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Posts tagged ‘language’

No. 90: Mwen ka palé Kréyol

Le Vauclin, Martinique

Le Vauclin, Martinique

Mwen ka palé Kréyol.

Je parle Créole.

I speak Creole.

Not that I need another language knocking around in my old brain, but here are some simple words and phrases in Créole I hope to learn by week’s end. I’ll give it the old college try.

bonjou: bonjour, good morning/hello

mésyé zé dam bonjou: Mesdames et messieurs, bonjour, ladies and gentleman hello/good day.

bonswa : bonsoir, good evening

mèsi: merci, thank you

mwen ka rimèsié’w anlo: je te remercie beaucoup, thank you very much

souplè: s’il vous plait, please

Mi plisi! Avec plaisir! With pleasure!

ni pwoblem: pas de problème, no problem


tanzantan: de temps en temps, from time to time

An pa tini pwen lajan. Je n’ai pas d’argent. I have no money.


Sa ou fé ? Comment ça va? How are you?

Sa ka maché, è wou? Ça va bien, et toi? Fine, and you?


Ka ki là? Qui est la? Who is there?

Ka sa yé? Qu’est-ce que c’est? What’s that?

Ki laj a ou? et Ki laj ou ka fè? : Quel âge avez-vous? Quel âge-a tu? How old are you?


Annou ay!  On y va! Let’s go!

Resté la, an ka vin!  Restez là, je viens! Stay there, I’m coming!


bagail la chô: il fait très chaud, it’s very hot!

et enfin….

ti-bo: un bisou, a kiss

Mwen aimé ou doudou: Je t’aime mon cher. I love you dear.


And another bonus…Kréyol verb conjugation. Hmm…looks a mite bit easier. Maybe we should move to Martinique and take up Kréyol instead.


French                                                        Kréyol

je chante                                               mwen ka chanté

tu chantes                                             ou ka chanté

il ou elle chante                                     i ka chanté

nous chantons                                      nou ka chantè

vous chantez                                        zot ka chanté

ils ou elles chantent                              yo ka chanté

No. 54: un p’tit… / une p’tite…

Now that I’m more in tune with the French (literally, I can finally understand a lot of what the French are saying to me…hurrah!), I keep hearing “un p’tit / une p’tite so and so”… Short, of course for un petit/ une petite.

While I, with my VERY literal grasp on français, find it an adorable habit to make nouns smaller than they actually are by prefacing them with the word “petite”, mes amies françaises have a slightly different take on it.

They seem to be of two minds, or perhaps I should say, they can see both a positive side and a negative side to their compatriots’ linguistic addiction to le p’tit mot “petit(e)”.

On the positive side, when used among close friends, or people you’d like to be close friends with, the word petite, indicates a “closeness” and not  a smaller size. For example, when you invite a few good friends to “une p’tite soirée” (a party), you are implying that it will be a warm gathering among close friends. Un p’tit café  with a friend implies an intimate catching up over coffee (not a tiny cup of Joe), where as an invitation to have un café with an acquaintance or colleague, is more in line with the business end of things.

Among friends you could share une p’tite bière, (beer), une p’tite blanquette de veau, (veal stew), un petit dîner (dinner), or un p’tit verre (a glass of wine). You could go for un p’tit ciné (a trip to the movies), on une p’tite ballade (walk), and, of course, un p’tit week-end, which the French adore. None of these things are necessarily reduced in size or length.

As a form of politeness you could ask your prof une p’tite question, or the cashier at the grocery store might ask for un p’tit signiture for your credit card bill. Both of which imply a certain reticence for disturbing you with a request.

But according to my French friends, the addition of the word petite also has a negative implication. They say that the word petite can be used to negate something that was actually a very pleasurable experience… lowering the bar and the value of a really enjoyable moment. Much as the French will almost always reply, when ask about their opinion of something, that it was: “pas mal” (not bad), rather than daring to articulate that is was pretty darn great, the word petite can take the wind from your sails, and imply that the glass is definitely half empty, and nowhere near full. That’s when un p’tit dîner detours from being a lovely dinner among friends, to a dinner that was pretty boring and hardly worth the time, or at least that’s what you want others to believe.

Mais moi, je préfère to go with the literal and positive translation. I like to imagine that when I’m invited to un p’tit restau (restaurant) that I will be dining in a tiny cozy café with my closest friends, drinking small beers and small glasses of wine and sharing tiny plates of food while laughing large and reveling in vast quantities of friendship.


le p’tit mot “petit(e)”: the small word “petite”

Mais moi, je préfère..: But me, I prefer…

mes amies françaises: my French friends

No. 51: Tongue Twisters

Alors, chaque semaine, dans mon cours de français, we spend 30 minutes practicing tongue twister, known to the French as les virelangues.

Les virelangues are silly slogans we are supposed to speak swiftly, satisfactorily, and seriously to assess our skillfulness in successfully saying a succession of similar sounds succinctly.

Our assorted assembly of eight adventurers from across the earth, each with an array of atypical accents, histoires, et angst, ce n’est pas an attractive arrangement.

The mental and physical gymnastics we have to perform to suitably spit out these sentences is not only monumental, madcap and manic, mais also mirthful, meaningless, and modestly miserable.

Oh, we try so hard! And French is not an easy language, but, alas, c’est une langue qu’on aime!

Here’s a sample of a few we’ve been working on…it ain’t pretty:

Dans ta tente ta tante t’attend. (In your tent your aunt is waiting for you.)

Lily lit le livre dans le lit. (Lily reads the book on the bed.)

Poisson sans boisson, c’est poison! (Fish without drink, that is poison!)

Cinq chiens chassent six chats. (Five dogs chase six cats.)

Un taxi attaque six taxis. (A taxi attacks six taxis.)

Même maman m’a mis ma main dans mon manchon. (Even mom put my hand in my sleeve.)

Un gros porc dors au bords le beau port du Bordeaux. (A porky pig sleeps by the beautiful port of Bordeaux.)

Je dis que tu l’as dit à Didi ce que j’ai dit jeudis. (I say that you say to Didi what I say on Thursdays.)

Trois tortues trottaient sur un trottoir très étroit. (Three turtles are trotting down a very narrow sidewalk.)

Ces six saucissons-ci sont si secs qu’on ne sait si s’en sont. (These six sausages are so dry that we don’t know if they are (sausages).)

 Pauvre petit pêcheur, prend patience pour pouvoir prendre plusieurs petits poissons. (Poor little fisherman need patience to be able to catch many small fish.)

Chat vit rôt,
rôt tenta chat,
chat mit patte à rôt,
rôt brûla patte à chat,
chat quitta rôt. (The cat sees the roast. The roast tempts the cat. The cat puts a paw on the roast. The roast burns the cat’s paw. The cat leaves the roast.)

Take a listen here to hear how hard these are to say!


Alors, chaque semaine, dans mon cours de français…: So each week, in my French course…

ce n’est pas: it is not…

c’est une langue qu’on aime: it’s a language we love

histoires: stories, histories

mais: but

virelangues: tongue twisters (une phrase difficile à prononcer)