Joyeux Anniversaire, Jean-Marc + se reposer sur ses lauriers
How to say "to miss a class" in French

"le french flair"--How to translate this expression in English?

French Charm. No photo of the star rugby player (see today's story...) for you. I hope a photo of a beautiful French woman will do. I met Estelle during my latest photo périple through the town of Montfaucon. At the bakery, Estelle serves chocolate eggs, jelly beans, Tic-Tacs, Hollywood gum, and melt-in-your-mouth money... enough friandises to fill the kids Easter baskets on Sunday! Merci beaucoup, Estelle, for letting me take your photo!

French Expression of the Day: le flair français

: (in Rugby) french flair: a French style of play renowned for its paradoxical combination of rugged physicality and inspired grace. --Wikipedia

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

Last night I was invited to a private club in Marseilles to dine on saumon à loh-zay and listen to an English rugby-man speak en français. Only, as I sat savoring dish after delectable dish, I remembered a lesson my Dad always taught me: nothing is free in life and when one forks down French chocolat like there's no tomorrow... you can be sure "tomorrow" or "Payback Time", will come!

"Payback Time" for me will come soon enough. Next month I will rendre service for that fancy feast. Luckily, I won't have to do dishes or faire la plonge to pay for my meal... a little translation work will take care of the tab. 

En fait, if I was invited to last night's Sport & Business Club meet-up, this was in order to prepare for a stint as interpreter for the club's next speaker: American boxer "Marvelous" Marvin Hagler.

As I listened from the audience to the current speaker, Rugby World Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson, I became increasingly uneasy about my "skills" at interpretation. First off, Mr Wilkinson's French seemed perfect to me (I later learned that he had only recently begun French lessons...). He had no need for an interpreter, but held his own during the discussion.

Indeed, I had a hard time keeping up during the Q&A session where currently the English speaker was being asked about the phenomenon known as "French flair".  I missed the first part of his response, but when Mr Wilkinson mentioned something about mites, my ears perked up, and I wondered what did bugs have do with French elegance? Indeed, what did flair have to do with football?

And then it hit me: Mr Wilkinson wasn't talking about "mites," instead he was mouthing the French word for myth,which, when properly pronounced, sounds like "meet"—something I'd "interpreted" as "mite")!

Now I am really nervous about my ability to translate for Marvelous Marvin next month. My gaffe went quietly unnoticed, but what if I had verbalized such an embarrassing interpretation?

I left the dinner a little disturbed. On my way down the stairs I passed Jonny Wilkinson, who was talking to one of the organizers. I thought about this being my chance to say hello....  Instead, I continued on in self-doubt: 

"Well, what could you possibly say to him?" I argued, "Nice to 'mite' you"?

I no longer trusted myself to speak so much as English to the eloquent Anglophone whose French shone like moonlight over the Rhône, not far from where a lagging language learner soon returned home.

:: Le Coin Commentaires ::

This forum is open to your comments about today's word or story. You may also pose questions about France, the French language and similar topics. By helping each other, we enrich this community by educating and inspiring one another in all things French. Click here to comment.



French Vocabulary & Audio File Download Wave

Download MP3

le flair français = French flair
un périple = a tour, journey
une friandise = a sweet (candy)
le saumon = salmon
loh-zay (pronunciation for "oseille" (f) = sorrel
rendre service = return the favor
faire la plonge = to do the washing-up
en fait = in fact
un invité / une invitée = a guest
en français = in French



Words in a French Life Blogger Espinasse has taken a step backward in the evolution of media by converting selected contents of her Web log into a book. Beginning students of conversational French will profit from many of these brief entries, and supplemental tables of expressions go far to demystify French idioms for anyone wishing to speak and write more fluent French. —Booklist

 Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Spoken French

Got Nintendo? Playing My French Coach for 15 to 20 minutes a day is all you need to become fluent in French

Check out Siblu's top ten blogs about France


Photo taken in Les Arcs-sur-Argens.


