Archive for October, 2013

The French Art of Flirting

Posted on October 31st, 2013 by Jonah Arellano in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Keeping with the theme of Tuesday’s post about French being voted the Sexiest Language in the World, today I thought we’d take a look at the French art of flirting.


flirting 1As long as you show discretion and tact, there’s nothing wrong with the friendly flirting that is expected, and often welcome in France. The word séduction is a faux ami; yes, it can mean to persuade someone to go to bed, but it is also used more generally in the sense of charming other people of either sex. Taking this second meaning to heart, the French are always trying to seduce everyone. Flirting in France comes as natural as breathing; it’s just part of everyday interaction, and this can mean that men and women often flirt in a casual, good-natured way without a sexual proposition necessarily behind it.


Case and point: Happily married couples can be serial flirters. “Flirters” is a word right? Even if it isn’t, they are. It’s just a little fun and nothing more has to come of it (unless that’s the point of the flirting in which case they aren’t really that happy to begin with).


But, if you are looking to take it a bit further than lingering looks and witty conversation, it wouldn’t hurt to know a few phrases to bridge the gap between subtle, everyday flirting and let’s-get-together flirting. The trick lies in how you deliver the line.

flirting 2

Qu’est-ce que je ferais sans toi?


What would I do without you? Add in a light arm touch and there you have a subtle come-on that will be hard for any interested parties to miss.


Tu es mignon / mignonne.


You are cute. Said lightheartedly, this can be construed as a casual compliment, but take the intensity up (half?) a notch and suddenly, it seems as though you mean to say “You’re cute and I’d like to get to know you better.”


J’aimerais mieux te connaître.


I would like to get to know you better. Do you mean this as a friend? Or more? Let your body language fill in the subtext.


Maybe you’re past playing coy and want to be a little more direct, or you’ve already made your intentions known and want to break out a few phrases with more emotion attached, one of these phrases might be what you’re looking for:


flirting 3Tu es la femme/ l’homme de mes rêves!


You are the woman/man of my dreams! This one reminds me of an old 90s standby, “Hmm. Where have I seen you before? Oh, yeah, in my dreams.” The English version makes me want to roll my eyes, but the simpler, French version seems sincere and romantic.


Je ne peux pas vivre sans toi.


I can’t live without you. I suppose I could if I had to, but my life would be very boring.


No matter how bad you think you might be at flirting, if you’re doing it in French, at least you’re being awkward and shy in the sexiest language on the planet. That’s got to win you a few points, right?


What do you think about friendly flirting? Do you have any favorite French pick-up lines for when the flirting takes a more-than-friends turn?

French Voted Sexiest Language in the World

Posted on October 29th, 2013 by Jonah Arellano in Uncategorized | No Comments »

French has long been called the language of love but now it’s official: according to an international survey done by, French has been named the sexiest language in the world. Considering what comes to mind when one hears French being spoken or even English with a French accent—I assume, and my husband confirms, that the average man immediately thinks of the stereotypical “sexy French maid” when hearing a woman speak French—it’s no wonder Francais won.


So what was it that caused a poll that surveyed 8,000 respondents from around the world to choose French as the world’s sexiest language?  It could be the romance and elegance often attributed to the language. It could also be the soft cadence of the French language when spoken in a romantic whisper; even as a child, when my only exposure to the Gallic language was spoken by a love-struck skunk in a Loony Tunes cartoon, I could tell there was something inherently dreamy about French.


Interestingly enough, a survey conducted in 2009 by named the Irish brogue the sexiest accent, with the French accent finishing in fourth place after the Italian accent and the Scottish accent. At the time, the current French President (23rd president, in case anyone was wondering) Nicolas Sarkozy was FRANCE-SARKOZY/blamed by OnePoll for the unfavorable image accompanying the French accent. Whether it was his fault or not, the 5,000 female respondents were clearly turned off. Possibly for zee way zey sound so charming when zee French speak like zis, sometime between 2009 and now the switch must have been flipped into the ON position.


