chose law. I think that explains a lot.

    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 9:32 am

      Ha, I think that is the hump I’m on now…but law school for me would be like being buried under the hump, so guess I’ll stick with it! Thanks Maulika! ;0)

  66. anexcellentcoatrack

    January 8, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    I really liked the article, I lived in Besancon a year ago and the language barriers were quite a challenge but most people I encountered were really nice to me….but it was really humbling!

    • expatriotgames

      January 11, 2011 at 9:20 am

      Glad you found it [the article] fit your experience. Thanks for taking time to comment, Dan!

  67. Jack Jackson

    January 8, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    Good on you! Fear stops too many of us from trying things that would turn out to be good for us.

    One nit though….Is the song you are referring to in your opening “Lady Marmalade” by Labelle? (also used in Moulin Rouge soundtrack) You know… Voulez vouz couchez &c.

    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 6:31 am

      Thank you so much for the correction, Jack! I have since changed it. Can’t believe that I was wrong for so long on that one, but then again… ;0)

  68. Nessie

    January 8, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    Oh my gosh, it’s with “J’ai faim” and pronouncing “faim” wrong. This post caught my attention. Mostly because I’m learning French now in high school, and we just learned this. (Yes, this is only my first year out of four that I’ll be planning to do!) Well, at least I learned something new to say in French with this post! Although I wouldn’t to accidentally say it, of course.

    • expatriotgames

      January 11, 2011 at 2:46 pm

      Hi Nessie, keep up the good work in your French lessons and learn from my (many) mistakes, OK? ;0)

  69. frenchimmersion

    January 8, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    When we moved to Rouen a year and a bit ago, none of my kids spoke a word of French, and now they are screaming ahead with my daughter as class rep in an all french school and my boys frequently getting higher marks than their french peers. It can be done and it’s wonderful to see! For my part, I spoke enough to get by but was terrified of the phone, but because I have had to communicate with the other mothers to arrange play dates and parent/teacher meetings etc I have considerably improved despite finding NO teacher to help me along. My teachers are the other parents who correct me out of kindness and who listen to my ramblings (and I am delighted to say I can ramble now), along with my local butcher who teaches me French “sayings” and amuses me with learning the english comparison. Long live all those natural teachers and “the kindness of strangers”, which has become one of mantras! Keep writing!

    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 8:09 am

      Wonderful comments, thank you for sharing your great story! I’m STILL afraid of the phone and the McDrive ;D!

  70. laavventura

    January 8, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    Great blog! I’ve dealt with the same misfourtunes as Canadian dreamer living in Italy. It’s a wonderful transformation learning and communicating daily in another language that is not your mother tongue. When people see that you are trying to learn their language or adapt to their culture, that is when they will open their hearts and homes to you. That is when you see the real culture.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • expatriotgames

      January 9, 2011 at 2:05 pm

      Well said my friend, well said! Thank you for posting!

  71. likeablestuff

    January 8, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Haha, this reminds me of all the Engrish pictures from asia. What are we gonna call this? Engfrich?

    • expatriotgames

      January 9, 2011 at 1:51 pm

      LOL! I’m thinking maybe…Frenglish?

      • Disobedient Child

        January 10, 2011 at 2:00 pm

        Franglais 🙂 It’s a term we use here in the UK, to describe a lazy mixture of English and French – when you know your je and j’ai and maybe avec, but lack any competent grasp on anything else! Like me. Um…

      • expatriotgames

        January 10, 2011 at 2:12 pm

        Thanks Abi…think Franglais might stick but we’ll keep trying, won’t we? ;0)

  72. tigercity

    January 8, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    Hi there,

    Just stumbled upon your blog.. well I’ll raise a glass to you as I too am an expat (British) living in Lyon.. been here 7 years, speak the lingo pretty well now although through life not lessons.. does indeed take a while integrating into French speaking communities..

    My other connection is that I “lived” in North Carolina during the summer of ’93 & the people were very warm and welcoming.. I say “lived” as it was a summer camp for children but still got to travel around the states quite a bit after my stint at camp..

    The French accent is difficult, especially for one who has a relatively strong North East English one..

