Why is /u:/ spelt as ‘few’ but also ‘boot’ and why don’t our French words sound… French? Literally “to yogurt”—let’s pause for a moment and just savor that. Just like a fat American or a polite Canadian, a smoking, judgmental Frenchman is a lazy stereotype. How else can we explain the fact that we have three ways of writing the sound [e] if it is not meant to differentiate né from née or from nés? The French don’t “shup someone up”… they “nail someone’s beak” (Clouer le bec de quelqu’un). Actually, it’s none of these. I’m sorry this isn’t some new species of exotic bird, because that would be awesome. Seasoned travelers have likely felt the effects of this ailment of the spirit without even knowing it! Between 1350-1700 the pronunciation of many English vowels gradually changed in a process known as the Great Vowel Shift. Over 100,000 French translations of English words and phrases. French Translation of “unusual” | The official Collins English-French Dictionary online. Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you Language learners often neglect honing a good accent in favor of focusing on grammar and vocabulary — but it’s important to practice your accent too! To practice, place your hand in front of your mouth and alternately repeat the sounds [a] (like in abracadabra) and [ã] (like in chantant). He coined the term abracadabrantesque (from, you guessed it, abracadabra), meaning “fanastic” or “lacking credibility,” which was later used in an interview by former French president Jacques Chirac and since then has gained new ground. FluentU brings French to life with real-world videos. Typical French words would be … But just the same, some fishes are poisonous, so yeah, maybe it isn’t so weird at all. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc, or its affiliates. (Download). However, œil-de-bœuf is a much less appetizing than hors-d’oeuvres! The French language has some pretty hilarious words and phrases. This means there are three “traps” for just four letters… and one syllable! French has four nasal vowels which, as you will see, are worthy of their name. Around 700 years later, we willingly borrowed a whole slew of other words from French… It’s generally agreed that the term unfortunately has nothing to do with flying deer, but comes from a mistaken spelling of the Old French serp-volante, under the influence of Occitan—a language spoken in the south of France. Caoutchouc comes from the native South American language Quechua and its word kawchu. As for the other vowels, here are a few examples of phonetic alteration: This difference is often difficult to identify because both sounds do not exist in all languages (English, for example, does not have the sound [y]). You might have said this word if you stubbed your toe, were surprised by someone or if you were just angry and needed to yell something non-vulgar. Search for a word in French. Hurluberlu can be used to describe an eccentric, scatterbrained person—like a crackpot or screwball. When you think about it, crapoter is similar in spirit to yaourter, in that both words are used to refer to people who have chosen to pretend, or faire semblant. It’s sometimes spelled with a diacritical mark over the i (as in Anaïs), but this probably won’t help clarify pronunciation to most people, and such marks can sometimes cause confusion when it comes to legal documents. So wrong, they should be right. Pay attention, this will be on the midterm. Yet another animal-themed word, cerf-volant literally translates to “flying deer.” Contrary to what every French learner hopes when trying to decipher this word for the first time, a cerf-volant is not a mythical creature floating about the forests of France alongside Merlin the magician! Quinoa. You can take not just one new piece of vocabulary from this, but three, because the flexibility of the French language means that the verb caoutchouter equals “to coat with rubber” and the adjective caoutchoutifère equals “rubber-producing.” Now that descriptive word would normally apply to trees, but see if you can shoehorn it into another sentence! If you are learning French, it's useful to know some funny French phrases.Did I mention the group of students who laughed their pointy heads off at the word deuil as they were adjusting to producing its vowel sounds? You may recognize the two composing parts of this word on their own: chauve means “bald” and souris means “mouse.” And what might a bald mouse be, you ask? Here’s another French word that makes fun twists and turns as it rolls off of your tongue. Another Baudelarian term, this word has nothing to do with the organ, which is called the rate in French. The French are big on repeated syllables, which has resulted in amusing words from chouchou (a term of endearment) to kif-kif (an Arab loan word meaning “all the same”), but this one is my personal favorite. There is a bit of debate among linguists as to how the so very strange chauve-souris came to replace the Latin term vespertilio. It’s a unique language learning program designed to get you to total French mastery, complete with active learning tools like vocabulary lists, multimedia flashcards and more. Search and learn to pronounce words and phrases in this language (French). Funny French Words and Phrases. Let’s start by taking a looking at our dear friend œ, which can, for example, be found in the words œil or cœur. Ready? Cue list of horrible potential side effects. Don't feel bad if you've been mispronouncing some of these tricky words. 