faux amis

Ring around the rosies in Grignan (c) Kristin Espinasse 2010
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les faux amis (lay fowz ah mee)

    : "false friends" or words that look alike... but have different meanings

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.Audio File & Example sentence:
Listen to my daughter Jackie, her friend Manu, and me... pronounce these French words: Download MP3 file

Les Faux Amis!
Dans la vie, la plupart de nos amis sont des vrais amis, mais c'est les faux amis qui nous déçoivent. In life, most of our friends are true friends, but it's the false friends who deceive us. --Tim Averill

Today's column is by guest writer Andréa Thomas. Enjoy, and don't miss the French version at the end of this edition!


.............................................................................
LES  F A U X  AMIS
by Andréa Thomas
.............................................................................

Dear False Friends

Learning French? Be careful of some words that may trick you! You may have noticed that a lot of English words look like some French words, and vice-versa. Well, there is a very simple explanation for this - more than a third of words in the English language are of French origin. But why is that? Well, to understand this influence over English, we have to go back to the historic Norman invasion of 1066, which left England under Norman rule, meaning French became the lingua franca. As a result of this, English language has borrowed many words from French.

Sadly, while some of these words are used just as they are in French, others have evolved, as have their meanings, but beware of the trap: you may think you automatically know a lot of words in the other language but they are just here to make your learning process even more difficult. But what am I really talking about? Well, you might think that learning the word argument in French would be quite easy… After all, English owns a word quite similar, if not identical. Actually, it would be unwise to think that since the meaning of argument in French has nothing to do with the English one. Unfortunately, the list of tricky words is quite, if not extremely, long. As a native French speaker, I know that I had a lot of difficulty trying not to be mistaken by these false friends, and even though I’ve been studying English for a while now, I still get confused sometimes. I mean, what is up with vicious or sympathy? My French words vicieux and sympathie first come to my mind when I have to deal with these two, and that’s a shame because they are not exactly proper translations. The same thing happens with words like confidence, caution, figure, balance… and those are only my favourite ones, meaning they made me pull out my hair when I was still a beginner at English.

However, I think the winner would undoubtedly be actually. During my years of high school, I never heard a French student getting this word right. Even though our teacher kept telling us to use currently to match the French meaning, we would persist on using actually to express actuellement… Language learning is really gymnastics of the mind. To conclude, here are a few examples of unfriendly words that you should learn properly in order not to be confused and assimilate them to your own language:

affair vs. affaire
achieve vs. achever
deliver vs. délivrer
injure vs. injure
lecture vs. lecture
date vs. date
hazard vs. hasard
physician vs. physicien
luxury vs. luxure
to deceive vs. décevoir


Do you see my point? Though they may seem quite similar when it comes to vocabulary, English and French have some words “in common” that are just mean…


More about Andréa:
I'm a French girl studying English and Spanish at university, currently doing an internship in the great city of Hamburg, Germany. I'm passionate about languages and an active blogger for Lexiophiles
(http://www.lexiophiles.com/), in both English and French.

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Please help me to thank Andréa for her helpful article. Click here to share feedback, or add a simple "bonjour et merci Andréa!"


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FRENCH EDITION

Andréa has offered us the French translation of her article (mille mercis, Andréa!)

Ces chers faux amis…

Vous apprenez le français ? Méfiez-vous de ces mots qui pourraient bien dangereusement vous piéger. Vous avez sans doute remarqué que bon nombre de mots anglais ressemblent fortement à certains mots français, et vice-versa : l’explication à ce phénomène est simple. En fait, plus d’un tiers des mots de la langue anglaise sont d’origine française… Mais quelle en est la cause ? Pour comprendre cette influence sur l’anglais, il faut remonter à l’historique invasion normande en 1066, qui a laissé l’Angleterre sous domination normande, et a permis au français de devenir la lingua franca. Par conséquence, la langue anglaise a « emprunté » de nombreux mots français.