    To the above poster – yes, the French can come across as snobby, more so in the “Bourgeoise” towns of Lyon & Bordeaux which can be insular and where it takes a long time to be accepted by the locals..

    take care…

    • expatriotgames

      January 9, 2011 at 1:05 pm

      How interesting! I may need your help, Tigercity! Sounds like you’ve been around the block more than me, so I hope you’ll keep chiming in when you can! NC, huh? Fab! I lived in Charlotte for a few years before heading across the water, great town!

      Indeed, the accent is tough…at first, I could barely understand French people speaking English (and I felt SO bad!) but the accent is so different for a beginner. In US in general (excluding NY, LA and the top tier cities), people really aren’t accustomed to hearing accented English but I digress, sorry! Anyway, my point is I felt bad that people where trying to speak to me, in my own language and I just struggled to understand. With that being said, I do try my darndest to speak with a French accent, it’s work in progress but progress none the less! Thanks for the post and please do visit when you can, great insights!

  73. Pico

    January 8, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    Lovely article! I laughed pretty freaking hard! I can relate to your difficulties big time. I was in France a few years ago (for a few days) and having learnt the language all throughout high school was still terrified as anything when it came to speaking it to a Real French Person. The first such person was the taxi driver, who didn’t speak a word of French, and fortunately understood the directions I rattled off (having memorised my lines on the train). He was so lovely and understanding and even made conversation with us. When we got out I realised all the stupid grammatical errors I’d made, but turns out, as you say, as long as you make an effort you’re in good stead!

    I’m going to be living in the Netherlands this year, and I’m sorry to say learning some Dutch before hand has not been one of my top priorities… But now I’m going to make it one!

    • Pico

      January 9, 2011 at 10:13 am

      Um, make that didn’t speak a word of ‘English’ (the taxi driver). Otherwise it’s a completely different story, haha!

    • expatriotgames

      January 9, 2011 at 12:52 pm

      Excellent, great story (and yes, understood you meant English instead of French referring to the Taxi driver ;0)! In the Netherlands, they speak (and have for many, many years) English everywhere. Not saying you shouldn’t learn, but you have a bit more breathing room there, good luck!

  74. Sunflowerdiva

    January 9, 2011 at 12:24 am

    LOL, this is funny! I love the French language, but I’m terrible at its grammar, so I’ve never really studied it. A nice derriere. Haha! Good one! Now I know how NOT to pronounce “merci beaucoup.” ;-D

    • expatriotgames

      January 9, 2011 at 1:50 pm

      Oh yes, PLEASE learn from my mistakes ;0) Glad it made you laugh with me, not at me? lol.

  75. charmstep

    January 9, 2011 at 9:54 am

    Nice post. I also found that French people appreciate polite guests who make an effort to speak their language. And it was Patti LaBelle’s group LaBelle, not the Pointer Sisters, who sang the song ‘Lady Marmalade’ and taught us all that infamous question in French.

    • expatriotgames

      January 9, 2011 at 1:19 pm

      HOLY FRIJOLES, April, you’re right! THANK YOU! I’ve always thought it was the PS, thank you for saving my ‘derriere!.’ Maybe I need to write a post titled, ‘I said WHAT in English’, too! Oh la la!

  76. sannekurz

    January 9, 2011 at 10:36 am

    I am a native German speaker. You could call my English ok and my French basic. – Yesterday I tried to order a fried egg for breakfast in Turnham Green, London. Having lived in Australia for five years, my accent should not be keeping me from ordering fried eggs. The waiter – with heavenly smile, slightly nervous and VERY French – got very very confused. And even more nervous “You mean an egg? In water?”. My (Russian-Israeli-British) friend and I tried to explain the preparation of a fried egg hoping for better results in our communication. I asked: “Tell us in French what you think I’d like.” – “Œuf Cru!” He replied with an understanding smile. NO NO NO NO NO! Please no raw egg! I felt so sorry. He felt so sorry. He got the kitchen staff out from behind their stoves. “Fried egg!” I kept begging in to five French faces. – “We don’t ‘ave that”, apologized the main chef, “only scramble’ “. Well than. Not only English Europeans got to work on their language.

