French, what a language!

French language
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French is a rich language. What you learn at school or use when writing is often very different from daily spoken French, in France or in another French-speaking country.

The subtle differences between written and spoken French

Grammar, false friends, spellinglearning French may seem complicated. And things get tougher when you move from theory to practice, because spoken French is different from written French. 

French expressions

The French often use figurative expressions that can be confusing. Ask for an expression to be explained and you'll end up using it with a feeling of satisfaction.

With expressions such as "poser un lapin", "donner sa langue au chat" and "décrocher la lune", French is not lacking in imagination.

Local accents and regional expressions

People living in the different regions in France usually speak with an accent.

The language is the same, but the words are pronounced differently or the intonation changes. At first it's a bit complicated, especially if the other person is speaking quickly. Don't worry, you get used to it soon enough.


And it's not just the accents which are different. Each region also has specific local vocabulary and expressions, sometimes from the regional language.

A few frequent examples:

  • A pain au chocolat becomes a chocolatine south of the Loire.
  • A sac en plastique becomes a poche in the West.
  • A crayon à papier becomes a crayon de bois in the North and a crayon gris in Brittany.

French around the world

It's not just in France where people speak French. Each French-speaking country adds its own expressions to the language. The Belgians and Swiss say "octante" and "nonante" instead of "quatre-vingts" and "quatre-vingt-dix".

 In Québec, when someone talks about their "char" they're referring to a "voiture".

And when a word has a different meaning in another country, the conversation can sometimes be quite amusing.