The wife of a Frenchman let me in on a secret method of holding up your side in a conversation in French even when you can hardly speak the language. You simply need three phrases:

– C’est vrai!

This mean’s “It’s true”, and can be said in many different intonations for varied effect.

– Ce n’est pas pareil.

Now this would often be accompagnied by a shake of the head and a concerned look, and it means that “It’s not the same”, or less directly, “but that’s different”. Your final phrase is

– Je ne suis pas d’accord.

This one means “I don’t agree”, and it’s the most daring aspect of the cunning ploy. It seems risky, doesn’t it? Hearing this phrase, I immediately asked the Frenchman’s wife what on earth you do if your conversation partner calls you on this. How on earth are you going to explain why you disagree?

Well, that’s where the utter genius of this three-phrase plan comes into play. You simply go back to your second phrase, shake your head and say

– Ce n’est pas pareil.

The Frenchman’s wife swears that this simple technique has got her through years of communicating with her inlaws. And if that’s true, I reckon it’ll hold up for my July in France.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that I’ll actually be able to follow a French conversation without faking it.

9 thoughts on “how to fake french

  1. Kara

    This makes me wonder if there is a set of essential phrases that would allow someone to fake knowing how to speak English –

  2. mcb

    I think the essential English phrases would be
    “Really!”
    “Oh, I see”
    and
    “Is that right!”

  3. Jill

    You’d get a long way with those… 🙂

  4. Norman

    I was treated far better than others in France some years back, primarily on the basis of one extra word. “Alas, je ne parle pas Francais.” The tone of the first word was important, but I received far more help than the others. I left the French in no doubt that I realised the tragic nature of my loss. Best wishes jill.

  5. Gˆran H

    And what would the Norwegian equivalents be?

  6. Jill

    So “alas” is French, too, is it? I’ll have to remember that! Thanks, Norman 🙂

    Norwegian equivalents? How about:

    – Oj!
    – Mm.
    – Er det sant?
    – Ikke sant!
    – Grusomt!

    Not sure they’re quite as effective, though…

  7. Blog de Halavais

    Soooo ka na…
    Jill’s posting on how to speak French is both amusing and helpful. It reminds me of Jamie and my attempts

  8. jill/txt »

    […] f lavender which is probably withering as we speak. I don’t think I’ll need to fake French, though my grammar is shocking, but you know, it will improve.

    Filed under:General &# […]

  9. Bango

    Cool. Do any one has fake constructed english phrases that could be used to astonish “educated people”?

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