Hélas, si certains de ces mots sont utilisés tels qu’ils le sont en français, d’autres ont évolué ainsi que leur sens. Attention au piège : vous pensez sans doute connaître automatiquement beaucoup de mots dans l’autre langue, mais en réalité ils n’existent que pour rendre votre apprentissage plus ardu. Mais à quoi me réfère-je exactement ? Par exemple, vous pensez peut-être qu’apprendre le mot argument en français serait simple. Après tout, l’anglais possède un mot similaire, voire identique. En fait, il serait bien présomptueux de penser ainsi… puisque le sens de argument en français n’est pas exactement le même qu’en anglais. Malheureusement, la liste de ces mots pas si amicaux que cela est relativement longue. En tant que francophone, je sais que j’ai eu beaucoup de difficultés à ne pas me laisser avoir par ces faux amis, et même si j’étudie l’anglais depuis maintenant plusieurs années, il m’arrive encore de me laisser prendre au piège. Vraiment, que me veulent vicious ou sympathy ? Mes mots français vicieux et sympathie me viennent à l’esprit immédiatement quand mon chemin croise celui de ces deux mots, ce qui est regrettable puisque ce ne sont pas des traductions exactes. Le même phénomène se produit avec confidence, caution, figure, balance… et ce ne sont que mes « préférés », ce qui veut dire qu’ils m’ont causé bien des déboires quand je n’étais encore qu’une débutante en anglais.

Cependant, je pense que le gagnant est incontestablement actually. Lorsque j’étudiais au lycée, je n’ai jamais entendu un élève français utiliser ce mot correctement. Notre professeur avait beau nous répéter que nous devions utiliser currently pour exprimer ce que nous voulions dire en français, nous avons persisté à utiliser actually pour dire actuellement… L’apprentissage des langues ressemble vraiment à une gymnastique de l’esprit. En conclusion, voici quelques exemples de mots « ennemis » que vous devez apprendre correctement pour ne pas les confondre et les assimiler aux mots de votre propre langue :

affair vs. affaire
achieve vs. achever
deliver
vs. délivrer
injure
vs. injure
lecture vs. lecture
date
vs. date
hazard
vs. hasard
physician
vs. physicien
luxury vs. luxure
to deceive vs. décevoir

Vous voyez ce que je veux dire… Même si ces deux langues paraissent similaires en matière de vocabulaire, l’anglais et le français ont quelques mots « en commun » qui sont juste vicieux…

  Beaumes de Venise (c) Kristin Espinasse
The blues in Beaumes-de-Venise... minus the bevy of people or flopée de français.

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
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False friends - faux amis in French

French Window (c) Kristin Espinasse
No, the street light and the window are not false friends, but keep each other quiet company on a lazy midsummer day in the South of France.


les faux amis (lay fowz ah mee)

    : "false friends" or words that look alike... but have different meanings

.
Audio File & Example sentence:
Listen to my daughter Jackie, her friend Manu, and me... pronounce these French words: Download MP3 file

Les Faux Amis!
Dans la vie, la plupart de nos amis sont des vrais amis, mais c'est les faux amis qui nous déçoivent. In life, most of our friends are true friends, but it's the false friends who deceive us. --Tim Averill

*   *   *

On Wednesday I told you about my very *spéciale* family... and a certain faux amis that was rendering them insane  ... en tout cas* to the French.

I was inspired to write that story after Tim Averill (whom we met in Gary's pétanque post) shared with me a list of faux amis.

Tim is here today ("here" in a very façon de parler*/manner-of-speaking way, for Tim is currently in Massachusetts--but more about Tim in the bio below)... as I was saying, Tim is here (sort of... à peu près*) to share his list of faux amis with you. Enjoy it, share it, and help grow it by adding to Tim's list of "false friends"!

Tim's List of Faux Amis

Faux amis are cognates that are deceptive because they do not have the same meaning in English and in French, even though they have the same or very similar orthography. Have a look at these:


sensible = sensitive (français*) wise and pragmatic (anglais*)

location = rental (fr) place (ang)

affair(e) = business (fr) sexual infidelity (ang)

vase = mud, silt (fr) container (ang)

versatile = fickle (fr) multi talented (ang)

blesser = injure/wound (fr) bless (ang)

chair = flesh (fr) seat (ang)

college = lycée (fr) university (eng)

 
Tim adds: Dans la vie, la plupart de nos amis sont des vrais amis, mais c'est les faux amis qui nous déçoivent. C'est la même chose entre les langues :-)


***

Tim Averill is a teacher at "Ecole Bilingue de Beverly," also known as Waring School. He first spent a year in France in 1967-68 at "L'Universite de Bordeaux," and is an avid francophile. Both personally and professionally, he enjoys travels in France. Waring School has an annual exchange with Lycée David D'Angers and Tim and his artist wife Lauren travel to Provence as frequently as possible. The highlight of Tim's most recent trip was a visit to Domaine Rouge-Bleu and the chance to taste the wines of Jean Marc and to meet Kristin.

