Philippe Larroude
"lendemain de barbecue" (c) Philippe Larroudé-Tasei

I learned today's word from my friend Philippe, who is also the parrain (godfather) of my daughter. He sent us an email, exclaiming how "trognon" our six puppies are. Philippe, a doctor of geophysics in Grenoble,  is also a photographer working on his first book. He takes a lot of pictures of the ground... and his photos encourage us  to notice the art beneath our feet. If you enjoyed his photo "le lendemain de barbecue," which illustrates the end of summertime, please let him know in the comments box! (For those of you expecting a "trognon" photo, how was that for a surprise, les fourmis/ants? Good to shake things up once in a while, non?)

trognon (troh-nyon) adjective

    : cute, lovely

(feminine: trognonne)

noun: core

Audio File and Example sentence:
Listen to my son pronounce these French words:
Download Wav or Download MP3

Les chiots de votre chien sont trognons!
Your dogs puppies are so cute!

A Day in a French Life...
Kristin Espinasse

Language Sins

I am learning a few new vocabulary words, thanks to the puppy admirers ("Oh, qu'ils sont trognons! Bravo, Braise, tes bébés sont balèze!"*). Still, as far as language acquisition goes, it is one step forward, two steps back for this longtime learner.

I notice how the puppies seem to learn to walk in the same en-avant-en-arrière* fashion: stepping ahead... only to fall backward, on their hind legs. I fall back on my "hind," too -- what with "le" and "la" and French pronunciation... to name only a few.

Things begin to look dim, for a language learner like myself, when you stop to calculate the "one step forward two back" formula for advancement: which would mean that in the two decades that I've studied French, I've taken twenty steps (years) forward... and forty steps back, which, come to think of it, that would explain things: like the fact that I currently find myself at minus twenty (20 - 40 = -20), or left of zero (in the pronunciation department, especially. Pretty humbling that is, to a French major married to a Francophone -- with two pint-size Francophones of her own...)

(Note to beginning learners of French, no matter your age: take heart, some of us are more talented than others at language learning... and some of us can wiggle our ears, too.)


I had a French therapist once who suggested that I do it on purpose, talk this way, that is (with a strong American accent). I remember being offended (Comme si!*). The indignation didn't last long, instead self-doubt set in (did she have a point? Was I really doing it on purpose... to be cute? or to attract attention to myself? What was my problem? And was it a sin?!)

C'était décidé:* I would no longer be caught speaking French with a Barbie Doll drawl!

My conversations with the French became hyper self-aware and, with that, up popped the language snares! It seemed that the harder I tried... the more I would slip-slide.

When in the presence of French speaking expats, things get worse. You should see the pressurized look on my face when I find myself in a room with fellow Anglophones all of whom speak French flawlessly. If my face turns red and my eyes look as if they would pop, it is because I am pushing my lips so tightly together, damned if I'll allow a flawed vowel to slip out. 

But pride goes before the fall, which explains how some of us end up at "subzero" or twenty digits left of "0": we do not advance because we do not take the chance! For others of us, it's laziness, and I think this best explains my heavy accent, this and lack of talent: for I've never had an ear for music, which those who speak French sans accent anglais ou américain ou...* seem to have.

But back to cute: it is a good thing that the French find the Anglophone accent charmant; for if you worry about your accent, the French will be the first to tell you to gardez-le -- ne le perdez pas!* It is the same thing any self-respecting Francophile would say to the French, in reverse circumstances.

So vive l'accent! Vive l'individualité!* How bland the world would be if all spoke French flawlessly. Meantime, we can continue to color-up our world with vocabulary -- learning a word a day (or three a week :-) The language will grow, even if your accent, like mine, is "slow" to unfold.


Comments welcome: What about you? Are you a lazy-learner or do you have a naturally-tuned ear and find it easy repeat French words on hearing them? Do you sometimes feel that you have regressed: was your accent and your grammar better before?

Reminder: I will be joining two authors at the American Library in Paris, to talk about "fish-out-of-water experiences" living in la belle France. If, by chance, you are in Paris on Oct. 7th, we would love to see you at this meet-up.