10. Say /KLOTHZ/, not /kloz/. Common French Words And Their Pronunciation. How to say funny French phrases You normally liaise words (though not always) when a word, which ends in a consonant, is followed by a word beginning with a vowel — maybe the voiceless letters are getting their revenge? Frappé- is the first part and comes from the verb frapper (to hit), as in, “You’re so nuts you must have been hit on the head.”. As we discussed in No. Again, it is difficult to establish rules here, as its usage fluctuates greatly. 20 Weird French Words You Won’t Believe Exist 1. Frappadingue comes from two separate words that both point towards someone’s insanity. 21. 10 Common Words with Strange Spellings. To help you out, check out our online course, Listening and Speaking. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, commercials, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning experiences, download the FluentU app from the iTunes store, 7 Low-effort, High-value French Learning Tools That’ll Get You to Fluency Faster, 10 Awesome French Podcasts For French Learners, 9 Great Channels to Learn French on YouTube, 10 Tasty Tips for Teaching Yourself French, 7 Awesome Songs to Help You Learn French Through Music, 15 French Idioms You Should Know But Don’t, 15 French Slang Words Every French Learner Should Know. All Rights Reserved. 3. Even if poetry isn’t your thing, Rimbaud is worth reading for his bombastic word choice alone. The French are not “tired”… they have their head up their ass (Avoir la tête dans le cul). What’s the difference? . Therefore, the e in the final position, which often indicates female gender, is generally only pronounced if it has an accent. Learning these is fun and they’re useful words for both conversation and writing, really helping you spice up your French vocabulary. The best thing about loufoquerie is that you don’t even really have to learn it, because it means pretty much exactly what you’d think. Voilà // It’s definitely a “v” at the beginning of this one and not a “w”. On the other hand, some words are so commonly mispronounced that the "correct" pronunciation sounds downright strange. Three average guys set out to learn as much French as possible in one average week. Despite the successful attempts at simplification over the centuries, we are still a very long way from Voltaire’s idea that “writing is the painting of the voice; the closer the resemblance, the better it is.”. In other words, someone who might from time to time engage in some loufoquerie. You can just see the light bulb over the head flickering out! There are four ways to pronounce it: /e/ (as e in hey, called closed e), /ɛ/ (as e in bet, called open e), /ə/ (as a in the name Tina, called schwa), or it can remain silent; however, it may also form part of a larger group of letters where the pronunciation may be different. Spleen is a sentiment linked with profound feelings of dissatisfaction and discouragement. It’s true that shimmying through the air as they do, kites do look a bit more like flying serpents than flying deer! Listening to newscasts is the best way, because news presenters generally speak in a clear, moderate-speed voice. FluentU is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. The diaereses are used to separate two vowels which, because they are joined together, would normally be pronounced together. 2, English got a lot of words from French after the invasion of 1066. That’s because we’ve got everything from “Guardians of the Galaxy” clips to popular web series and hit songs. Some cooking words, especially ones with French origins. 22. The dual influence of Latin and Frankish (a Germanic language), partly explains French’s complexity. You may be familiar with this word already since it has been adopted into English much in the same way as hors-d’œuvre. 1. The voiceless letters used today, especially those at the end of a word, are a perfect example of this kind of linguistic evolution. The whole word is broken down like this, ad-VERT-iz-ment. Essentials. These beautiful French words will impress French native speakers and enhance your pronunciation of both simple and advanced phonetic sounds. Another way to describe this phenomenon is with the expression chanter en yaourt (to sing through yogurt). 20. Here are the most beautiful French words. You can’t possibly hold me responsible for this loufoquerie! Even the flashcards have something special to offer learners—they integrate video clips, imagery and audio to create rich, memorable learning experiences and help you retain French vocabulary better than ever. I don’t know how these things are true, they just are. Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes store or Google Play store. Saperlipopette falls into the category of expressions most people don’t say sincerely these days, or can’t even believe were ever said sincerely. Generally, “ the British took a French word and re-pronounced it according to English spelling rules, while Americans preferred a pronunciation that sounded more French, even if the word is still heavily Anglicized.” Interestingly, in Britain a lot of the American pronunciations are creeping into everyday usage. Other languages have words for concepts we’ve never even thought of. Here’s a short list of my 9 favorite French words. The word serp referred to another creature, of course: a serpent or dragon. Linguists remain at odds as to whether the language we speak influences how we think or vice versa. Râler describes a very particular way of complaining that has been all but perfected by the French. From a distance, French may appear to unroll like a strictly maintained and uniform construction, but part of learning a language is learning to love its quirks. Dépaysant, directly translated, means “un-country-ing.” A strange word, to say the least, but one that expresses a sentiment similar to homesickness. Listen to some high-quality French audio to hear proper pronunciation of French words. The word for owl (cavannus) somehow got confused with the word for bald (calvus), and the rest is history! We explain why and explore some useful tips for improving it. How to say weird. Onomatopoetic words are often fun, but this one in particular seems to have a special… shall we say, charm, in any language! Like ananas (pineapple), you might be unsure of when to stop spelling it. Anais. We explore why French spelling and speaking don't match up, and how you can learn to live with that. And that quirky weird wide-mouthed sound it makes? Flâner is to wander with no particular destination in mind, people watching, window shopping and basically existing as a city-dweller. But don't worry! And for good reason: the spelling serves to distinguish the written form of these words which are otherwise aurally completely identical. Congratulations, you’ve made it through the list! Why it’s a bat, of course! Please check your email for further instructions. But saying this word to describe how deflated you are just might wear you off further. Examples: emprunt, rotonde, champagne, entête. If you think this describes you, rejoice in the knowledge that there’s a place in the French language for you! Let’s all start saying these 15 words in their Pronunciation Manual form. The letter h plays a special role in liaisons. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, commercials, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning experiences. French pronunciation can be hard for non-native speakers, as this video proves. Rabelais was playful and creative with his word choice and highly influential on the French language. Unfortunately some very common words are spelt very strangely, so here is our list of 10 of the worst offending examples and a guide to how to pronounce them. The third and least common of the three ch sounds is heard in words adopted from modern French. The most common theory is that folks used to call bats “owl mice” in popular Latin. Is this a c? An o? Click here to get a copy. The next time you talk to someone from the other side of the country, take note of the way they say words like "bagel" and "mayonnaise." The language ended up intertwining these two originally distinct letters to such an extent that they now only form one letter (French has the reputation of being the language of love, and here the language is certainly living up to that reputation!). Speak French like you've always wanted to! Monsieur Untel/ Madame Unetelle: Mr. So-and-so and Ms. So-and-so. Pho. Louchébem involves moving the first consonant of a word to the end, tacking on a standard suffix and adding the letter “L” to the beginning. Schenectady. We''ve gathered the 7 strangest and weirdest-sounding French words. Like chauve-souris, there has been some debate about the origin of cerf-volant. In French, it tends to be used more like the curse word … As strange as this may seem, dépaysant is actually usually used with a positive sense. You are going to love the cedilla, not only because it is a little bit exotic but also because it is very easy to master: the cedilla is always placed under the letter c (ç) and changes the hard sound [k] to [s]. FluentU keeps track of vocabulary that you’re learning, and it uses that vocab to recommend examples and videos just for you. For the reasons given above, we rarely pronounce the final letter of a word. This rather extraordinary-looking word means “rubber,” as in the bendy substance we get from trees, and actually has a fairly straightforward history. Here is a short and non-exhaustive list — because you have to know now that the French love exceptions! But rest assured, having a slight accent is always charming. Ha! je yaourte (I yogurt) tu yaourtes (you yogurt) il/elle/on yaourte (he/she/one yogurts) nous yaourtons (we yogurt) vous yaourtez (you yogurt) ils/elles yaourtent (they yogurt). Say RA-PLA-PLA! It makes sense, then, that a flâneur (or flâneuse, for a woman), is someone