 It makes one wonder what really draws tourists to France. Is it the rich history and magnificent and iconic architecture? Of course it is, but one can’t help but think the allure of the language has something to do with making France a popular vacation destination.


Do you consider French to be the world’s sexiest language? Why or why not?


(For anyone who was wondering, after French, Italian was ranked second with the British English accent coming in at third place.)

Paris: Come for the Culture, Stay for the Couture

Posted on October 25th, 2013 by Jonah Arellano in Uncategorized | No Comments »

When people think of Paris many stereotypes come to mind, a common one is that of the fashionable Frenchwoman.  The reason we envision Parisian style to be so effortlessly stylish without even having stepped on French soil is because of Paris’ reputation as one of the leading cities in global fashion, making up the “big four” along with New York City, London, and Milan. Though there are those who believe Paris to be worthy of the title Fashion Capital of the World, here’s why.


The History of French Fashion




The association of France with fashion and style (la mode) dates largely to the reign of Louis XIV. Back then the luxury goods in France were under royal control and the French royal court became, arguably, the arbiter of taste and style in Europe. Louis XIV introduced one of the most noted accessories to men’s fashion of the time: immense wigs of curled hair. The extravagant styles of the French Royal court led the courtiers to run up enormous debts to keep up the pace (wigs don’t grow on trees), at the peasant’s expense. Such fashion sprees led to the ruin of Marie Antoinette’s reputation, and were one of the many factors paving the way for the French Revolution.



Initially, it was the rich and powerful telling the designers what they wanted to wear in clothes, but in the 19th century, this changed. It was, surprisingly, an Englishman working in Paris who became the father of modern Haute Couture; Charles Worth put his name on his clothing labels and even displaying his work on live models. From then on, designers were the ones to dictate what was hot and what was not.


French Fashion Innovations


The “little black dress”, considered essential to a complete wardrobe by many women, was invented in Paris by Coco Chanel in the 1920s. The simple, relatively short and versatile garment is now considered an essential element of any woman’s wardrobe. Prior to the 1920s black was often reserved for periods of mourning and considered indecent when worn outside such circumstances, but the emergence of the “LBD” changed that. Vogue magazine bikinicalled it “a sort of uniform for all women of taste”.


Need an example of the simplicity of Parisian fashion? How about four triangles of cloth, is that simple enough for you? The bikini was invented in Paris by the French automobile engineer Louis Réard. Competing to produce the world’s smallest swimsuit with Jacques Heim, Réard found inspiration on the beaches of St. Tropez and introduced the bikini as we know it in Paris on July 5, 1946.


Couture in Paris Now


The Paris Fashion Week, a fashion industry event which allows fashion designers to display their latest collections in runway shows, is the finale of the “big four” fashion weeks. Held predominantly in the Carrousel du Louvre, Paris fashion week helps dictate the next season’s trends.


A shopping district in Paris dedicated exclusively to high fashion clothes and accessories, “the golden triangle is an area between the Avenue Marceau, the Champs-Elysées and the Avenue Montaigne. In it, you will find the presence of luxury goods retailers such as Dior, Givenchy, Vuitton, Celine, Chanel, Donna Karan, Rochas, and Hermes, for starters.


Yes, Paris is home to some of the most beautiful and iconic historic structures in the world, but if you’re well versed in fashion, there’s another kind of beauty that awaits you. Paris isn’t only France’s capital; it’s also fashion’s capital.


What do you think of Parisian fashion? Is the stereotype well deserved?

Bon Appétit!

Posted on October 22nd, 2013 by Jonah Arellano in Uncategorized | No Comments »

The easiest place to commit a faux pas is at the dinner table; if in one’s own country it can be easy to overlook a few rules here and there, imagine how easy it must be to make a manner misstep in another country.  Even if you are well versed in the art of etiquette, it’s important to note that your table manners may not translate as well as you’d hoped. Show how much you respect French culture and appreciate the hospitality of your hosts by taking the time to learn a bit about etiquette and honouring good food with even better manners. I know it seems like one more thing to learn in a list of hundreds that may not seem very important at first glance, but consider that French cuisine is held as an international standard for excellent food—at this point, it’s basically a stereotype—meet those high standards by conducting yourself accordingly.