    • expatriotgames

      January 9, 2011 at 12:42 pm

      Uh oh, Sannekurz! Leider hast du nicht bekommen Ihre Eier, schwer zu schlagen ein gutes Spiegelei nicht wahr? Mehr Glück beim nächsten Mal meine Kolleginnen und Ei-Liebhaber. Außerdem glaube ich, Ihr Englisch ist sehr gut! Thanks for sharing!

  77. blogliar

    January 9, 2011 at 10:48 am

    interisting. nice to read this note.. i’m from south east asia.

  78. Foreigner

    January 9, 2011 at 11:10 am

    [nice and try your best even if it’s only a few words, use them and you will be surprised how well and how far it will take you!] This pretty much resumes it all.
    It was a great read. As someone who’s been living in Spain almost half of her life I completly understand you. At least at first I went trough the same process…now I’m fully adapted (because i wanted to). Good luck un France! I was told it’s a great country, I’ll be traveling there soon to visit a good friend.

    Cheers from your neighbourcountry =)

    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 8:04 am

      Hola Foreigner, adoro España! France is a great country too, you heard right. Returned wishes to you too and thanks for your post!

  79. prescravi

    January 9, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    this is the exact same situation my friends and i face when we first landed in Moscow.. we hadn’t really mastered the russian language to any bits and i remember wen we had 2 get a birthday cake for a friend. we went to the bakery choose the cake we wanted and was about to leave and that’s when i realised we didn’t get candles!! so not knowing how to ask for a candle in russian cause the entire transaction was basically a point-n-tell, but i couldn’t do the same as the cake. there wasn’t a candle on display or within nearest visibility!! so with all the gestures and movements i could muster, i mimicked d motion of blowing a candle n god bless the lady, she understood!! smilingly she brought some and gave us!! the things we do to do what we ought to do!! good luck with French dear!!

    • expatriotgames

      January 9, 2011 at 1:33 pm

      LOL! I love that, ‘point-n-tell’, perfect! Yes, can’t emphasize the kindness of strangers enough. They are essential, because we can’t do it all on our own, even when we think we have, we are mistaken! Lovely story, thanks so much for sharing it and for the well-wishes!

  80. discerningMusic

    January 9, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    Excellent story! My wife is French and we have had so much fun with language/communication! Even after 17 years of marriage and 3 children who speak French, I’ve not managed to speak it very well. Her family are all very polite and courteous to me for which I reciprocate, because the jumbled up words or mispronouncing goes both ways! For some unknown reason I’m able to communicate with her mother the best. She know some English, but somehow we manage to get along quite well when we visit her home, or she visits ours. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 7:46 am

      Yes, great story about your mother-in-law…some folks are just very intuitive and can tune in better. It may sound bizarre to some readers, but she can often anticipate what you’re about to say too, I bet! Thanks for sharing, DM and for the compliment. All the best to you and your family!

  81. Rowland Jones

    January 9, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Mistakes have to be made: everyone does . . I know I have…. and maybe some of the worst I’ll never know.
    When I arrived in Italy I spoke phrase book Italian: a language teacher friend confessed that she’s once asked to have ride on her friend’s cabbage (cavolo = cabbage; cavallo=horse) I just hope I never do what one friend did: when asked by a friend’s wife what fruit he would like after his meal; he replied that he would like oral sex . . . . . .

    Best of luck everybody!!

    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 7:57 am

      Oh my…well, OH MY! OK, feeling like ‘cul’ ain’t so bad now! ;0) Great one, thanks for posting if for us, Rowland!

  82. sarahsmilesintherain

    January 9, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    Firstly, a huge thank you for sharing this story it made me giggle and reminded me of a time in my Korean class where I mistakenly asked the lecturer ‘Where do you sell yourself?’ before carrying on with the role-play conversation. He kindly stopped me and corrected my mispronounced syllable, explaining what I’d said, much to everyone’s amusement. Secondly, congrats for getting on the freshly pressed, I’m pretty new to blogging and find a lot of the blogs there really inspiring and amusing and I aspire to one day be up there too doing the same for other new bloggers.