who spends a good amount of time wandering about. However, there are some regional peculiarities: in certain regions of Switzerland, there is a tendency to pronounce the final e as an i, thus [ei] instead of [e]. Learn more. But this is pretty awesome, too: Métro refers to public transportation, boulot to the slang term for a job and dodo to baby talk for “sleep” (akin to “sleepytime” or “beddy-bye”). That should be the opening line to a commercial for a new medication to battle fatigue. These words have probably been a lot to process. Smash it all together, though, and you have a French compound noun that sums up the existential quandary of adult life: commute-job-sleep. The French are not “big-headed”… they “fart higher than their ass is located” (Péter plus haut que son cul). Two voiceless letters at the end of the word doigt, five letters for just one syllable with temps — it’s enough to make you pull your hair out! French pronunciation can be a nightmare for learners of the French language. Exactly. We’ve got plenty of pronunciation tips to make it easier. Prout is the onomatopoetic word for “toot” in French and it acts in much the same way—turning flatulence into childish joy and ROTFL-type laughter, as well as accurately describing the noise a horn makes. 4. This is called liaising and it’s another great example of an exception in French! Now that you know what some of those quirks are, you’ll be better able to appreciate French fully, and maybe feel a little less intimidated, too. In fact, the word œil (eye) can be used in French architectural lingo to refer to any small opening. For example, the French commonly like to include animals in funny French phrases: When a French-person needs to clear his or her throat, they don't say I have a frog in my throat, as an English speaking person would, but rather a cat!. If you want to sound really authentic, use balles when you’re emphatically complaining about how expensive something is! However you choose to look at it, though, some languages are just full of words that can seem strange to a non-native speaker, and French is no exception. In other cases, the roots of some contemporary French spelling deformities can be attributed to the increasingly marked difference between spoken and written language. This rather extraordinary-looking word means “rubber,” as in the bendy substance we get from trees, and actually has a fairly straightforward history. ... 7 Strange Words in French. Ask your doctor about Raplaplaploxin, the number one recommended treatment for when you’re feeling all…raplapla.”. Try it! The French have a lot of great words to describe a general disturbance or chaos, including chahut, vacarme and raffut, but I think tohu-bohu takes the cake, don’t you? Don’t feel bad, though: The French have actually invented a word for an amateur’s tendency to puff smoke without really getting a lungful. But if you do have that drained, collapsed feeling, you should have no problem remembering the word raplapla, which is used to refer to a tired or worn out state but is also believed to be connected to the word plat (flat). Above all, it requires practice and more practice. can be tricky to pronounce. 1. © 2020 Enux Education Limited. This word literally translates to “ox eye,” but luckily does not refer to something edible. French orthography encompasses the spelling and punctuation of the French language.It is based on a combination of phonemic and historical principles. We continue our journey into the world of weird animal and animal-related vocabulary with the word chauve-souris. There is no equivalent sound in English. Unlike other Romance languages like Italian, Spanish or Romanian, French spelling is not exactly transparent. On its own, the letter u is pronounced at the front of the lips and corresponds to the phoneme [y] of the International Phonetic Alphabet. So practically the same word that was used to describe the origins of time can now be used to describe what happens when two car alarms go off simultaneously in a parking lot between a senior bingo game and a folk concert: confusion, pandemonium. To keep up with the theme, here’s a word for “craziness.” The French word loufoque originated from fou (standard French for “crazy”) in louchébem (a slang invented by French butchers in the 19th century). Somewhat more distinguished than whining, but not nearly as precise as complaining, râler is how the French express their perpetual dissatisfaction with the world. You’re one step closer to being a French expert! As a point of interest, the letter œ comes from the Greek diphthong oj, which became oe in Latin and then œ in French. It doesn’t look lengthy enough to be a three-syllable name, but this French/Catalan form of Anna is pronounced ah-nah-EES. For example: This words: a distinct place within a market; or a recess in a wall or surface. Still, it pays to be careful with the extra ‘s’. One only need take a look at our non-native friends attempting to read the word houx to know for sure: two voiceless letters and one change as a result of the combination of the vowels o and u. 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