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


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Very funny post! While I am sorry that your French isn't better, it does make ME feel better that after two years I couldn't converse, but just understood, most of the time. I was mum alot, when a little quip here or there would have been fun, like I did yesterday, saying to the lady in front of me at a popular craft store, "This store is Dangerous!" as she unloaded over $100 worth of stuff onto the counter! She laughted guiltily!!I never used that sort of repartee (a French word!) in Paris and I missed it. But YOU have to keep trying to understand while I can relax now back in Ohio where not many speak French.

Mike Hardcastle

You should not feel so bad about Jonny Wilkinson's French, he has an 'A' level qualification in French (about equivalent to 1st year start at a U.K. university which he passed when he was 18. He has, I understand been speaking French regularly ever since because apart from the English/British Lions/French games there are a lot of inter club games which would give him opportunities for practice. What else can you do in a rugby scrum (apart from grunt).

Thanks for a super site (probably the wrong word). I wish I had the nerve to ask beautiful women if I could take their photos but i always chicken out and stick to buildings and landscapes.


Karen in Towson, Md. USA

Wow, Kristin. I am impressed and I'm so curious as to how all of this came about. What fun!... and you'll just have to remember to make it fun.

There are Masters Programs for Translators and I'd venture to guess that even those graduates would have funny stories like this. I think of the accents in the English language and how difficult it must be for those translators who try to muddle though it.

I can't wait for more stories to come where this is concerned. Marvin Hagler ?? - wow....! Max & J.M must be excited - oui?

Bill in St. Paul

You can do it, Kristin! Contact M. Marvelous Marvin and see if he has a canned speech that he gives that he can send you ahead of time so you at least know some of the "technical" words that he might use. It could be a really fun time.


lovely photo....
oh oui, une belle French femme!

Several translators hold masters degrees in international language. I've only known one professional translator and she could translate both verbal and written language in seconds. I do realize they spend a lot of time practicing. In my opinion it's an amazing gift to be able to instantly think in two languages at the same time.

Be of good courage.

Tammy Straub, Page Arizona

you are way too hard on will do just fine...or you might mess up, so what? life will go on and you will grow richer from the experience, go for it. what if you had been too afraid to cross that pond when you did or accept the first date with that cute french guy?

paris (im)perfect

Hi Kristin. It's natural to be nervous (I would be, too!), but I know you'll do just fine. And, as Tammy says, even if you mess up a little, so what? It will be a learning experience. I think it's wonderful that you're putting yourself out there. And if nothing else, you'll have a great post to share afterward :)


Great post! I empathise with your feelings of self-doubt. When I was a first year Spanish student (way back in the 70's) and the only "gringa" in the class, The teacher said something that sounded like "carne con helado", and asked for a translation, to which I replied, "meat with ice cream?", and the other students were howling. As I said, I was the only non-Spanish speaker in the class. Apparently, the correct translation was frozen or congealed meat: carne congelado (sp?). I doubted my ability to hear the nuances in foreign languages for a long time afterward, but it's also part of the challenge. I learned a lot that day.

Mindy from sunny Manhattan Beach, CA

Nancy Evans

Hi Kristin. Just wanted to add to the info about Jonny Wilkinson to make you feel better. In an article on-line from last year when he was signed by Toulon it was stated that he met with the club manager and as he (Jonny)speaks french very wellit was no surprised that he agreed to play for them. He has not just started to learn.

Amy S

Loved the post. I think there are great ideas above that I heartily agree with.

I also have a question, and I'm not sure where to put it....I have a french pen (email) pal who lives just outside Paris with her husband and 3 kids. She has sent me a fun package. I wanted to send some little treats to them that they don't have in France. Any ideas? I know they don't have chocolate chip cookies or Peanut Butter, right?

Christine, Massachusetts

Kristin - Pull yourself together, girl! You can do anything. Practice, prepare and you will be fine!

Maria Chamorro

Kristin, thank you for a beautiful blog, which I found today. However, I am a huge fan of your book and have read it three times. It is so funny, I couldn't put it down the first time I read it!

Kristine, Dallas

Kristi~ I am surprised Jules has not posted an eloquent pep talk. Where is your Mom? :) You will do fantabulous! Regardless of any mishaps it will be one for the record book.