~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~
Oh, qu'ils sont trognons! Bravo, Braise, tes bébés sont balèze!
= Oh, how cute they are. Braise, your babies are strapping!; en-arrière-en-avant = backwards-forwards; comme si! = as if!; c'était décidé = (and so) it was decided; sans accent anglais ou americain ou... = without an American or English or ... accent; gardez-le -- ne le perdez pas! = keep it -- don't (try) to lose it!; vive l'accent = long live the accent; vive l'individualité = long live individuality


Books on/about France:
 1. The Ultimate French Verb Review and Practice
 2. Buying a Piece of Paris: A Memoir
 3. Exercises in French Phonics

French Girl Knits: Innovative Techniques, Romantic Details, and Feminine Designs by Kristeen Griffin-Grimes

June 2009 034
Thank you, Jacqui McCargar for this trognon photo! Jacqui's dog goes by the name of "Je T'aime". He is a two-year-old Pomeranian. Wish Jacqui bon courage.... (she will arrive next week to help us with the harvest!)

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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o, ces fourmis, qui aiment leurs villes a cote de montagne.

Bill in St. Paul

I think that I have a lazy mouth, but am an eager learner. I don't fully enunciate even in English. It's discouraging to listen to the naturalness of pronouncation of your children, it's like all the correct and natural sounds are there and all they have to do is string them together. Obviously, it's expected since they were raised speaking French and it's a capability that I think all French learners would (and should) like to get to.

I find, however, that the French tend to be very understanding and helpful if you at least try to speak French. (As I mentioned before, the waiters are always impressed when I order my steak "à point" - I only remember the phrase because our joke was it meant "American person".) I remember my high school French teacher telling us that we'd crossed the line when we could hear and think in French and not have to translate to English, formulate a response in English, and then translate the response to French. For me I think that line is still a long ways away!

(BTW, I can wiggle my ears.) Thanks for a blog, Kristin.

(For those who want to type French with its accents, check out:

Bill in St. Paul

Here is the link to typing the French accents with a link that works this time (I hope):


I've been taking French classes for the better part of 10 years. I'm nowhere near fluent, but I try. I can talk myself in circles if I get stuck on a word, trying to explain what I mean. And when reading French out loud, it's even more frustrating because I know I pronounce it right in my mind. I'm really worried about losing all of my French because I have no one to practice with in the real world and I'm currently taking my last French class ever.

It's hard learning a new language, especially a beautiful language like French, because you just don't want to butcher it.

Thank you for your blog. I really appreciate learning a bit of French every few days. I should probably start a notebook to keep track of my favorite words and phrases.

Lisa Richtmann

Hi Kristin,

After reading your comments, I can't but think of myself! I studied French throughout junior and senior high, and took some college courses. I lived in France for a year (albeit with an American family!) and have taught French to preschoolers for the past ten years.

I speak fairly fluently but am still rather self-conscious when speaking with French natives. I am not a "lazy learner" but I think that no matter how many classes I take, my grammar will never be perfect!
I agree that some people are very gifted with languages.

My French was at its best when I worked at a school with several native speakers. I was immersed in the language and the words flowed more.

Nevertheless, many French people do compliment me on my speaking ability, so I guess I'm a decent speaker! Vive la langue Francaise!

Lisa R.
Winchester, Mass.


I suspect you are being very harsh on yourself. And I suspect that not all those expats in the room speak "flawlessly."

I'm a good mimic, so my French and Italian accents are good, but my vocabulary and my ability to gather my thoughts rapidly in either language are pitiful after so many years of very irregular use. That's when a reasonably authentic-sounding accent can be something of a handicap. When I ask directions or what time the train leaves, I'm likely to be met by a torrent of rapid and incomprehensible explanation from people who equate the ability to mimic the sounds of a language with a similar ability to speak it.

Jim in Providence

I studied French in high school and college and spent my junior year of college in french Switzerland. I am cursed with a New England accent, however, which when applied to French is brutal. The best comment that I ever received was " Monsieur Jim, vous parlez le francais comme une vache Suisse !"


Bill in St.Paul: thanks for the accents link -- very useful!

Lori: I pronounce French correct in my mind, too :-) It just never sounds the same once it leaves my mouth!

Passante: it's true that I understand French very well (the French can speak fast etc... and I can follow), but I mean it when I say that my pronunciation hasn't progressed to the same degree that my vocabulary has. Would that make those of us who have more difficulty with French pronunciation "tone deaf"? (Just throwing the question out...)

