Tuesday, 14 October 2014

New words I've learned

As with any other area of knowledge, we learn best based on need. Looking through the list of words I have noted down, it seems that most of the new vocab I have amassed is food based (quelle surprise!), being that that is the one immediate need that I need to communicate clearly. For example, if I don't make it clear that I can't eat meat, or if I don't make it clear enough that that means I would rather cook something myself than have to pick bits of meat out of whatever I'm eating, I could end up very very hungry and with no suitable food.

Possibly the first thing that I learned on arrival was that the traditional sweets I had brought for the kids were not actually bonbons, in this particular region they are called chics, and calling them anything else will get you looked at a bit funny!

You put food on an assiette, and eat it with a fourchette, couteau or a cuillère. If you want to keep some food for a few days, keep it cold by putting it in the frigo, or even in the congel, where it can last months. After washing up, you dry things with an essuie (not a serviette as in France, asking for a serviette here will result in you being passed a napkin), and you might check your GSM (mobile phone, not a portable as in France) for a new SMS (text message, also not a texto as it might be in France).

When you get in the car (or camionette at my project, a mini bus), you must make sure that everyone has mis their ceinture (put on their seatbelts). The first time I was asked to check that, I thought I was being asked if I was pregnant (the word for pregnant being enceinte) - this is not the first nor last time I have grievously misunderstood something, either!

A lot of misunderstandings come about because people are using familiar (read: vulgar) language, which I was not taught at school(!). If you want to be fairly polite in telling someone to be quiet, you ask them to tais-toi. Of course, I'm not infinitely sure that it is a polite thing to say, because I can only gauge how offensive something is depending on who has said it and how the other person reacted, but I'm fairly certain that that is the nicest way of saying it that I have heard here.

I have no yet deciphered much of the more colourful language, but I assure you that if you want to look it up online, it's not too difficult to find. But if anything, it has become quite obvious that if any vocab is worth learning before you move abroad, it's not so much the social words and phrases, it's the food-related ones!


  1. A good German example is a mobile being called a "handy", so you'd be "Gespräch auf meinem Handy" (got the first two words from Google translate....and it corrected mein to meinem but shh lol)

  2. I know German people who thought Handy was the English word, because it doesn't sound particularly German! Imagine their surprise when i told them that 'handy' means 'useful' in English.. There are a tonne of false friends like that - words that have an unexpected meaning. E.g. a librairie is a bookshop here. I suppose it makes it all more interesting :-)