Dinner Party Protocolsdinner party


While bringing an unexpected guest to a meal in your culture may be ok—the more the merrier, right—this isn’t always the case in France. Generally it’s better to err on the side of politeness and ask your host/hostess ahead of time in case the food preparation needs to be adjusted. If you get permission to bring a friend along don’t show up without one, lest you be in danger of annoying your host who may have made extra food for your guest. While on the subject, you should always offer to bring something (other than a guest) like wine or flowers.


What time to arrive at a meal is debatable, ranging between “right on time” and bordering on what I would consider rude. I suggest the middle ground of showing up about 10 minutes (fashionably) later than the designated time with your gift in hand. If you’re going to be detained later than ten minutes, call your host and explain.


Idle Hands


Aren’t sure what to do with your hands? Keep them on the table. It’s considered rude to sit at the table with your hands in your lap. Remember that this in-plain-sight rule doesn’t extend to elbows, keep them off the table.


Speaking of hands, generally it’s considered very rude to eat anything, even “finger foods”, without a fork. This is especially difficult for me as a Mexican because, in regards to my own culture, some foods must be consumed with the hands or else you’ll come off looking snobbish and rude. Do what I do and just bear with it. If you put in an effort, you’ll be likely to get away making a mistake here and there.


Using the Right Tools for the Job


121007-395x262-DiningUtensil etiquette in France is Continental—the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating. If you’re eating salad, don’t cut the lettuce with a knife; just fold it onto the end of your fork.


Bread will always be served with your meal. If you have no bread plate, the bread rests on the table cloth and not on your plate. There is also a manner in which you should eat bread: tear off the bread piece by piece.


Hopefully this short list will help you become more aware of your eating behavior, and inspire you to adjust it to fit that of the French culture if you need to. The best etiquette tip I can give you is to follow the leader. If you do this by observing your host carefully, you will almost never offend your French friends’ sensibilities. Bon Appétit!


How do these rules differ from what you consider good etiquette? Do you have any other French dining tips?

The Secrets of the Iron Lady

Posted on October 17th, 2013 by Jonah Arellano in Uncategorized | No Comments »

No one could possibly visit Paris without seeing its most iconic structure, the Eiffel Tower. Reaching a little over 300 meters, even if you purposely didn’t want to visit the world famous spire, you’d see the top of it from all over town. Also called the Iron Lady, the Eiffel Tower was erected in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair, and has since become the cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world. Despite being in the public eye, the Iron Lady still has a few secrets.

Eiffel Tower view.

The Iron Lady Wears Make-Up


Every seven years the Eiffel Tower is painted in three shades of brown starting with the darkest at the bottom and lightening the higher the paint is applied. The different paint colors are meant to serve as an optical illusion making the tower seem even taller. It hasn’t always been brown either: in 1899, the tower was painted ochre yellow; and from 1954 to 1961, it was brownish-red. How much paint do you think is used to cover such an immense structure? If you guessed 60 tons, you’d be right.



The Iron Lady is Married


Erika LaBrie, a former US military member and archery world champion, first encountered the Eiffel Tower in 2004 and felt an immediate attraction. As an eiffel-tower-marry-_676203cobjectophile, one who develops significant relationships with inanimate objects, this was nothing new to Erika. What started as an attraction quickly grew to love, and in 2007 Erika LaBrie became Erika La Tour Eiffel after she married the Eiffel Tower in a commitment ceremony.



The Iron Lady Used to Wear Brand Name Labels


Between 1925 and 1934, a French automobile company, Citroën, converted the four corners of the tower into a billboard; it was the biggest advertisement at the time. The Eiffel Tower has also been used for political messages. While occupying Paris during World War II, German troops hung a sign from the citroentower announcing their victory. In 1979, a Greenpeace protester displayed a sign that begged we Save the Seals”.