Monsieur Jim in Providence : ah, la vache!

James R. Wilson

I had been living in France for several months and thought that I had been making great progress with my French accent and grammar--that is of course until the EDF man shows up to read the gas and electric meter at my apartment. We spoke for some time and he says to me rather haughtily in his Parisian French, "Where are you from? You are swimming in your accent." I must admit that I am a little testy when my blood sugars drop and I hadn't yet had my breakfast when the EDF guy showed up, but even then... I replied, a bit broken hearted that he didn't feel my French was up to snuff, "I am from the States, and you? Your working class accent is so charming." Let's just say that the the arm chair linguist that stood before me left without reading the meters, and I got an "estimated" bill that more than covered the actual usage for cycle and another!


I'm a s-l-o-w speaker of French, always afraid I will make a mistake. I think you have to adopt a force of reckless abandon to really learn to speak a foreign language. At 53, I continue to take French language classes at the local university and I marvel at the musical lilt and inflection that many of my fellow and much younger students already mastered. You are right, Kristin, some people have a much better ability with learning a language and I'm sure it's much like having an ear for music.

For an ego boost, you should visit some American french language students who are just beginning! I still stand with eyes (and sometimes mouth) wide open when I hear my American teachers speaking French to one another. Somehow, I still find the strength to keep trying. I guess because I find it to be such a beautiful language.


I am doing a play right now which has a number of French passages, and we don't have any particularly solid French speakers in the cast. The parade of bad pronunciation is frightening. I just keep hoping that we don't have any French natives or excellent learners in our audiences; they might run out at intermission, screaming with their hands over their ears.

I love Poms! Jacqui's little sweetie is adorable. I hope he has learned to pronounce trognon correctly since it describes him so well.


I understand completely the intimidation - the first time I went to France, I don't think I said 2 words! Studying to be a French teacher in the States, I assumed people thought I should speak well. However, I noticed that after a bit of wine, the words flowed! So, I guess the more we quiet our self-doubt and just speak, the better! Communicating is what is important.

Marianne Rankin

I think a key to learning a language well, especially its pronunciation, is to, as noted above, use "reckless abandon." Take for granted that you will not sound like a native, but do your best. Children do well partly because they aren't so self-conscious. When I was in France, I finally got over my amazement that little kids could speak it so well!

I think ASKING FOR CORRECTION can help enormously. I've helped various immigrants with English, and for those who asked, I corrected their errors, which could be pronunciation, grammar, etc. (I wouldn't correct without being invited, of course.) I have also always asked for people to correct ME, even in French, which I know well, but not bilingually. I was told in France that no one would ever guess I was American; I have "a slight accent" which was "agreable." When I lived for 3 weeks with a French family, we played a lot of Scrabble, which helped me with vocabulary.

If you listen carefully, you can sometimes improve your pronunciation without even speaking. Many English speakers have trouble with the French "u". Yet if you can hear the difference between "ou" as in French "or," and "u" in "tu," you can start to work on reproducing it.

Most people will be glad to assist with a language if they believe you are trying. You can ask them to "Parlez plus lentement, s'il vous plait," or "Veuillez repeter," or "Qu'est-ce que c'est?" or "Comment dit-on en francais _____(whatever you need)?" if they understand English.

I think language and musical ability are related, in that one is aware of sound in both; I also sing, and have sung in other languages, even ones I don't really know, such as Italian, having looked up how to pronounce it.

Above all, don't give up. Maybe it will take you longer than "average" people to learn good pronunciation or grammar. But keep at it. One feature of the FWAD that I like is the audio file. I click on the link and listen to it before reading the phrase, to see how well I understand it. Then I read the phrase to confirm. Then I play it once or twice more, focusing on the pronunciation. I'm sure it helps a little.

I thought I had come a long way when I was finally able to understand songs on the radio in French without paying excrutiating attention.


Now I can add you to my examples of Americans living in Paris for years and still not sounding French. Afer 9 mo of classes I quit and I'm not a quitter~ but you summed it up nicely on why I stopped trying - I guess my American accent will always remain, though I don't think it's nearly as charming at the French speaking English. But then I like to romanticize anything French! Jeanne


I'm a lazy-learner, but I've been told in Montreal that my french is improving, so that's good to hear. I've also been told to 'just say anything (in french), and we'll understand what you are saying.' That was somewhat puzzling. At my pub, where I go to watch the Montreal Canadiens play on satellite TV, most people are eager to improve their English, although they also help me with my french. I've regressed less than I thought over the last nearly 10 years. It does stay with me.


