I’ve made my share of silly mistakes in French. I’ve progressed a lot in the last few years, but (much to my chagrin), I’m still not perfect. Sometimes just accidentally adding a single consonant to a word leaves les français giggling at my expense. (The word for down jacket is “doudoune” not “doune-doune,” in case you were wondering.)
Usually, my slip-ups just leave me subject to ridicule, but sometimes they get me in trouble. Here are two ways to accidentally offend your French copain or copine.
Je t'aime beaucoup
“Je t’aime” = I love you and “beaucoup” = a lot so “Je t’aime beaucoup” must mean “I love you a lot,” right? Then why does he look so insulted?! Turns out, “Je t’aime beaucoup” is actually a horrible thing to say to someone you’re going out with. Instead of expressing the magnitude of your love, you’re actually saying “You’re nice and I like you as a friend.” Weird, non?
It’s nice to feel appreciated, isn’t it? We use this word a lot in English, usually to be nice (“I really appreciate the beautiful flowers you brought me!”) …and sometimes to be passive aggressive (“I’d really appreciate it if you could try to be less like a caffeinated Disney princess in the morning.”) But how do you tell your chéri that you appreciate them (the nice way) in French? Not by saying “Je t’apprécie.” Apprécier is a faux ami – it means to like, rather than to appreciate. So when you say “Je t’apprécie,” you’re just saying,” I like you,” and not in the “I like like you” way. Whoops.
Please tell me I’m not alone – what goofy language mistakes have you made?