The Iron Lady Can be a Bit Morose


Despite being regarded as one of the most romantic places in the world, the Eiffel Tower holds the record of highest number of suicides than any other French landmark. Not surprising considering other sky rising structures in the world have been used for similarly grim purposes.



 No one could imagine Paris today without its signature structure, but even with as much popularity as the Eiffel Tower has garnered there will always be fun facts and secrets that can make you really see it not as a generic icon, but as a place with personality. Want to know more of the Eiffel Tower’s secrets? You should know better than to inquire about such things. A gentleman doesn’t ask, and an Iron Lady doesn’t tell. Actually, that’s not true; if you’d like to find out more, there are many online resources on the subject, I just really wanted to use that line.


Have you visited the Eiffel Tour? What did you think, did you love it? Sorry to be the one to remind you, but it’s already taken.

French in the USA

Posted on October 15th, 2013 by Jonah Arellano in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Going back to an earlier post about the prevalence of French in Canada, I thought I’d give it another go with the US as the country this time. After all, some areas of the US were also colonized as part of New France which has left a lasting impression on the local cultures of these regions. So, get ready, because it’s about to start raining facts.


The History of French in the United States



Along with Spanish and German, the French language emerged in the United States as a colonial language, and was widely used before the use of English gained dominance in the 1600s. The French colonists (known as Acadians) settled in the Canadian Provinces to set up residence as hunters and fur traders. New France was established in present-day Quebec.  French-speaking communities settled in the United States when economic hardships drove settlements out of the Quebec province and into textile-mill towns in New England and the upper Midwest. In 1755, the Acadians were exiled from what is now Nova Scotia by the British government and relocated in France, the West Indies, and the American colonies. A large number of Acadians found refuge in Louisiana; today people in this community identify as french


French in the US Today


French is the fourth most-spoken language in the United States behind English, Spanish, and Chinese, and the second most spoken language in the two northern New England states of Maine and Vermont. Three major dialects of French developed in the United States: Louisiana French, spoken in Louisiana; New England French (a local take on Canadian French); and Missouri French, spoken in Missouri and Illinois—each with its own quirks and subgenres.


Like any other language, French has also been carried to various parts of the country by way of immigration from Francophone regions. Namely, Florida and San Francisco are both home to French speaking communities.


Behind Spanish, French is the second-most-studied foreign language in the us french 2United States. People trying to preserve their French heritage may opt to enroll their children in a French immersion school, or if one wishes to further their adult education, many US universities offer French language courses and degree programs. One thing worth noting about the French being taught in American schools: though the US shares a border with Canada, the French taught in the US is based on that of France and not the Canadian dialect. Sorry, Canada.


To Wrap Things up…


So, there you have it, another example that French isn’t just spoken in France. There are French communities all over the place, and one could do worse than to learn a language with as much possibility to be beneficial as French. Whether for business or pleasure, French is an accessible language with many places for a language learner to practice with the added benefit of an English-speaking safety net. Just remember to make allowances for regional dialects, and you’ll be fine.


What do you think of French speaking communities outside of France? If you are a non-native speaker, would you feel more comfortable practicing in one of these areas, or would you prefer to immerse yourself in all things French without English to fall back on?

World’s Oldest Cinema Reopens

Posted on October 10th, 2013 by Jonah Arellano in Uncategorized | No Comments »

What’s that saying? Speak of the devil, and he’ll appear. If you are a regular reader of this blog—before we continue, if you’re a regular reader, I’d like to thank you for your continued interest—then you’ll recall I wrote about my love of French movies not long ago. Apparently, disclosing my “come for the a popcornnudity, stay for the plot lines” approach to foreign movies as an adolescent must have put French-movie-energies (let’s all pretend that’s a real thing) out into the world, because the world’s oldest cinema is being reopen.


If you’re planning a trip to France soon and have a love of history, movies, or beautiful areas in the south of France, you may want to stop by. Yes, it may feel strange to forgo the usual tourist packed attractions, but why just stare at history, when you can experience it. had this to say:


When the Lumière brothers screened one of their first moving pictures – The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station – at the Eden theatre at the close of the 19th century, it was said that some of those present were so shocked by the life-like images that they leapt from their seats in terror to flee the oncoming steam locomotive.