Yes - Marianne, I will certainly know I've hit a milestone when I stop paying "excruciating attention" to spoken or sung french words. Presently, I process so slowly that the speaker/singer has moved onto another topic. I remind myself of the I Love Lucy show when she and Ethel have to eat the candy in the candy factory to keep up with the fast moving flow on the assembly line belt.

Maybe taking a step back and listening to the flow of words to get the meaning rather than trying to hang onto each and every word would work better?


Chere Kristin,
First off I have this feeling that you are far too humble, and that you are very very good. I also think that you are a perfectionist and you want to be the best. Second, I think it is good to have an accent, why not? Third, I actually do quite well with pronunciation until someone says you are doing well, and then immediatement I start screwing up like you would not believe. What the heck I think! I become self-aware....terrible!
I was coincidentally thinking about this yesterday in my head as I am planning to learn Spanish, you know being in CA and all, one has to know Spanish. I immediately started thinking of my Spanish friends who always try to correct the Americans. Phooey I though in my head. I want to speak with an accent. All Europeans in US speak with an accent...we don't care. I want to speak with an accent. So in my head I had a little huffy with this thing, and so I hope to learn some bad Spanish soon.



One more thing...I do pronounce well but I cannot really speak well. Ha ha! So very sad...



Bonjour to all! Happy Labor Day weekend to all of us who are still in the U.S.!! Thanks Kristin for the picture of "Jet" reading French-word-a-day, he doesn't speak French or understand it well either :-) but he's learning the basics and I practice on him.
See you in about a week, secateurs in hand!

JeanMarc (l'autre)

I think you should try putting yourself on the other side of the situation. If you were still living in the States, would you think less of someone who spoke English with a "foreign" accent? I think of my colleague from the Ukraine, a friend's Polish parents, another friend's Irish grandmother, and my own great-aunt from the Netherlands. Sure they all have pronounced accents, but so what? When Anika first came to this country several years ago, she would apologize for her "poor" English. Several of us decided to only speak Russian with her. Believe me, her English was - and is - exponentially better than our Russian! Embrace the diversity; it is what makes the world such an interesting place.

Jean Marc (l'autre)


I was just thinking about how silly it would seem to have someone who wants to learn to speak English concentrate on getting the New England accent or the southern accent down first before getting comfortable with speaking English.

Hmmm - I've learned something here today (yet again)!! Thanks Kristin - I am now officially going to try changing my approach to learning to speak French.


I'm told that I speak French very well, that I sound very good, sometimes, too good, because people then think that I know more French than I do. I don't necessarily sound French, but I don't sound like an American! Go figure! I'm learning Spanish now and sometimes pronounce words as if they were French...This is the way I keep my brain "guessing!" Love your blog.


So many interesting comments (Fred, where are you?...).

Just to say: down with perfectionism (you're right, Mona) ... and more Lucy and Ethel antics! How fun it would be to speak French with them and how fun it is to speak about French with all of you.

Cindy Gooch

My personal opinion is that when I can speak flawless French, without any accent, is when I will know that I have died and gone to heaven!

dorothy dufour

For me, it was "une vache espanole"!

Lee Isbell

I'm getting so I can follow French conversations fairly well, but when someone addresses ME, everything French deserts me. But about accents. A couple of years ago I attended a residential immersion class near Avignon. Those in our small group had all been classified "intermediate" (i.e., not absolute beginners), so we were required to speak only in French. One of the students was a young Englishman (I'm a not-so-young American) who was quite fluent in French and spoke it very clearly. It was when we all weekended away from school that I first tried to converse with him in English. He had such a pronounced regional British accent of some sort that I couldn't understand anything he said. We had to continue on in French!


I'm not sure what a lazy learner is -- maybe I'm coming into an ongoing conversation that I can look up earlier in the blog.
I can babble away in French, despite the occasional looks of puzzlement on my hearer's face, but I Cannot Understand A Word I Hear.
That is why the little MP3s are so excellent for me. Just what I need!
By the way, is the feminine form "trognonne"?


terrific photo of les fourmis--nice composition--a kind of minimalist Pollock piece. Bravo!