    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 7:42 am

      Thank you kindly, SITR! Great story and thanks for sharing it. I’m a new blogger too, so don’t let that stop you! Go get ’em gal! 🙂

  83. mynakedbokkie

    January 9, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    Congratulations on being freshly pressed!
    I am as guilty as sin. My man is Afrikaans, and so is much of South Africa….. i understand- mostly, (sometimes i do get exhausted and switch off, because i do still need to actually think about it) but I never ever speak it. I know that my office colleagues and my man woudl all be so excited and helpful if i did…..but i am still not rushing to start a conversation in Afrikaans.
    I know- I need to!!

    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 7:39 am

      LOL, boy do I understand what you mean, MNB! You do have to just ‘turn it off’ or you can go to sleep standing up from fatigue. Thanks for the confession, very brave to say so ;0). And thanks for the kudos, too 🙂

  84. sarahnsh

    January 9, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    I’d like to go to France, but I’m very scared of not pronouncing the language right. My Mom knows a little bit of french, I know a little more of Spanish, so either way I’m afraid to mess things up when I try out another language. It’s amazing how pronouncing a word just slightly different can change the meaning of it so much!

    • Strickly Viral

      January 9, 2011 at 9:01 pm


    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 7:36 am

      Well Sarah, I’ve not done my job as a blogger if you still feel that way after reading the post. If anything, I hope the post will give you some assurance, that it doesn’t matter as long as you try and come at it with an open mind and heart to learning. The truth is, you WILL make mistakes, we all do whether in learning a new language, going to a new city, meeting new people, a new job, you name it, we’ve all screwed it up and more times than we know and largely unaware that we have done so. To free yourself from the weight of ‘looking silly’ is very liberating and once you do…you never want to go back. Chin up and start making mistakes soon! ;0)

  85. Marc

    January 9, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    Very good article!
    I’m an expat myself : a French guy, living and working in London.

    What you said about the fact that people really like it when foreigners try to speak their language is absolutely true. I guess it’s because it shows politeness and interest. Also, in Paris, people are used to see tourists who don’t really try so a bit of effort is always appreciated.

    Don’t worry about your mispronunciation, that one is a classic!

    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 7:30 am

      Well, howdy neighbor! Thanks so much for the post. Really am glad the French are being represented from this post. Yes, you are spot on…in Paris especially it gets tiring for people to just assume they speak English. I can certainly see how this would wear on one’s psyche after only a short while. Thanks for representing Le France, (via England) Marc!

  86. ryoko861

    January 9, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree that if you go to another country you should ALWAYS try to adapt to THEIR culture. Learn THEIR language and respect their culture. Unlike what they do here in the states. I’m so tired of having spanish shoved down my throat. Pretty soon we’re all going to have to learn Hindu. That’s when I pack and head for the airport. England will have to deal with another Yank amongst them. And even there they have their issues with having to learn new languages.

    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 7:22 am

      Well, you still may have to learn Hindi in England (just want to give you the heads up)! Thanks for the comment, Ryoko!

    • Gee

      January 10, 2011 at 8:29 am

      Great post!And @ryoko861 I wish to state,what u want to say is HINDI and not HINDU,I guess.

      • expatriotgames

        January 10, 2011 at 9:13 am

        Thanks Gee! And yes, you are right, Hindi would be the language and Hindu the philosophy…thanks for setting the record straight, at least with me!

  87. Robert Marie

    January 9, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    Had a blast with my wife till she started leaning. FUN THOUGH!

    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 7:18 am

      lol, but I’m sure you were still supportive 🙂

  88. Trevor

    January 9, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    It is my dream to live in France and learn the language. I’m a lover of many languages, but French is absolutely my favorite. Interestingly enough, I went to University for Spanish. I like to hear of others in foreign countries and read their experiences. I live in Peru, right now, and will be here for 18 months more doing mission work for the Nazarene church.

    I do know exactly what you mean about people expecting others to conform to their ways. It’s strange how people think the world revolves around them.

    Sadly, in Peru, it’s not quite the same that people like that you speak their language, rather if you are tall and blonde… well, that’s the only thing that will stick out to them. Now, I’d like to note, it’s not right to characterize all Peruvians like this, but this is general. I look like a walking money purse in the market places, which is frustrating because I’m not a tourist, I’m a volunteer. Humbleness… yes, it’s a great attitude to have. I could whip out all the Spanish I know and knit together perfect subjunctive, but that would only appease me and leave a bitter taste in the other party’s mouth concerning Americans. We are examples! It’s ugly, but we are the plug to the stereotypes and define who Americans are.