Jan, Colorado

Funny, I thought the same thing as Kristine. Jules will have something to say about this! She's such a one for putting herself out there, savoring the moment, and not giving a hoot what other people think. I wish I could be more like that, especially when it comes to speaking French!

joie  carmel,ca

You need to stop flogging and berating yourself over the French language. After all,you have written a book about all the various interpretations of words and phrases. And besides HE was the one that mispronounced the word, making it difficult for you to interpret it. I would love to hear you speak it, and certainly interpret for me. Since your mother's computer is down I will give you the "pep" talk. Trust in yourself.
Sunny, cloudy and rainy here in Carmel.

joie  carmel,ca

I need help in translation. In Carmel we have no street addresses so many people name their houses. Years ago I named it Sundowner but have since taken down the sign. Is there a word(s)that would work for this....or just sundown, or even sunset?

Linda D.

Hi Kristin! Be gentle with yourself, girlfriend.:-) The object is not to be perfect - it's to be a bridge, a facilitator between two groups of people ...and that is something that comes naturally to you. Your wonderful smile and even your charming nervousness make you human and approachable. Just be your authentic self and you'll be fine. Here's hoping you enjoy the adventure of gretting to meet such interesting people!


Kristin, I sincerely understand how you feel. At the very least, I will be corrected over and over, but I 'will' try to keep trying. Even software translators are often incorrect in their assessment of a word or phrase so I find. Oh to be a child again & learn 'naturally'. In the meantime, I still love your blog (and your book) no matter the language.


My French teacher called these words faux amies. So funny. Your sense of humor, your elegance, and your grace will always pull you through, Kristin. My friends tend to laugh along with me when I make such linguistic errors!

Ken Boyd

This story my Dear is why I keep and will keep my pathetic French
to myself when I travel to france, the shame and embarrassment
ruins my vacation !!! And I need to say the photo today is a good
example of a bad shot of a really attractive woman............
please try again : ]-
Napa Valley

Bill Facker

Kristin .. I was only going to read all the comments today, but I was stopped dead in my tracks by the photo. It is superb! You captured everything I love about the beauty and strength of French women. Keep shooting .. you have a wonderful "eye". Aloha, Bill Facker


I wouldn't worry so much Kristin, we are all somewhere on that path, aren't we?, and I think you are quite quite good.


All that yummy food is well worth it! : )


Hi everyone, I was wondering if anyone had a copy of Roseta Stone learn french they may want to sell.


I think it was very appropriate that you were served saumon à l'oseille at a dinner with a paid speaker because I believe L'oseille is also a slang word for money, dosh etc.

Betty Gleason

The members of the Sport & Business Club are no dummies. With your mixture of beauty, brains and humor, no one will care if every word is translated perfectly.

Gloriously beautiful day here in Hobe Sound, FL, sunny, 67, 10 mph breeze.

Cheryl in STL

I have to agree with Linda D---you are too hard on yourself! It is a bridging exercise and I don't think perfection is the goal. I understand how intimidating that kind of translation can be. I remember when my parents came to visit me while I lived in Paris. We rented a car and traveled the country. My job was to do all the talking! I did well overall, but there were times when I forgot which language I needed to speak to whom! I would speak to my Dad in French and get THE LOOK!! I like the idea of checking with Mr. Hagler ahead of time for ideas and for vocab checks. I'm looking forward to hearing about your experience! Embrace it---and being nervous will be part of the deal! Just remember how well the evening at Shakespeare and Co. went in spite of your nervousness!! Courage!

Kristin Espinasse

Merci beaucoup for your thoughts about interpretation and your cheerful suggestions! I like the idea of this being an exercise that bridges the gap (ouf! that takes pressure off!)

Bill in St. Paul, that is a great idea about contacting Mr. Hagler! And Bill Facker, your feedback on the  photo cheers me. THanks so much!

I am busy pre-programming posts for the coming week. Well be out of town, in Serre Chevalier. There will be no post next Friday or Monday. That should be a nice break for all :-)



I can totally sympathize with your qualms. I am probably (and I even hesitated just now to write "probably") too self-critical about my French. People compliment me on it, but I never quite believe them and instead focus on my perceived flaws. You may be the same way. So I think I understand what you may be feeling...