Nice photo. Art is everywhere!


I too think that music and being able to hear a foreign language are similar. I am tone deaf with music and in French I have a hard time hearing individual words, because of the running together of words.
I have gotten quite use to listening to my French teacher, but then when others speak I get very lost. I try to watch TV5 to get into the rhythm and to help me understand other people speaking.
Sometimes I feel that I am not making any progress, but my French teacher says that I am doing very well. I need a France fix where I am among only French people who do not know any English.

Jennifer Jaffe

I'am certain I have an accent also but I will not give up on my French!
What could be more relaxing than a little French study? It really helps with stress especially at 3am when you can't sleep. My French
vocabulary is more limited than my english so I can,t find as many
words to fuel the concerns!
I agree that a glass of wine helps my courage to speak more rapidly
with others and that is why our Friday night causeries are so much
Which reminds me that I have some Domaine Rouge Bleu "Le Mistral" on order at our local wine shop here in the Sonoma Valley.

Elizabeth Manny

Love the photo of the "fourmis!" The concept of taking photos at our feet fascinates me much the way aerial shots do. Seen out of context, the world of the ants becomes something fresh and different. I like the idea of looking at familiar things we rarely pay attention to.
As to our American accents, I never realized it was seen by the French as "trognon." I've worked hard on my French for years and try very hard to erase my accent. I hope that sometimes I succeed.

Christine Dashper

Hi Kristin,

Thank you for this encouragement! I am sooo self conscious about my 'strangling' of the French with my Aussie accent. Besides the fact that I am still struggling to even conjure the correct words.

I was so tongue-tied on this recent trip that it has made me determined to take some proper lessons.

Merci beaucoup!!


Hey Jennifer Jaffe, we ought to converse, I am also in the Sonoma area! Are you part of Alliance Francaise??

Jan Leishman

Chere Kristin,
N'inquietez pas! Your accent is who you are and your blog is wonderful - I wouldn't enjoy it half as much without your rather Australian self-deprecating humour. I have an Ausssie accent which I don't think is a drawl, but some might say so. My husband (whose first language was French - until he was eight) breaks into my sentences to correct my 'ay'. I was do despondent that I stopped trying for many years. Now we have a house in France (Les Arcs by the way!) and I have been back at school but the more I learn, the more I realise I don't know. I despair of ever speaking well. My belle-mere spoke English with a French accent after 40 years in England, so I doubt I'll ever get rid of mine. I figure so long as I get the grammar right . . . so back to the books!

Ken Boyd

go ahead and shame me......
Lazy, not motivated, ect. I have been learning French
for 2 years now [ mostly Rosetta stone software ] but the progress
is 3 steps forward 1 back 2 steps forward 3 back ,you get the picture.
So, to show my sincere interest in French culture I have [ am ]
Studied French history, Art, and have [ am ] traveling the country
photographing it's soul and enjoying the heck out of myself all as
a counter to my lack of accomplishment in the language
and that is good enough for me !


The photo is so "modern art". I enjoy these simple things that so often go unnoticed.
As for accents and trying to speak perfectly, I always find that when someone speaks to me in English with an accent or languauge "flaws" it is charming. I especially love a French accent. There are those who would judge the most admirable people on Earth, so why worry about them? Everyone else just loves you!

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
I remember when we lived in Brussels and how afraid I was to speak the language. Because we lived in a Flemish neighborhood I was taking Dutch and French during the week. I would hop on the metro every week for my lessons at the embassy. I had French lessons on Mondays and Wednesdays and Dutch on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I wanted to become good at speaking both but I think I just mixed myself up. It was an experience though. I was once at a flea market in Waterloo and was trying to speak French. The vendor asked me "what language do you speak?" I said, "English" and he said "well speak it." haha

Jennifer Jaffe

jacki I am part of the alliance. Check your newsletter for the dates of
the causeries at Sassafras. Traversos is our wine shop that is bringing in Jean Marcs wine.
Regarding our attempts to speak French perfectly which in reality may never happen, I try to remember that it is not the final destination that is truly important but the journey. My journey with France,their people,country,and their language has been
more than satisfying something like a deja vu. I'am with Julia
Child on this when I say I think that a part of me is French!

