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No. 111: Learning to Laugh at Myself

I go through extreme ups and extreme downs when it comes to learning French. Some weeks I feel very confident and have great ego-boosting moments when I faire les courses, give proper directions to lost French tourists, or can have a solid conversation with my gardienne. But there are a lot of weeks, when I feel like a toddler trapped in a grown woman’s body just trying to be understood.

Learning French has been one of my biggest stumbling blocks over the last 5 years. I’ve studied hard and taken many classes. I listen to French on my iPod everyday. I keep journals of new vocabulary. I do lots of grammar worksheets. I’m fine on paper when I read and write, and I’m fine on understanding spoken French. But often when I speak, I completely freeze. My mouth dries up, my tongue gets tied, and my brain seems to go on holiday. It is a pattern I can’t seem to break.

Spoken French is the monkey on my back.



I just wish he would climb off and head back to the tropics!

2014 has to be the year that I finally stick to my resolution to stop being afraid of making mistakes and learn to laugh at myself.

Having been trying to make that resolution my mantra for the last 2 weeks, it was quite fortuitous that this (from my new favorite online teacher, Géraldine of Comme une Française TV ) showed up today, just as I was beating myself up about a rough exchange with Air France over the telephone.

Géraldine is great at making me realize I am not alone in my foibles and always encourages her students to shrug it off, chuckle at yourself, and keep on trying.

Give her newest video a lookie-loo and smile!

Five (Very) Embarrassing Mistakes from Comme une Française TV

  1. Je te baise ≠ I give/send you a kiss; it does mean: I (want to) f*ck you. It’s much better to say: je t’embrasse.
  2. Je suis excité(e) ≠ I’m excited for/to; it does mean: I am aroused. It’s better to say: J’ai hâte de… or je suis impatient al’idée de…(I’m looking forward to…)
  3. Une amie m’a introduit ≠ a friend introduced me to; It does mean: A friend inserted themselves in me. Better to say: Une amie m’a parlé de
  4. Des préservatifs ≠ preservative; it does mean: condoms. Don’t ask your mother-in-law if there are préservatifs in her jam, better to say conservateurs.
  5. Je suis chaud ≠ I’m hot (temperature-wise); it does mean: I’m horny/I’m hot (for you) or very motivated. Remember to use: J’ai chaud instead.
 A great website for learning everyday French: source:

A great website for learning everyday French: source:


Comme une Française: Like a French (woman), as in speak like a French woman; also a brilliant website to learn very practical French taught by a thoughtful but silly française.

gardienne: caretaker, the person (often a Portuguese woman) who watches over your apartment building

faire les courses: do the shopping, run errands

I love this website: do take a look!

I love this website: do take a look!

12 Comments Post a comment
  1. Oh gosh, do I relate to this!!

    I started out with a bit of schoolgirl French and when we bought the French house we started (very expensive ) lessons for a year with a professional Language Tutor (English)

    We simply got nowhere and I honestly thought that I was simply incapable of learning this, or any, language.

    By a series of coincidences we came across a local college course being offered last year by a Tunisian lady with French as a first language.
    I won’t say I am fluent by any means but I am finally grasping some of the basic rules of the language and although I come away from some lessons with my head exploding I can feel that I am actually learning and progressing this time around.

    Find a way to learn that works for you and keep at it. If I can do it so can you!
    Let’s keep each other going !!!!

    January 14, 2014
    • It’s a deal. I could use some support! Most of my all of my good expat friends in Paris are fluent or near fluent, and I always feel like such an idiot when we’re out together. Do you find that is sometimes even harder to feel comfortable speaking French among expats than with the French? Right now, I just feel incredible blocked. 😦

      January 14, 2014
      • Yes, we have an English expat friend with a French degree who sits on the local council in the Aude and I barely open my mouth when I am with her!!

        To be honest, when I speak to French people they seem more amused than appalled by my errors

        I have these times when all my (pretty good) vocabulary and grammar just deserts me & I come over as a complete idiot! that’s embarrassing
        I have worried that I am too old (58) to progress

        My sister, who trained as a bilingual English/French secretary, lived in France for a while and is fluent, we had a good laugh at lunch today about your five common mistakes above and she told me a few more common
        slip ups – wish I could just take her with me everywhere

        I have decided that I am finally going to achieve reasonable fluency in 2014
        Let’s go for it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        January 14, 2014
      • Reasonable fluency. I like that goal. It seems reachable. I’m with you. Now I just need to make a plan and really put the hard work in, and for me, most importantly, check my ego at the door. Thanks for the motivation and inspiration.

        January 15, 2014
  2. Thanks for this one. I reminded me of when I was learning English 25 years ago…I had just moved to Toronto from Montreal and my spoken English was dismal to say the least so I needed to learn fast in order to find a job. I took an intensive class when I arrived in Toronto and my biggest mistake was when I tried to explain to the class how I had made a carrot cake the day before and not remembering the word “grated” I instead “raped” my carrots…I did get lots of laugh out of that one. It also made me realized that I wouldn’t die if I made mistakes and it allowed me to move on to become fully fluent in English (after a few more years of working at it). I have to admit that English-speaking people are a bit more tolerant of mistakes than the French are so keep trying and don’t worry about your mistakes. It is when you stop worrying about them (as well as stop worrying about what others think of you) that you are on the way to becoming fluent. Let me know if I can be of any help…(Suzanne)

    January 14, 2014
    • Thanks Suzanne. What a sweet reply (and funny). Yes, raping carrots is not something to be done. Thanks for the encouragement!

      January 14, 2014
  3. Debra #

    Hahahaha! LMAO! This was so funny, Je suis excité!

    January 14, 2014
  4. polyglottawa #

    Here in Canada, “les conservateurs” means the Conservative party (currently in power). For preservatives, we say “agents de conservation”.

    January 16, 2014
    • Hmmmm…I’ll have to check that here with my French friends. Personally, I wouldn’t want to have condoms or the Conservative party in my jam….especially not the Tea Party folks! Thanks for reading and the comment.

      January 16, 2014
  5. Half the battle is confidence. I remember feeling like such a child in Paris with my limited vocabulary and challenged grammatical structures, which is not easy when you’re an articulate adult used to being taken seriously. But I actually always found it easier to speak than understand others, which presents its own set of problems (people assume if you express yourself well you understand perfectly). Now I’m deaf in one ear and still get it wrong half the time — but no longer worry about it. You do get used to looking foolish. Hang in there!!!

    January 16, 2014
    • Sigh….thanks for the support. Spoken French really is my monkey. I need to dig deep somedays, but I am trying to let go and just “be” more these days…give myself the same break I give others.

      January 16, 2014

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