    I really like this verse in Phillipians 2:3 that talks about humility!
    “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

    Keep writing! I love this!

    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 6:27 am

      Hello Trevor, I can certainly see your point, (I also have done volunteer work, but in Central America, not Peru–I also learned Spanish in school) so I’d love to know more as to why you feel the Peruvian culture is different in this regard. I do have a similar understanding of what you are referring to, but have found getting into the villages (away from the commerce) people are very appreciative. So, would love to know more if you have time to elaborate. Thanks so much for commenting and best of luck to you in your mission work!

  89. Strickly Viral

    January 9, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    Have family living in Paris – 16th arrondisemont right by metro stop Argentine. I visit every other year for the holidays, and scream “BON ANEE” on new year’s because it’s about the only thing I can consistently say in French without messing up.

    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 6:12 am

      LOL! I would visit Paris every other year too if I had relatives at the 16th, good for you!

  90. Sister Earth Organics

    January 9, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    How lucky are you to be living in France!
    Being a “honorary” southerner myself, I can relate your situation to my first few weeks here in GA. (how is a New York City girl supposed to know what okra is?)
    You can’t lose with your “inherent” southern hospitality!
    Now how do you say…”bless your heart” in French?

    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 6:08 am

      LOLOLOL! Ah yes, the ‘bless your heart’ comment is quite famous by now I’d imagine and not sure it has an exact translation…Anybody out there who can shed some light on it, please chime in!

      New York to GA? WOW, you may have had the same sort of culture shock as I have! Well, you can’t beat southern hospitality when it’s genuine, that is true. Thanks for the wonderful comment my, ‘Sister Earth’ and come back now, ya heya? ;0)

  91. uforicfood

    January 9, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    You are so right … when we go overseas, we should always try to speak the language of the place we are going. I know not everyone has this attitude, but I wish they did and were more respectful.
    The closest I have ever gotten to France is making Boeuff Bourguignon (check it out here: . However, it is at the very top of my list!
    Hope you are having a wonderful time – and congrat on being Freshly Pressed!

    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 6:01 am

      Thanks ever so much, Lisa! And I love bouef bourguignon, so I will check it out!

  92. travelingmad

    January 9, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    Nice blog. Trying does go a long way, so does please and thank you just like you said.

    I am living in France and am trying to learn the language still. It takes time and effort for sure!

    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 5:58 am

      Sounds like we both need to hold one another’s hand through this, Maddie, lol! Please do share your experience if you feel comfortable, would love to know your thoughts as we both go through this amazing, yet often times, terrifying adventure. Hang in there and keep living the dream!

  93. thecurtiscasa

    January 10, 2011 at 1:17 am

    Love this story… I can only hope that it will happen to me someday. I would love to return to living France!! I look forward to reading more from you. Congrats on freshly pressed and Bon Courage!

    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 5:31 am

      Thank you kindly, Whitney. Bon courage a vous aussi !

  94. slothnbox

    January 10, 2011 at 3:58 am

    As a Francophone, I can tell you that French is a difficult language to grasp, and even now, at 38, I hate writing in French. So many zany exceptions in conjugating past participles, and so on. I live in an area where we have our own bastardized language of French/English (chiac) and when I have to speak French in a professional setting, I’m always looking for my words.

    But you’re absolutely right, that people appreciate you learning even a few words in their language – making at least a bit of an effort. I always learn a few key phrases in the language of the country I’m visiting, and while I’m undoubtedly butchering their mother tongue, I always get a positive response. First key phrase I learn: Where is the bathroom? 🙂

    “Beau cul” is not the worst thing you could have said. I would welcome someone saying that to me! 😉

    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 5:29 am

      LOL, Thanks a bunch Lisel, I’ll take any encouragement I can get! Bon courage to you and your uh, hem…’beau cul.’