Diane H.,

Dear Kristin,

As a long-time francophile and former teacher of French in the U.S., I have been SO hard on myself because I don't think I don't "sound French enough." It is not the fault of my top-notch francophone natives at the University of Wisconsin. One observation is that I haven't spent enough time in France to catch on to "the pout" and the gestures. My quest for perfection came to a grinding halt when I noticed that many French proficiency tests had as the highest level: Near native. Wow. That made me realize that no matter how I try, I will never be taken for a "Française" because I didn't grow up there, learning all the overt and covert cultural content. So I decided to "accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative..." and accept compliments when I travel. My favorite is, "You speak French so well, madame. Are you sure you haven't had a French lover?" Well, Kristin, you're one up in that category, so I hope you can be happy with who you are, never stop learning the language, and take care of your French lover!

Robyn Daniels

Hi Kristin
I'm sure your French is 'a propos' and 'charmant' to all who receive it.

I learned French to Advanced level at school and then did a Bilingual Secretarial Course (French/English) and 30 years on like to think I speak/read French well - a bit less 'pratique' on the writing side.

On driving down through France over two days last year, I was able to make myself understood and despite the usual apoligies of 'je m'excuse mais je ne parle pas bien le francais', I was frequently told I spoke very well but with 'un accent'. Good enough for the French and good enough for me. As it has already been said the French are very patient when one is struggling to find 'le mot juste' or 'le vocabulaire perdue' and appreciate it when we make the effort to communicate in their lovely language.

My mother tongue is Welsh so I don't know if my French is spoken with a Welsh or English accent as I didn't learn English till I went to school aged 4. I have studied Spanish, German and Arabic and am embarking on Italian this autumn but my favourite language is still English as one can express onself so accurately with it, finding just the right words for what one wishes to say.

Whatever your 'niveau' in French, Kristin, your English is 'par excellence' and excelling in one language (particularly their mother tongue) is developed by few.

As far as my own fluency in French is concerned, when I arrived at destination St Pierre la Mer near Narbonne and watched French TV, I couldn't understand very much at all! - when I can watch French TV and understand it, that's when I shall regard myself as truly fluent!

Meantime: "Vive la difference!"


I love all the accents my foreign friends have....from French to Russian, Aussie, Korean and especially my Swiss German friends in Switzerland. Right now some words
are terribe (let alone verb tense) and other
words come out just fine . And lately it seems the more I try to speak, listen and read the worse it gets....or maybe I am just realising how far I have to go... All the others in the comments have had years of study, time in, 3 years of high school, one of college and 4 2week visits to France.
But as some great philosopher said "It is the journey one should relish"

nadine goodban

Vous êtes bien trop modeste !!! Je vous avais parlé lors de votre visite à San Francisco et je dois dire que votre français ET votre prononciation étaient impeccables. En tant que française, je peux dire que vous n'êtes pas native de France, mais il n'empêche que vous pouvez parfaitement converser, comprendre et plaisanter dans la langue de Molière !!!
J'enseigne des classes de conversation française pour adultes et bien des profs de français font beaucoup plus d'erreurs ! Pour vous et tous les américains, c'est surtout le genre (masc./fem.) qui déroute et c'est tout à fait normal. Notre genre est sans logique.

Donc, plus de culpabilité, Kristin, et bonne continuation!


So relieved to see others have the same problem that I have--I know exactly how the word should sound but it never comes out of my mouth that way. I know Americans have lazy mouths -- we don't use our lips and tongues the way most foreign languages require --a good reason to start speaking another language at a very young age. Could also be why wine helps.


Bon sang! I think I need to be reincarnated as a french person if I am ever going to be able to master this wonderful, lyrical language! In the meantime, since in this part of the world french speaking people are few and far between, I will make do with a wonderful selection from my thrice weekly delivered words a week! I must say though I am finding I am picking up more words when watching french movies!

PS I am sure your accent is very "trognon" Kristin!

