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French Idioms | Rosetta Stone®

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French Idioms

French has no shortage of colorful idioms. As with the expressions of any language, “the best” ones make next to no sense to non-native speakers the first time they hear them. Here are a few gems:

Il me court sur le haricot – While it literally means, “He’s running on my bean.” The English equivalent is, “He’s getting on my nerves.”

noyer le poisson – Word-for-word, it translates “to drown the fish.” But all it means is “to change the topic” or “to confuse the issue.”

écœurant – There’s no direct way to translate this adjective, but it would be something like “so gross that it makes my heart vomit.” Generally, however, it’s just a great way to describe anything incredibly gross or disgusting.

la bave du crapeau n’atteint pas la blanche colombe – If the meaning of “the drool of the coffin does not reach the white dove” isn’t immediately obvious, you’re not alone. A more anglicized translation would be something like, “accusations/gossip can’t taint a solid reputation.” But in practise, and to make it even more complicated, this idiom is often used ironically. So, if your French progresses to the point you’re using it like a native in conversation, you’re probably flirting with true fluency.

Rosetta Stone designs language-learning programs that build confidence in speaking and understanding French. Whether you’re a beginner or an intermediate French speaker looking to advance your fluency, we have you covered. Rosetta Stone’s Dynamic Immersion® methodology teaches you the language, not just the words—using an award-winning mobile app to deliver bite-sized lessons that help you learn Italian anytime and anywhere.

Learning French

When you first begin to learn the French language, you may be tempted to wade into memorising long lists of vocabulary words. But simply memorising words isn’t a very effective way to learn French. Instead, consider first learning just a few of the most commonly used phrases and focusing on correct French pronunciation. After all, the goal of learning a new language is not vocabulary acquisition. Rather, the goal is to achieve a level of comfort and confidence needed to have conversations in French.

You will find that there are commonly used French words and conversational phrases that make up the backbone of the language. Learning these common words and phrases will give you a solid foundation. These words and phrases are not just the greetings like “Bonjour” or “S’il vous plaît.” Beyond greetings, it’s also smart to learn the words that native French speakers sprinkle throughout their sentences, words such as quoi, où, qui, quand, pourquoi, and comment. These common words are very similar to the English words who, what, where, when, why, and how— and they will pop up often in everyday conversations.

To build towards speaking in French, start your French lessons with the basics of common words and pronunciations. Then you can scale naturally towards a much more complex understanding of the French language. That’s why Rosetta Stone’s French language program has an immersive approach—called Dynamic Immersion®—introducing words alongside both visual and audio cues that help you learn vocab in the context of true-to-life conversations. The bite-sized lessons are grouped into units that highlight common French conversational phrases you will need for everyday interactions, coupled with practical review that helps learners solidify their French language skills.

One of the things the French language is most notable for is its je ne sais quoi, which is an indefinable quality that makes the French accent sound somewhat mysterious. But what may seem to be an elusive aspect of the French language’s appeal is really just a nuance of pronunciation. French can be challenging to learn, because it is much more nasal sounding than other languages. Practise will help you become comfortable with this distinct difference. And that’s why it’s important to learn French pronunciation as you learn common words and phrases.

The French alphabet has the same letters as the English alphabet, but some of the letter sounds are pronounced quite differently in French. For example, one of the most familiar sounds in French is the pronunciation of the letter e. In French, e is pronounced ‘euh' and can be heard in many French conversations. That’s because it’s used in the same way English speakers use the sound “uh.” In French, e is used as a pause or as a connector to another thought.

Unlike English, the French language includes helpful accent marks to guide your pronunciation. There are five different French accent marks to learn: the cédille (Ç), the aigu (é), the circonflexe (â, ê, î, ô, û), the grave (à, è, ù), and the tréma (ë, ï, ü). These accent marks most often indicate that the pronunciation of the letter is irregular. That said, the circonflexe is used only in French writing and doesn’t affect the pronunciation of the words in which it appears.

Learning proper French pronunciation depends on getting immediate feedback so you can make corrections. Rosetta Stone helps you get the pronunciation right in a snap with our patented TruAccent™ speech-recognition engine, which instantly compares your voice to native and non-native speakers, so you get real-time feedback for the most accurate pronunciation. It can be a valuable tool in helping you learn to understand and speak in French.

After you have acquired the building blocks of speaking French, you can move on to learning the longer phrases that make up the backbone of everyday conversations. Rosetta Stone’s brief and bite-sized, 10-minute lessons are built to help you do just that. The language lessons will guide you towards speaking French with comfort and confidence.

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Surround yourself with French whenever, wherever with the Rosetta Stone app.

Download a unit and knock it out on the train or a flight. Select a 5-10 minute lesson and sneak it in while you wait in line or for your ride to show up. And explore dynamic features, like Seek and Speak, where you can point at an object in the real world and get a translation.

The best part? You don’t have to choose between app or desktop. Both come with your subscription and sync, so you can switch between devices seamlessly.