On Wednesday, more than a century on, these early black-and-white silent films lasting less than a minute were given top billing in the newly renovated Eden, which claims to be the world’s first, and oldest surviving, public cinema.


The historic theatre at La Ciotat, 20 miles east of Marseille, which later played host to Edith Piaf and Yves Montand, has undergone a €6.5m (£5.5m) refurbishment that has more than restored its former glory


Before Hollywood became the worldwide symbol of the movie industry, there was La Ciotat – a small, picturesque town on the Mediterranean that lays claim to being the birthplace of modern cinema.


There were already machines to record moving images when Auguste and Louis Lumière, the sons of a photographer-turned-photographic manufacturer, based in Lyon, came up with their Cinématographe Lumière, a wooden box that could not only take images, but also develop and project them on to a screen.


After patenting their invention, the brothers showed their short films first to an audience of 33 people at the Grand Café in Paris in 1895, then at the Lumière family summer home, a magnificent chateau in La Ciotat, and finally at the local Eden theatre.


The brothers made more than a dozen films around La Ciotat, but also recruited two-man film crews to travel the world making short films with their camera box.eden theatre


The Eden opened in June 1889 as a theatre and music hall, but also played host to boxing and Greco-Roman wrestling, opera performances and concerts.


It closed in 1982 after its owner was killed by robbers intent on stealing the takings and because of dwindling ticket sales. It continued to open for one week, once a year, to host small film festivals but closed in 1995 and was left to decay.


Local supporters of the theatre continued to fight for it to be given a facelift and reopened, but it was only when Marseille was named European capital of culture for 2013, that the money was found.


Today, the dusty chairs have been replaced by velvet seats, and the grubby carpets by polished oak and black marble floors. The impressive facade, painted yellow ochre and with mosaics, had to be rebuilt over the former listed frontage, which the restorers were not allowed to touch…


Surely, The Eden will soon become a popular pilgrimage spot for aficionados of film wanting to experience cinematic history. Will you be one of them?  If you had the chance to watch any movie you wanted in the oldest existing cinema in the world, what would it be?

Watch Your Back: False Friends Are Out to Get You

Posted on October 8th, 2013 by Jonah Arellano in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Imagine This:


You are having a movie marathon with a friend who speaks mostly French. You’re doing well in your French classes, but you aren’t anywhere near fluent yet. Seeing the state of your coffee table, you decide to ask your friend to dispose of the empty snack containers and drink bottles littered around the room, but you can’t quite remember the French word that means “to dispose.” Suddenly, you remember once seeing the word “disposer” somewhere. It has to mean the same thing, right? It wouldn’t be spelled the same way if it didn’t…right? You go ahead and ask your friend to “disposer” of the rubbish and venture off on your quest to for a pizza to eat during the second half of movie night. Upon your return, you find your French BFF has used the flotsam and jetsam of your movie night to create an art installation on your coffee table. What!? Though you can appreciate the aesthetically pleasing display of trash, it is still trash that has yet to be dealt with. A litter-monster yet to be false friends 2slayed in the name of the knights of the round pizza. While you and your friend stare at each other with confused expressions, you wonder where you went wrong.



Would you like to know the mistake you made in this hypothetical situation? Other than the fact that you expected someone else to clean up after you—that’s just rude—you trusted a false friend. No, I don’t mean your foreign pal; they’re just an innocent bystander in this situation. In linguistics, false friends (or faux amis) are words that appear to be the same in two different languages but have different meanings.



Properly translated, to dispose of something is “se débarrasser.” When you used the word “disposer”, your well-meaning friend took it to mean arrange.



Yes, I know this example seems silly; however, believe me when I say, faux amis can quickly turn into bête noir (figuratively, this can be taken to mean “the bane of one’s existence”). Not everyone’s experience with false friends is as endearing as accidentally saying “sympathique” (nice or friendly) when you mean to say “compatissant” (sympathetic). Sometimes it can get downright embarrassing.