*   *   *

Please join me in thanking Tim for this faux amis edition by leaving a note in the comments box. You might share a faux amis not listed here, or share a story about a false friend fiasco of your own (for example: how many of us health-conscious Francophiles have made the "préservatif"* language gaffe? ...blabbing on and on to our eyes-wide interlocutors about how we are minding our menus... by eliminating condoms from them? Yikes! I am so glad I got that mistake over with right off le bât.* (For the record, it is "conservateurs" we must watch out for, else we watch, in humble-pie I could just die horror, as the French stare back with smirks on their faces.)

Chow,*
Kristin
*looks as though Italian might have its share of false friends, too (dog/food/goodbye?) ...never mind my spelling.

~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~
en tout cas
= in any case; façon de parler = so to speak; à peu près = almost, more or less; le français (m) = French; l'anglais (m) = English; le bât (m) = packsaddle

 

photo (c) Kristin Espinasse
Forget faux amis for a moment and enjoy these true friends from Villedieu.

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
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prevenant

Shed
Cousin Mike's remise (shed) in Layton. Mike & Aunt Reta made us feel at home when we visited Utah.

prévenant(e) [pray-vuhnan(t)] adjective
  thoughtful, considerate

Audio File: Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the French words prévenant/prévenante:
Download prevenant.mp3. Download prevenant.wav

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Column_2
I have often wondered about the word "thoughtful" and what its equivalent is in French. So many times have I thought about how to thank a considerate Francophone with only this faux-amis* of a phrase up my sleeve :

"Vous êtes tellement pensif!"*

No. Pensive wouldn't be the right translation. A pensive person sits around thinking. A thoughtful person stands up and does something for someone else. There's action, and not subtraction--as in the calculating mind of one who thinks too much.

Thoughtful people tend to throw out the calculator. They aren't keeping track of anything, though they may leave their tracks behind, tracks they'd just as soon have covered up so as not to be found out for their quiet kindness or bienveillance.*

My brother-in-law's tracks are long, due to the size of his feet: feet that made a few dozen aller-retours* last week as they carried their weary worker to-and-fro from our ever-cluttered and always-encumbered patio... to a great wall along a field of vines. Beyond that wall, in a line and neatly stacked, lay the renovation bric-a-brac... the re-arranging of which almost broke Jacques' back.

My brother-in-law pulled into our driveway after picking us up from the train station. Still dizzy from our 24-hour voyage home, we were now dazzled by our de-cluttered driveway. When I asked about the clean-up, that veritable tornado of tidiness that had somehow swept through the front yard in our two-week absence, my brother-in-law brushed it off, as he had the messy patio--beyond which the once weed-whipped flower beds now glistened. I stopped to admire the freshly-turned soil shimmering beneath the late winter sun.

"I can't take credit for that," said Jacques. Who, then, to shower with thanks? A telephone call to Aunt Marie-Françoise produced the same pass-the-praise results. "Oh, we just stopped by to have a bite with Jacques while he was house-sitting... and snapped up a few weeds on our way out."

My husband reminded his family of their manners. "It isn't polite to go cleaning up another's place without their permission," Jean-Marc chuckled and so gave thanks in his own way. As for me, my mind as cluttered as the luggage that Jacques helped us carry back, I just found out in my dictionary that my in-laws' gesture was more than polite. It was "prévenant".* I suppose I won't have to wonder any longer about how to say "thoughtful" in French. I now know the answer... and knowing, I reckon, doesn't count as thinking. There we go again.