NEVERTHELESS I'm sure you'll do fine. Why? 1) Practice: You go back and forth between languages all the time, and most of the time probably don't even think about it much; 2) Pronunciation: I saw the short video in English of you preparing some food, and the words you spoke in French were beautifully pronounced; 3) Charm: You have a lovely smile and personality which go a long way towards helping in any situation-- not that you really need it in this case!

So try not to worry. You'll do fine!

charles smith

I would love to meet with Estelle, she is very beautiful.


Herm Meyer

Salut, Kristin

Here's a thought that may boost your courage in a tough situation:

"Behold the turtle. They move forward only when their neck is stuck out!"

À bientôt

Herm in Phoenix, Az

Jill in Sydney

Hey Kristin
Sounds like you are hearing French with an Aussie accent, mate!

Sandy Maberly

Oh, lucky you!....Jonny Wilkinson.....Mark and I were just watching the Rugby 6 Nations competition on BBCA recently and I think Mr. W is a joy to behold. The best kicker around! Interesting to know the inside scoop on his language abilities. I'm sure you're nervous about your upcoming translation gig but all you need to do is learn the specialized words and I'm sure the rest will flow naturally. Bonne chance!


I hope that sounded to me worse than it actually was in reality.
Here are some philosophical words about doubt: When we doubt a proposition, we neither believe nor disbelieve it: rather, we suspend judgement, regarding it as an open question whether it is true.
Then, there's double-truth: The doctrine of double truth posits the existence of two distinct realms of discourse, the philosophical and the theological, which give different but non-conflicting answers to the same questions.
Elsewhere, I smiled when I read that Jean-Marc waited a day for rain to continue planting. I waited a day for rain to sow more Sessile oak acorns.

Susan Barnabe

This comment/question is not meant for publishing unless you wish.

As a new reader I'm trying to understand why you italicise some English words and phrases that don't appear to have anything to do with the italicised French words. I find it distracting.

Perhaps there's a reason I haven't thought of!


Hi Kristin,
La boulangèr est belle! I don't know much about rugby so I "googled" Jonny Wilkinson and he is quite handsome! You will be fine and I agree with the other comments that you are to hard on yourself. Just roll out the French charm!

Candy in SW KS

OK, those of you who comment only to criticize Kristin's photos, choice of photos, how she chooses to write or express herself - can't you just look/read with the eyes and understanding of the spirit of this website? It's about creativity - Kristin's creativity! I worry about those of you who can't look beyond your own prejudices or preferences. Granted, there are only a couple of them today, but please think before you criticize. Kristin, my dearest, I love that you are willing to put yourself "out there" every day, whether it's on this website or in your adopted country. And your willingness to share it with us - including the embarrassing, uncomfortable situtations - makes you my hero. You are brave, loving, always kindhearted, and willing to share yourself. Merci mille fois!!!! (OK, there's my two cents worth - I feel better now!) Bises, mon amie! :)

Susie Walsh

Kristen!! My husband Al is a serious boxing fan here in upstate NY and keeps a close eye on all of Marvin Hagler's matches. I could never fathom how my otherwise gentle & very peace-loving husband could stay up latenights faithfully watching grown men beat up each other til black blue & bloody, but he patiently explains to me that these men (& some women) are the most physically disciplined athletes in the whole world & move with their minds zoned-in in a place we mortals have yet to imagine.

That being said, and as suggested by many here, contacting Mr. Hagler ahead of time is a wonderful idea. He's a great guy & would quite likely welcome having the support of an 'offstage' connection with you, his translator, before his public appearance. This would be mutually advantageous, & not outrageous at all.

Bravo for you, brave translator! And Happy Easter everyone! And Kristin, I've always wanted to tell you that you take photos like an artist paints landscapes. Thank you so much for your spirit!

Love, Susie (in the Catskills, NY)

PS--Betty Gleason, we used to live in Hobe Sound--and before that, Bill F, we lived all over the place on good to hear these place names again echoing from within your posts.