Teresa Engebretsen

I am so happy and RELIEVED to read all of these comments!! Why do we Americans beat ourselves up so? I certainly do this to myself. I constantly fear that my French doesn't measure up. Even after recently returning from a 6 month stay in Arles (not to mention that I've been studying French for 37 years and teaching it for 30). The charming "flower man" at the market told me that my accent was "délicieux" and I wanted to cry until the French chef I was working with told me that was quite a compliment! And I love it when I hear English spoken with a French accent... We are all basically quite jealous of you, Kristin!!

susan ludvigson

I can't tell you what a relief it was to read that you have most trouble in the presence of ex-pats who speak French well. When I tell people that I do best with French speakers who don't speak English, they don't get it. I have been in the process of learning French for about 25 years, starting when I was about 40, and I'm finally reasonably "fluent," although I make a zillion mistakes. I'm a poet, so making mistakes in a language--any language--is painful, and I think the inhibitions that has caused severely impeded my ability to speak. I know better--that one has to make mistakes to learn another language--but I'm still not over the embarrassment when I do--except with French speakers who don't speak English. They're almost always impressed that I speak as well as I do, and very kind about my errors. And the encouraging thing is that even at this late stage, I am making progress. Your site is relatively new to me, and I love it. Thank you.


Merci pour le post! I'm going to be experiencing learning French in France soon, and it's nice to know that I'm not the only one who, after studying French for five years, still has trouble with masculine/feminine pronouns, to say the least. It's really nice to read that the French tend to adore the American accent, because I know that no matter how hard I try I'll never be able to hide my California roots! :-) Bonne courage to you! I've been keeping up with this blog for years and you've taught me a lot about French culture, not to mention suggested a lot of great learning material.
Love the photo - beauty from spilled condiments! Genial!

JacquelineBrisbane (Oz)

Bon sang, comme quoi on en apprend tous les jours! J'en ai fai une trogne quand j'ai decouvert que trognon etait plus que le milieu de ma pomme!
Kristin, I wonder if the French therapist was bilingual? Probablement pas, hein?
After 38 years of living in Australia (coming from Brussels in my 19th year) I still have an accent! Changes too. Sometimes tres francais, parfois bruxellois; sans compter les accents hybrides dus aux influences des mass media et d'autres 'nouveaux australiens'. Vive la difference.

Virginia Browne

When I studied abroad last year in Dijon, I completely experienced what you're talking about! I became SO self-conscious of how to say something/what to say combined with the many possibilities of how to say the same thing that I would just end up uttering one-word responses. I felt I spoke much better when I wasn't under the pressure to speak "well". It didn't help that the University, we had a French instructor who berated us for our American accents, then yelled if we used to much "r". Long story short. Maybe I should've taken a Xanax or drank more wine and my nerves would've been calmed and I would've gotten over myself (joking of course)! Or at least maybe found a way not to have beaten myself up so darn much.

I love your posts! What kind of camera do you use?


Thank you Kristin for your blog and all your poetic insights into daily life in France as an expat. I especially love this blog about the language because I can so relate to it - I'm married to a Frenchman though we live in the States (MD). I am "hyper-aware" when speaking french with him because he corrects my *every* mistake (to teach me of course ;), but it ends up discouraging me and voila! I fall comfortably back to speaking english. To the other posts, thank you for making me laugh and not feel so alone in this journey to speak better french.

One question Kristen - I have a son with whom I speak mostly english and my husband speaks exclusively french. Are your children fluent in both languages? - sans accent :)

JacquelineBrisbane (Oz)

as a language lover I like to be corrected when "blooping" in English (like the time I said my dog was a b----rd because mongrel is batard en francais). But with the influx of migrants and refugess these past decades; I have learnt that over-correcting does indeed discourage and that, actually, the most important is to make yourself understood by your interlocutor. Though it Does Not include acceptance of tautology uttered by native speakers! Because, ca, c'est insupportable!

Eliane Tete - Aponte

Just a quick note about accents. After 46 years in the US, I speak English very well (I scored 99 of 100 on the GED I took 30 years ago), to the point that the examiner refused to accept that English was my second language.

I am now less fluent in French, and I speak French with and American accent. I also speak English with a French accent. And since I grew up in colonial Morocco, I also have the accent of a pied noir.

Cheer up, no matter what kind of accent you have, you can feel superior to all those who only speak on language, and badly.

I love your e-mails..

Eliane Aponte


Nancy: good point about "trognonne". Yes, that must be the feminine (I'll add it to the definition now...)


Help! This translation of Trognon is bizzare!!! Although I would like to use it.... What does "core" have to do with "cute"?

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