                         *     FIN / END     *

Here are some photos from the French American Chamber of Commerce event taken by Ronald Holden. Thanks also to Anne and to Betty and to others at the FACC for their warm welcome and for all the work they did! http://picasaweb.google.com/inyourglass/Espinasse

Here's a prévenant post about the Abraxus book signing event in Seattle:
http://tammycirceo.typepad.com/tammy_circeo_musings_on_l/2008/02/provence-by-osm.html

More photos on the way.... Portland, San Francisco, LA, Phoenix, and Houston... coming up!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~References~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
un faux-ami (m) = a "false friend" or false cognate (words that look alike but have different meanings; Vous êtes tellement pensif(ve)! = You are so pensive!; bienveillant (adj) = kind, benevolent; un aller-retour (m) = round trip; prévenant = it was thoughtful

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White Mane. In the south of France, in a near-desert region called La Camargue, lives White Mane, a magnificent stallion and the leader of a herd of wild horses too proud to let themselves be broken in by humans.

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Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
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collège

College
Only eleven years old and already on the way to collège...

In books: La Belle Saison -- a testament to the timelessness of the French countryside and to the generous-hearted French.

Today's word is one of those faux-amis*...

le collège (ko-lezh) noun, masculine

  : junior high school, secondary school

Au collège, ainsi que dans la société, le fort méprise déjà le faible, sans savoir en quoi consiste la véritable force. At school, as in social life, the strong scorn the weak without knowing what true strength is made of. --Honoré de Balzac

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

Marching two by two along avenue Gambetta, we follow the tail-end of the Mistral--the wind that whipped through the village the previous day, knocking over our mailbox and blowing every stiff sock and chemise* from the clothesline.

"Look how they've grown!" another mom remarks, as we herd the children along in our flip-flops, envious of the line's leader, wearing high tops. Apart from differences in footwear, we have a common goal--to keep sixty-five excited eleven-year-olds on the narrow trottoir* as we walk away from the village, beyond the train station, to the collège,* where the fifth-graders would graduate after summer break.

On this, the anticipated journée découverte,* now seated in the auditorium and listening to the vice-principal, we learn that casquettes* are allowed only in the outdoor cour,* cell phones must be turned off on the premises, and that em-pay-twahs* are permitted in certain areas of the campus. In addition to regular classes, the future collégiens* will be asked to select one of six electives: patrimony, theater, art, sports (in this case, le cirque*), water (a regional subject), or music.

"Et si on se trompe de classe?" And if we go to the wrong class? the kids worry.
"Et si on se perd?" What if we get lost? they fret.
"Don't worry. There is a map!" the vice-principal assures them, before ordering the future collégiens to line up for the canteen.

In the cafeteria we join the "old-timers" and their teen angst to lunch on zucchini salad, dinde,* chou-fleur* and pasta. Over dessert, the reality of leaving grade school to enter collège hits home.
"Et si on nous embête?" What if they bully us? the children whisper, watching the 8th graders in line push each other around. I have to admit, the kids have expressed my very own fear. What if one of those big guys picks on Max? How will my son react?

I look out of the cafeteria window and notice that the Mistral has picked up again. Like the vent,* which stirs the leaves and knocks the socks from the clothesline, so are the junior high bullies--sometimes fierce, often feigned. They eventually wane, just like the wind that blew out of town this morning, while we marched on and on in its wake.

..........................................................................................................
References: les faux-amis (m.pl.) = false friends (words that seem alike in English and French, but have different meanings); la chemise (f) = shirt; le trottoir (m) = sidewalk; le collège (m) = junior high school; la journée découverte (f) = discovery day; la casquette (f) = cap (baseball); la cour (de récréation) (f) = schoolyard, playground; em-pay-twah (pronunciation for mp3, definition here); le collégien (la collégienne) = junior high student; le cirque (m) = circus; la dinde (f) = turkey hen; le chou-fleur (m) = cauliflower; le vent (m) = wind
.
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the word collège: Download college2.wav

Also:
le collège d'enseignement technique = vocational, technical school
le collège électoral = electoral college

Thank you so much for reading these stories and for the time you've set aside to learn a French word or two. If you feel you have learned more than a little vocabulary, here, and would like to reward my efforts please know that a one-time contribution is not only a great support, but it is vivement apprécié. Simply use the quick links below (they'll take you to PayPal). Merci beaucoup! 
♥ Send $10    ♥ Send $25    ♥ Send another amount