Karen from Phoenix, AZ

Hi Kristin, I totally agree with Cindy in SW KS, I have been thinking that for so long. Why would anyone have to criticize or correct. I have never been able to understand. Your posts are wonderful, photos are amazing and personally I know how wonderful, delightful, caring and loving you are. Keep doing what you have been doing. I for one look forward to your posts. XOXOXO


Candy, Karen, Susie... to all who have commented -- I read each and every word that you take the time to type into this box. Occasionally the words dishearten, but 99 percent of the time they uplift. I try to be careful not do dwell on any one word, but to be thankful for your wonderful support. I could not write--and I would not have discovered photography--without you!

Susan, re italics. I must be over-doing things lately, for I've received another note just like yours. I use italics to emphasis thoughts, particularly (but not always) thoughts that are meant to underline the absurdity of a situation (and so point out the humor within it). But because this is a French language journal, I also use italics to point out French words (I used to simply use an asterisk). This all makes for a lot of italics! (if I had the capability to italicise here, I would have done so with that previous sentence!) I go through phases in writing. Perhaps this one will work itself out....

Jill in Syndney, loved your "hearing French with an Aussie accent". Indeed, as I typed "nice to 'mite' you" that is how I meant it to "sound". Thanks for hearing it!

Mike Hardcastle

Very few people (French people included) speak the language perfectly, in the same way that very few people speak English perfectly.
Everybody admires courage, just get in there and enjoy the experience girl. Don't be like the earlier correspondent who is so fearful of making a mistake that the becomes dumb while in France.

I remember years ago in a supermarket asking for petits 'pois glace' instead of 'petits pois surgelés' which raised howls of laughter. Nobody's laughter was louder than my own when I realized that I had effectively (albeit incorrectly) asked for pea ice cream.

I think the photograph is super.

Have fun.


Marianne Rankin

For a written translation, finding out vocabulaty ahead of time is a great idea. There are words you might not know even your own language. Once you know what they refer to, you can look them up in advance, or at least know what a person is talking about (I've done translations in both French and Russian).

If you are interpreting (technically, oral work from one language to another is interpretation, and written work is translation), you may occasionally have to "wing it." Of course, again, learning the vocabulary ahead of time, if possible, is helpful. At other times, you might have to use circumlocution, when terms don't exactly overlap from one language/culture to another. Think of the simple word "home": French doesn't have quite the same word as English, which can mean a house or residence, but much more. Or "day care," which may have a specific term in another language, but might have to be rendered as something like "program for taking care of children while parents are at work." For languages with different word order, you might have to wait for a sentence or phrase to end to get the whole idea. And sometimes you will make mistakes, but everyone will still know what you mean. In Russian I once used a word which I thought would mean "extract" for having a tooth removed, but it really meant "torn out" (ouch!). Listeners will usually be patient, understanding, and sympathetic, and may be able to help you out. You can ask people to repeat words and phrases, too, if they zip past you.

Kristin, you will do fine. Let us know how it goes, but I'm sure all will be well.

joie  carmel,ca

I think you ought to do a book of photographs with short comments using the French.


Salut Kristin,
As always, your creativity with les jeux de mots shines through and showcases your wit in both languages! Loved it! As for the nerves, they will always be there, but let them serve as the adrenaline boost needed to maintain excitement and heighten interest in your undertakings. I have no doubts that you will represent Mr. Hagler well and help to make his visit memorable. Not to criticize, but just keeping in with the theme: Allow yourself to ponder how much uneasiness Mr. Wilkinson felt on HIS end! Enjoy your next adventure!

Diana Harestad

Dear Kristin,

I can only reiterate so much of what has already been said but I do want to add my name to those who love and appreciate you for the lovely woman you are. You are eloquent (I have read all of your books) and you know so much more French than I can ever imagine knowing. I am amazed at your column every time. You always have another word, another expression, another story. My favorite part about this last discussion is that you are so human and that makes me feel so much more comfortable about my own French. WOW, to discover someone as knowledgeable and fluent as you has doubts too. You made my day as you so often do!

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I have no doubts that you will represent Mr. Hagler well and help to make his visit memorable. Not to criticize, but just keeping in with the theme: Allow yourself to ponder how much uneasiness Mr. Wilkinson felt on HIS end! Enjoy your next adventure!

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