Be it just using the wrong word entirely, or a case of mispronunciation, here are a few of the mistakes that us foreigners often make in France. Many originate from the fact that we Anglo-Saxon speakers find it difficult to distinguish between the two different French sounds – OU and U. Frankly, it would be difficult to explain the difference. My son has (impatiently) for years tried to explain. The end result usually being us dissolving into tears of laughter at my poor pronunciation or general incomprehension.
J’ai poux (I have head lice) …when in fact meant to say j’ai pu (I was able to…) Oh dear.
Dessous (under)…..instead of dessus (over). Excessive hand-gesturing is usually called for with this one to be sure you have understood correctly. (You’re stuffed if you’re on the phone).
En rut (on heat) instead of en route. Quite disastrous if you inform your French host that you are en rut instead of en route.
Further vowel traps await the unwary English speaker attempting to get to grips with French.
Canard (duck) or did you mean connard (dickhead)? Make sure you use the correct one with your French waiter, or during your road-rage altercation.
Quand (when) or con (wanker)
Z or S?
Baisse-toi (get down) or baise-toi (screw you). Use with caution until you know the difference. SS has an ‘s’ sound. A single s has a more ‘z’ sound.
What a delicious meal: I’m pregnant
Je suis pleine (I am pregnant) when you actually meant to say, “j’ai assez mangé“ – I’m full.
What fabulous weather: I’m amorous
Je suis chaud(I’m horny) instead of j’ai chaud (I’m hot)
Cute puppy or shithouse?
Chiot(puppy) pronounced she-oh. Not to be confused with chiotte(shithouse) pronounced she-ot.
Finally, when trying to enquire if your appointment is with a female doctor, do not say médecin/docteur femelle(loosely translates as “bitch doctor”). My hairdresser literally fell on the floor laughing at this one. Use Madame le docteur…