  95. xpat92

    January 10, 2011 at 8:01 am

    I enjoyed reading about your experience. There are so many expats out there who can relate!
    I am a long time resident of France, married to a Frenchman. I have also to survive family life, and the local neighborhood life and all the rest. And in my experience, I say that we are harder on ourselves for our mistakes then those around us. I have had so much encouragement and warmth.
    Mistakes are what makes us learn! And it is so much more human than a “perfectly” recited litany of phrases.
    P.S. The first time I took the RER by myself, I had practiced the phrase over and over
    before arriving at the “guichet”. That was 20 years ago and I am still here 🙂

    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 9:17 am

      Lol, thanks Barb…what a ride it’s been, huh? Appreciate your post and glad you can still relate to us ‘newbies’. All the best to you and your family!

  96. kerrycharacters

    January 10, 2011 at 11:57 am

    I enjoyed this post – I have lived in France for the last 12 years and just moved to Toronto. I decided to only speak French for the first six months, no matter how much pain I inflicted on native ears in doing so. And it worked! I am happy to say that fluency comes with determination but it also comes with empathy and wanting to connect with people. Bon continuation!

  97. KC

    January 10, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    I’m also a Southerner trying to make my way with French – I currently live in Francophone West Africa. If you’re walking down the street here, people are generally very friendly and are likely to say “bonjour” or “ça va.” It’s also proper etiquette to individually greet every person in a room when you enter. So even if I am still struggling with having a conversation with much depth, it’s nice to know that Southern friendliness is universal!

    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 2:16 pm

      Wow, you may be on to something, sounds like there is quite a similarity between Francophone (West Africa) and the south…very refreshing to hear this, thank you for sharing it, KC!

  98. Macy Hayes

    January 10, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    We had a French exchange program in high school, and when our French students were visiting one of my friends offered her “preservatifs” with breakfast, assuming that this would mean “preservatives” (what we called a “faux ami”). She got a pretty confused and offended reaction, and asked our teacher the next day what she had offered her guest, to find out she had offered her condoms with her breakfast.

    They had a laugh over it in the end, but when two people are still making their way with a language hilarity will ensue.

    I agree that if you are trying people are much more accepting. I think it is refreshing for people when you try to fit in with their culture. When I arrived in Paris for my part of the exchange my friends and I went to lunch in a small cafe where the waiter pegged us immediately and quizzed us on every minute detail of the order. I managed to order us what we wanted and got a big grin and a wink from him.

    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 2:10 pm

      HA, most excellent Lyn! Great one to share, thank you! Thanks for the contribution and thanks for reading!

  99. Kathy

    January 10, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    I have the experience learning French in Egypt and it was quite challenging. The guttural sound is especially difficult but I managed to practice when straining for number two ( after some cups of thick Egyptian tea last night). Try it, it sure worked on me!

    • expatriotgames

      January 10, 2011 at 3:19 pm

      Lol, oh, I bet that was challenging and excellent tip!

  100. acrankywomansview

    January 10, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    lovely post- love the experience of an American living overseas- thanks for sharing.

  101. auntbethany

    January 10, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Gotta love learning through experience! I quickly learned that the word for “pen” in Italian is a word that could get you in trouble, if not said correctly. Il pene vs. Il penne. I can’t remember which one is correct, but one will get you a writing implement…the other will retrieve a part of the male anatomy!

    Here’s hoping you don’t need a pen anytime soon! Great post, Regina!

  102. WhoIsSalehaIrfan?

    January 10, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    I’m glad you tried to learn the language and pronunciation at least. I hate it when people have no regard for how any word is said and they think they know better. I hope your French gets better.
    Bonne chance! 😛

  103. heelsextremity

    January 20, 2011 at 8:39 am

    great one! merci beaucoup 🙂

    • expatriotgames

      January 20, 2011 at 8:53 am

      Thanks lady! Brave work YOU are doing my friend, keep it up!

  104. tinkerbelle86

    January 26, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    brilliant! i will always be scarred from school when i told my super mean french teacher i was frigid instead of saying I was cold…. ill never forget the laughter :s

    • expatriotgames

      January 31, 2011 at 7:01 pm

      Lol, that’s a good one Laura. Thanks for sharing your “I said WHAT” with us!


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