Imagine Another Scenario:false friends


You are enjoying a lovely breakfast and decide you want some preserves to spread on your toast, so you politely ask your server for “préservatif” and smile. The entire wait staff and all surrounding customers gawk in your direction as a younger patron stifles a giggle. You’ve heard that word somewhere before and believe it’s close enough in sound that it must be close in meaning. It isn’t. You’ve just ordered a prophylactic to go along with your meal. After realizing your gaffe, with some help from your obliging waiter, embarrassment colors your face as deep a red as that strawberry jam you wish you’d known how to order. Preservative and préservatif aren’t just false friends; they’re practically co-conspirators in the campaign to make you look foolish.



Don’t fall prey to the confusion surrounding similar sounding words. Lists of faux amis are available all over the place: from teachers, on the internet, and you might even find a book on them in a librairie (bookshop, not library). Instead of a list, I’d rather give you some advice: when learning a language, as in life, it is important to separate your true friends from your false friends. It’s those memorable moments that make learning another language fun, but sometimes it’s more important to keep from ordering an overly ambitious breakfast.  



Have you ever made a faux pas involving faux amis? If so, tell us all about your “lost in translation” mistake.

French Stereotypes: Fact vs. Fiction

Posted on October 3rd, 2013 by Jonah Arellano in Uncategorized | No Comments »

If I were to mention that I was Mexican, what opinions would you start forming about me based solely on that fact? That I’m lazy? Would you form a mental image of me as a drunken girl who has twenty siblings, works as a maid, and dances around a sombrero shooting pistols in the air and eating tacos? It probably seems like I’m shining a harsh light on Mexican stereotypes, but I have heard all of these—and more—when the subject of my heritage comes up. Stereotypes exist for a reason; they help us sort things into neat little boxes so we can generalize whole groups to save time. The problem with that is most people can’t be contained and categorized in this manner. That’s why I’d like to share, and debunk, some French stereotypes that seem to be prevalent in the media.

french stereotypes


French People Are Rude


If you’ll recall my previous blog post on politeness, you’ll remember my stating that sometimes what one culture perceives as perfectly commonplace can be interpreted as incredibly rude by another culture. Sometimes “rudeness” can be accounted for by simple cultural misunderstandings. Another reason this stereotype stands the test of time may be because it is largely circulated by tourists who have only been to “touristy” places. Imagine you have a favorite bar, not necessarily to drink, just a quiet place you’ve adopted as your own. Now, imagine your bar is overrun by a constant stream of tourists who don’t bother to learn the correct way to order and don’t care enough to be respectful of the regulars. After a while, I’m sure you’d be pretty disgruntled too. Paris is an international tourist hot-spot, I’m sure the locals are tired of dealing with typical tourists. The solution is as easy as the golden rule: treat others the way you want to be treated. Try to fit in on your trip and make an effort to be courteous, I’ve no doubt most people will be courteous to you in return. The exception to this rule would be people who are just rude in general—they exist all over the world, not just France. Read the mentioned blog post for how to deal with that eventuality.



Stereotypes about French Women


One stereotype I’ve heard about French women is that they don’t shave their underarms. This is ridiculous. While I, personally, have adopted a pro-choice attitude about body hair: your body is your temple, landscape it however you’d like; I can honestly say I’ve never seen a French woman who wasn’t impeccably groomed. This stereotype likely got its start from American GIs during World War II. During that time the country was so devastated by occupation and bombing that shaving wasn’t much of a priority.

french stereotypes2

Anyone who’s been to a French beach can, most certainly, vouch for the fact that French women do shave their underarms, unless they were too distracted by the stereotype that all the women go topless at beaches. This is also untrue. Sort of. Sure, you will find some exposed chests on the French beaches, but fewer and fewer young women are opting to sunbathe sans top. So if you’re a woman, don’t worry, you won’t feel out of place for using both parts of your two piece bathing suit.



