10 raisons loufoques d’apprendre le français
(Republished with permission from Frantastique)
Let’s face it, anyone who tells you that learning French is an essential part of the changing global landscape is either French themself, or trying to sell you something. That doesn’t mean that speaking "la langue française" isn’t cool, cultured and a hell of a party trick however. With French in your arsenal, you’ll certainly turn heads in the discotheque, the bistro, the bedroom, and especially the bidet. Here are the 10 most legitimate reasons to learn French.
Reason #1: Dominate your dinner menu
With just a handful of French terms, you can take your bistrot game to the next level. Start your evening with an apéritif, then move on to an amuse-bouche. Your mouth should be so amused that you’ll barely have room for the pièce de résistance. A quick trou normand will help you find a second wind, just in time to go tête-à-tête with a planche de fromage. Cap off your soirée with a digestif, before heading to a fête. If you’ve been using all these words, your date may have even transformed from a “peut-être” to a “oui oui“. Bon appétit, you little connaisseur, you.
Reason #2: Go beyond Lady Marmalade
Voulez-vous coucher avec moi … ce soir ? is great and everything, but nine times out of 10, saying this line in earnest will earn you a solid slap to the visage. Why not start doucement with some sexy, slightly absurd French songs with profound lyrics (paroles)? Channel Alain Delon for instance, and croon in sultry tones: Tu es comme le vent qui fait chanter les violons et emporte au loin le parfum des roses* (You’re like the wind that makes violins sing and blows the perfume of roses far away). Wave your cigarette for added emphasis. Suited to all situations.
* From Paroles, Paroles, Paroles; Dalida and Alain Delon, 1972
Reason #3: Plan your honeymoon to Gabon
Did you know that French is spoken outside of France? We were skeptical at first too, but thanks to France’s glorious colonial history, French flows freely in 29 countries officially, and many more unofficially. French might prove useful (there’s a first time for everything) in such dream destinations as Vanuatu, Djibouti and Saint-Pierre & Miquelon. Still not sold? Take a trip to the ultimate exotic destination, the jewel of the Americas: Canada.
Reason #4: Become a cinema snob
There’s a thin line between pretentiousness and refinement, and learning French will put you firmly in both camps. To achieve the coveted status of Monsieur or Madame “Je sais tout”, you’ll need to master the basics of le cinéma français. Film is after all an art invented by the French (according to the French). Casually slip in the terms nouvelle vague or cinéma verité. If no one has run away or spit on you yet, cautiously mention Truffaut’s Les 400 coups or Godard’s À bout de souffle. Feel free to use the term chef d’œuvre. No derisive laughter? No punching? Good. You know why? Because you dared to learn the language of cinema snobs.
Reason #5: Carte blanche
Reason numéro cinq to learn French makes the least sense, but c’est la vie – you’ll have carte blanche to throw in random French expressions in your daily life. As with all things French, these absurd phrases will add class, spice and a hint of confusion to any dialogue. Suggestion below: Bobby: “Say Harold, à propos of nothing, I’m en route for a dégustation chez Jane. Interested?" Harold: “No way. Jane is my bête noire. I can’t stand her laissez-faire attitude. Besides, I didn’t RSVP. " Voilà. You’re now part of the avant-garde.
Reason #6: Stage the coup d’État of your dreams
France has a rich history of revolution and beheadings, so if you’re planning to overthrow a government or depose a monarch, you’d best brush up on the basics of the coup d’État. Get started with a grève (strike) or two at your workplace just to get into the swing of things. Now you’ll need a handful of saboteurs, agents provocateurs, a guillotine and culottes (optional). Of course, you’ll require a despot or monarch to realize your dreams, but with the language of Robespierre, you’re halfway there.
Reason #7: Become an endearment machine
French is legally recognized as the most romantic of all languages (UN), so let’s get you up to speed some of the most ridiculous terms of endearment in the Francoverse. Give your petit(e) ami(e) (little friend) un petit nom (a nickname). Mon petit chou (my little cream puff) and ma puce (my flea) are solid choices. Pardon ? Your partner objects to being called a doughy pastry or parasitic insect? Pas de problème, the French have a veritable menagerie to address their loved ones. Some options: ma biche (my doe), ma caille (my quail), ma cocotte (my little hen), mon lapin (my rabbit), and mon cochon (my pig) – careful with that last one. In case of emergency, forget about animals, and break out the ultimate weapon: Je t’aime, mon amour.
Reason #8: Improve your critical thinking
According to Marie Curie, learning French, along with a touch of radiation, will help improve your critical thinking. We couldn’t agree more! Among the multitudes of great French-speaking thinkers, let’s take Voltaire and Rousseau. Fond of fascists and bitterly opposed to human rights as babies, once their French language skills formed at the age of 2, it was au contraire mon frère: all démocratie this and liberté that. How will learning French change your brain?
Reason #9: Insults à gogo
We mentioned that French can improve your critical thinking, but it can also improve your ability to simply be critical! Though we find the French to be perfectly charmant, if ever the need arises for gros mots (curses), French provides some of the coolest insults and putdowns. When expressing your discontent in French, which is expected, try andouille (dummy) and boudin (ugly face), both refer to sausages. Punaise (Shoot, Darn), literally a thumbtack, is a sharp word indeed. Un blaireau is a badger, but also an a**hole (in our experience, badgers are both). Un casse-couille is a nutcracker, though not in the cool Tchaikovsky way, and putain is a versatile, if vulgar, term – use when exasperated, angry, bored, hungry, excited – matin, midi et soir.
Reason #10: Create a cultivated, sophisticated persona to escape from your mundane reality
If this list has taught us anything (not certain), it’s that French is more than a language: it’s an attitude. An attitude that will have a powerful impact on all aspects of your lifestyle. In fact, it wouldn’t be hyperbolic at all to say that learning French is a choice to become a better person. Ok, maybe a little bit hyperbolic. But this is a safe place; we can admit that French has an appeal that goes beyond a simple desire to communicate. You want the whole package that French brings: the nonchalant worldview, the lax stance on infidelity, the progressive views on sexuality, the inability to gain weight while eating and drinking anything and everything, and of course that seemingly inescapable impression of simply being superior. Who wouldn’t want that? Exactement.