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C’est ce qu’on appelle…

28 Jan

…être dans de beaux draps (litterally, “to find oneself in some pretty – ironic tone – sheets!”…you said, what??)!

Baby G in some deep/pretty sheets... :)

Baby G in some deep sheet… 🙂

être dans de beaux draps


(idiomatic) To be up the creek without a paddle; be in trouble; be in a pickle; be in a spot of bother.

Etymology: white sheets worn for the atonement of one’s sins. (Source: Wiktionnaire)

To be in a right fix/mess (Source: Le Grand Robert & Collins) Lire la suite

Le mot d’action : « patienter »

28 Fév
Français : Voted customer service of the year ...

Image via Wikipedia

Eng – Sir, I need to do some research on your case. Would you mind holding a few minutes for me? Please hold!

Fr – Monsieur, je dois effectuer quelques recherches sur votre dossier. Pourriez-vous patienter en ligne quelques minutes ? Ne quittez pas !

In customer service, using proper etiquette and “formes de politesse” is essential. Lire la suite

Le mot d’action : « Ne pas être sorti de l’auberge »

21 Fév

I have another 45 minutes of calls (my last one turned me into a nerve wreck, because it was about a baby who was turning blue and could not breathe, and we had to tell mom to call 911!), my blog post for the day is not up yet, I have 2000 more words to translate as soon as possible, I have started my translation class and the exercise, but I still have a guest post to write in English for another blog and I am past the deadline… But also, it was my birthday yesterday, and my husband and I are celebrating with a romantic date tonight, at a French restaurant 1h30 from here. I want to make myself pretty and have a nice manicure, but only one hand is painted. Right, I am so not out of the woods yet!! Lire la suite

♥ Le mot d’action : « un geste d’amour » ♥

14 Fév

Un regard, une étreinte, un touché, un baiser,
Des paroles et des gestes d’amour toute l’année ;
Bien plus que des chocolats ou quelques fleurs à la St-Valentin,
Ce sont ces gestes qui ravivent l’amour, chaque matin
Chaque jour, chaque soir et pour toujours
C’est ça le secret d’un éternel amour.

~ Nadia Price, mariée depuis 10 ans

It does not quite rhyme I know…  I am no poet, just a translator-interpreter-blogger. However, on Valentine’s Day, I wanted to share the key to everlasting love ♥, in my book. Lire la suite

Le mot d’action : « embrasser »

7 Fév

Etymology: The prefix “en-” means to “put inside” and “bras” means “arms” in French…  So literally, “to put between one’s arms”.

// Embrasser // First group verb: to embrace, to hug; by extension: to kiss; figuratively: to encompass

First Lady of France Carla Bruni greets U.S. President Barack Obama

Lire la suite

Expressing a long action with « pendant »

31 Jan
Amber pendants made of modified amber. The ova...
Image via Wikipedia

How confusing is it, that « pendant » can mean a lot of different things in our 2 languages… Another faux-ami, which testifies to the constant intermingling and « love affair » between French and English:

// pendant // French adverb: during, over, throughout (expressing a duration of time)
// pendant // French present participle of « pendre »: hanging
// pendant // French masculine noun: counterpart, equivalent, matching.
// pendant // English noun: A piece of jewelery which hangs down as an ornament, especially worn on a chain around the neck. French: « le pendentif », however, we do say « un pendant d’oreille » for a long, hanging earring.

Now that we have resolved this pending matter, let’s learn to express a long duration, interrupted or supplemented by a short action…


Pendant que je mange mon dîner, j’aime bien discuter de choses et d’autres avec ma famille. // While I eat my dinner, I like to talk about things with my family.

J’ai appris l’allemand à l’école pendant 9 ans, et pourtant, j’ai toujours encore du mal à le parler. // I learned/ learnt German in school for 9 years, however, I still have a hard time speaking it.

Les enfants n’arrêtent pas de crier pendant que j’essaie de rédiger un rapport. // The children keep shouting while I am trying to write up a report.

Je fais de mon mieux pour m’occuper des corvées quotidiennes pendant mes pauses de travail. // I do my best to take care of my daily chores during my breaks from work.

Pendant que nous dormions, tout à coup, nous entendîmes un chien aboyer juste devant notre porte. // While we were sleeping, all of a sudden, we heard a dog barking right in front of our door.

I hope I was able to clarify this word for you, at least a little bit…

Maybe you can use « pendant » in a French sentence, and tell us what you enjoy doing « pendant les vacances d’hiver »: any skiing, ice-skating, trip to the mountains planned with the family?

Bon mardi!

Les onomatopées… « aïe!! »

24 Jan

Firstly, the Merriam-Webster definition:


1: the naming of a thing or action by a vocal imitation of the sound associated with it (as buzz, hiss)
2: the use of words whose sound suggests the sense
You know what they are, dear readers… These little sounds that we all make daily, whether we are expressing exctasy and anticipation upon being presented with a delicious, mouth-watering dessert (yum!! in English, or miam!! in French) or disgust when our sense of modesty or manners (savoir-vivre) has been challenged (yuk!! in English, or beurk!! in French).

Credits: Uderzo

I was reminded of these little interjections today, as I was reading a raving review of the new book « Les trucs d’anglais qu’on a oublié de vous enseigner » by Grant Hamilton, on the blog Le mot juste en anglais. I have myself been immersed in the American-English language for so many years (I think 10…), that I don’t even realize how « native » I have gone…

The beautiful thing about becoming bilingual, is that you instinctively switch the way your express yourself, your sounds, your intonation, even your body language from one language « set of rules » to the other!
After my first full-year immersion in the USA (I was 18 and worked as an au pair in South Carolina), I experienced the « reverse culture shock » when I returned to Strasbourg, France, to start my language studies. What was very strange, was that when I started classes the other students were convinced I was American!
They would come up to me and introduce themselves in English: « You are ze Américaine, right? ». I would reply in French, explain that I just came back from 1 year in the US but that I was from a village 60 km South of here… only to realize that my intonation in French had not quite yet returned to normal.