Stereotypes about French Men


Frenchmen are cowardly: false. I’m sure that there are a few who are, as there are everywhere, but I don’t think that the French should be generalized in that way. Since 387 BC, France has fought 168 major wars. They’ve even gone against heavy hitters like the Roman Empire, the British Army and the Turkish forces. Of those 168 wars, they’ve won 109. Not to mention, the French french-Stereotype-smallresistance was one of the most enduring symbols of Nazi opposition in Europe, in spite of the fact that France had no choice but to surrender early in WWII. Opposing Nazis even though the French were technically under their rule; doesn’t sound very cowardly to me.


Another common misconception about French men is that they are effeminate and that France wouldn’t really be a good vacation destination for a “manly-man.” I’ll agree that some of the things France is famous for, its cuisine and museums, may not appeal to outdoorsy fellows (or gals, for that matter), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t adrenaline fueled activities for those so inclined. After all, the “manly-men” who call France home need something to do in their free time too.  Great mountain climbing, hiking, and skiing areas can all be found in France. Or, if you crave a bit of sport, maybe a soccer match or a bullfight would be more to your liking.



Next time you hear a stereotype about a group of people, take it with a grain of salt. I can tell you from experience that it doesn’t feel very nice to be on the receiving end of those kinds of generalizations. Yes, I am Mexican, but none of that other stuff is true. The exception being, I am a bit lazy—that’s not a cultural failing, just a personal one—but that just means I’d never make it as a maid.


What stereotypes have you heard about the French? What is your opinion on them, do you think they hold merit, or are they just ridiculous misconceptions?

Accent Marks: Everyone’s a Diacritic

Posted on October 1st, 2013 by Jonah Arellano in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Learning a new language is hard work. One thing that may make it seem harder is learning to use accent markings, or diacritics. Especially to native speakers of English, figuring out diacritics can seem like a hassle, but they’re a very important part of the French language. Accent markings not only deal with spelling but can also relate to the pronunciation and meaning of the words as well. I know how tempting it is to want to defy these little modifiers, but it’s important to learn them if you want to become fluent.


There are five different diacritics used in the French language: the acute, the grave, the circumflex, the diaeresis, and the cedilla. Rarely the tilde may be used, but it’s generally used for words and names of Spanish origin that have been incorporated into the French language, so we won’t be covering it.


The Acute Accent


Also known as l’accent aigu, the acute accent points to the right and upward, only appearing above the letter E. The use of this accent changes the letter’s pronunciation to “ay”.accent


l’école (school)


aimé (loved)


étrangler (to strangle)


The Grave Accent


L’accent grave points to the left and upward and can be found on an A, E, or U. On the A and U, it usually serves to distinguish between words that would otherwise be homophones. On the E, however, it alters the pronunciation to sound like “eh”.


ou (or)


la (definite article, singular feminine noun)


secrète (secret)


The Circumflex


Le circonflexe looks like a little pointed hat worn by vowels. This diacritic can be helpful in determining the meaning of a word. It often means that in a previous version of the word, there used to be an S. Often the word is not a direct translation, but is similar in meaning.


forêt (forest)


maître (master)


Le circonflexe also serves to distinguish between homophones.


du (contraction of de + le)
(past participle of devoir)


The Dieresis


Le tréma looks like two dots above a letter. It’s usually placed above the second of two consecutive vowels when both vowels are to be pronounced separately.


ambigüe (ambiguous)


égoïste (selfish)


The Cedilladiacritics


La cédille looks like a little tail under the letter C. As far as diacritics go, this one is pretty simple for language students to remember because it is only used with the C and serves as a pronunciation guide to indicate the C should be pronounced as an S.


garçon (boy)


soupçon (suspicion)


Accent marks can seem like a pain in the backside to learn at first, but keep giving it your all. They’re graphic expressions of pronunciation, and, after you master them, your diacritic knowledge will bring you that much closer to becoming the fluent student we both know you can be.


Have you been having trouble with diacritics, or do you consider the accent marks simple compared to another part of French language acquisition?