5.5 months in, and with my recent, dare I say, excellent results of the DELF B1 exam, I can safely say I’m starting to get the hang of the French language. I’ve also noticed some peculiar things about this language (as with any other language when you first get familiar with it) in comparison with the languages I already know, mainly English. Some of these discoveries are funny, some are confusing, and some are downright enlightening and immediately gives you a new perspective in life once you’ve grasped the meaning and context of it. The last is how learning a new language can, as cliche as it may sound, “broadens your horizons.”
①The word “baguette” means a myriad of things.
One time, I was talking to le bf and his mum about his sister’s stay in Japan and the following conversation (in French) happened:
La maman: Yeah, when Camy was in Japan, she used to eat all her meals with baguette on the side.
Me: (Oh wow, I didn’t know Camy was so particular about eating with a side of bread all the time. Also, that must’ve been kinda disrespectful to the family, no?) Oh really? Wow, that must be really expensive
La maman: *Confused*
La maman: *Disregards what I said* Even when she came home, she would also try to eat meals at home with baguette. It’s so funny, I mean it’s not that easy to eat for example a quiche with baguette.
Me: (Yeah, not that easy because that’s carbs on carbs, I guess?)
Le bf: Yeah, there’s a Thai food truck at work and when I order a rice dish, they would give me baguettes. But it’s always hard to eat Thai rice with baguette because the Thai rice isn’t like Japanese rice, it’s less sticky and not at all easy to pick up with a baguette. But in Japan it’s so easy because the rice is sticky and everybody eats rice on top of a piece of baguette.
Me: No, they don’t.
Le bf: … yes, they do?
Me: *Narrows my eyes interrogatively* Who?
Le bf: *Confused face* …Err… Everyone?
THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT CHOPSTICKS. Because although the most well-known connotation of the word “baguette” is of course the long, narrow French loaf but the same word is used to refer to chopsticks and even a magic wand.
②The French don’t have an equivalent for “I’m full.” Instead, they say “I’m not hungry anymore.”
Maybe that’s why they’re all so skinny!!! Holy shit paradigm shift.
Actually, French people are skinny because of a lot of other reasons, like always eating fresh and local food, long and hearty meals with no snacking in between, walking everywhere, etc. But you know, maybe because the concept of “I’m not hungry anymore” has instilled in them a way to judge the right amount of food they should eat. After “I’m not hungry anymore (Je n’ai plus faim)” the next on the scale of fullness would jump straight to “I ate too much (J’ai trop manger)” and “I’m going to explode! (Je vais éclater!”)
Reminds me of a saying in Japanese: 腹八分目に医者いらず (hara hachibunme ni isha shirazu) which means “Moderate eating keeps the doctor away.” Maybe this explains the Japanese’s skinniness, too! But coming from a person who used to regularly binge on cookies and kashipan till she got sick in her apartment in Tokyo, yeah, I can assert that having that in my vocabulary does not necessarily improve your eating habits.
③Droite means to make a right, and droit means to go straight
So the important thing when asking for directions in France, is to listen out for the strong “T” at the end of the word. If you’re told “DUAHT” it means to take a right, and “DUAH” means go straight. Although the easiest way would be to use hand gestures and point in the direction and ask for affirmation. And oh, incidentally, the French word for “finger” is also “doigt”, pronounced DUAH, the same as straight. -.-
④Tampons and Traiteurs
Although the French word “tampon” also means “tampon” like the thing you use during your period, it also means stamps (see featured pic) aka chops in Malaysia. Another signboard you see a lot in town is the word TRAITEUR. It doesn’t mean this guy:
It’s actually means a catering service.
⑤French people have nice “hairs”
In French, hair, or cheveux is always plural. E.g. “I have many hairs on my head,” or “You have such nice hairs” or “I need to cut my hairs.” It’s really cute because every time I hear that I picture a party going on on the top of your head, and it sounds like each and every hair is appreciated for their individuality. By the way, they also say “your periods,” as in OMG it’s that time of the month again, all my periods are coming out from down there.