Image by sekundo via Flickr

But rest assured, dear French-learners… the balance comes back. You eventually truly switch everything, and you start sounding « native » in both languages. So when I speak English, or even if I speak French to my American husband (which we have only done for 1 year now) but I am located in the USA, I say « ouch!! » when it hurts, « darn!! » when I am upset, « bang!! » when I talk about a door shutting.
But, when I speak French, or I am talking to a Francophone, I say « aïe!! » (or aï-eeeeeuh when it really hurts!), « zut!! », « boum!! » respectively.
So you will know when the French language has become like a second skin to your whole body, not just your tongue, when you start reacting with these fun onomatopoeia. The best way to learn them: read some Tintin or Astérix et Obélix comic strips books, and you will be all set!

Le mot d’action : « Ne quittez pas ! »

17 Jan


Are you ever in a situation on the phone, in which you have a French-speaking caller on the line and you can’t understand each other at all? Or you are calling a place of business in Canada or Morocco, and you did not expect that the person on the other line would not speak a word of English?


This is a situation that my clients deal with all the time, and that is when they call an interpreter at Language Line to help overcome the language barrier… But here is a very important expression to use in that situation:

// Ne quittez pas ! // Please hold!

I have even learned to say this in Spanish, because so often when I introduce myself as the French interpreter, I hear: « No francés… I need e-spanish!! ». I learned to say: « No cuelgue por favor! » (Please hold)… « Buscamos un intérprete de español. ¡Un momento, Señora! » (We are looking for a Spanish interpreter. One moment madam!)…

You can also use:

Restez en ligne s’il vous plaît Monsieur/ Madame! // Please stay on the line/ hold the line, Sir/ Ma’am!

Un instant, je dois mettre l’appel en attente! // One moment, I need to put the call on hold!

Ne quittez pas s’il vous plaît, je cherche quelqu’un qui parle (le) français! // Please hold the line, I am looking for someone who speaks French!

Attendez! // Wait!

Un moment! // One moment!

I hope that helps and in a crunch, try and speak slowly and clearly to find out what the person needs before you can put them in touch with the right person/ language…

Bon mardi!

Today’s French word: « accélérer »

21 Sep

My German friend Lena is learning French at the gymnasium and suggested this word for today’s category du mot d’action:

// accélérer // 1st group verb (conjugate⇒): to accelerate, to speed up, to rush.


Nous sommes en retard… Tu veux bien  accélérer la cadence un peu! // We are late… Would you mind picking up a pace some!
Il accélère toujours dans les tournants. // He always speeds up in bends.
>> Note the different accents when conjugating at this LINK.


Accumuler de l’expérience durant tes études t’aidera certainement à accélérer ta carrière! // Gaining experience during your studies will definitely help you to boost your career!

Et une petite citation pour finir: 

Les jours filent comme les roues d’un véhicule : les bons jours ressemblent aux roues d’une voiture qui accélère, tandis que les mauvais jours ressemblent à des roues enlisées qui patinent dans un bourbier. ~ Zhang Xianliang

Audio Post: « conduire »

14 Sep

// conduire // 2nd group verb, (conjugate⇒): to drive (a car)


Je conduis de Paris à Strasbourg tous les mois. // I drive from Paris to Strasbourg every month.
Tous les jours, il conduit à peu près 45 minutes par trajet pour aller au travail. // Every day, he drives about 45 minutes one way to go to work.

– Qu’est-ce que tu conduis comme voiture? // What type of car do you drive?
– Je conduis une Toyota Corolla. // I drive a Toyota Corolla.

Additional tip:

« conduire » is a transitive verb, so you can say « conduire une voiture » (to drive a car) or « conduire quelqu’un à l’aéroport » (to drive someone to the airport).

And a funny story:

Growing up in a small village in the northeast of France in the middle of the « vignoble d’Alsace » with a mechanic and car dealer as my father, I always dreamed of the day

{source: Wikipedia}

 I would finally be able to drive and try the new cars that I could only enjoy as a passenger… I remember loving the smell of a brand new car and cleaning cars that had been under repair so they would be perfect for our clients.

Although I had to wait until 18 years old to finally take lessons for 6 months and take the test right around my birthday, I had some interesting experiences with cars as a passenger… My father, goofy and funny as he is, would enjoy taking his oldest daughter in the tow truck to rescue a client, or on a test drive for a new or newly repaired car. Well that did not always turn out well!!

Citroën 2CV (pictured right). He put me in the front passenger seat with no seat belt on (why bother for half a kilometer, he must have thought…). He always enjoyed taking wide and scary turns around a roundabout and this one being triangular, required a sharper turn at the top of his speed… at which time… I WAS EJECTED FROM THE CAR RIGHT INTO THE VINEYARDS IN FRONT OF THE SCHOOL!!!!… And papa went on and parked, only a second later to see I was missing!!

{Credit Uderzo & Goscinny}

Yes, although a fantastic mechanic with a perfectly functioning engine, there were other details that had not been checked such as… the passenger door lock! And I went flying, bruising and bleeding… and this time the teacher did not get angry with me but with my father, whom she had as a mischievous pupil 25 years before….

Obélix fell in the « marmite » of magic potion when he was a baby (see comic strip series « Asterix et Obelix »), but I fell out of a car when I was 4… I know, that explains it all!

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