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LEARNING FRENCH

LEARNING FRENCH

Top 10 bizarre French expressions translated

Learning French is hard enough without all the seemingly bizarre and "untranslatable" expressions out there, that if you don't know the real meaning of, could land you in a spot of Gallic bother. See these top 10 examples to see exactly what you are up against.

Top 10 bizarre French expressions translated
"Stop talking salads" and ten other bizarre French phrases translated. Photo: Mslavic/Flickr

So you have made enough progress in the literal portion of the French language to finally be able to chat with your colleagues at the water cooler or coffee machine.

But, like the man-eating shark lurking in the waters of the film Jaws, but there are other perils awaiting you dear students of French – idioms that just don't translate.

And if you don't know them, the chances are you could end up in a pickle.

If you want to tell someone that they "have a screw lose" or that something is "no big deal", it's no use translating your English expressions because you will just end up looking silly.

You need the Gallic versions.

So to help you on your way we've picked ten strange expressions in French that you could hear at dinner parties or work and deciphered them into English. Click below.

Top 10 bizarre French expressions translated

What are your favourite bizarre French expressions? Let us know in the comments section below.

SEE ALSO: Top 12 French expressions you won't learn at school

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FRENCH LANGUAGE

EXPLAINED: How to master the French rolling R

It's one of the defining sounds of the French language, but can be a tricky one for foreigners. French language expert Camille Chevalier-Karfis explains how to master the French R.

EXPLAINED: How to master the French rolling R
If you're heading to Rouen, be prepared to roll that R. Photo: AFP

One of the things that gives the French language its elegant sound is the gently rolling R, but this is often a source of much difficulty and certain amount of sore throats among foreigners when they try to master it.

We asked French language expert Camille Chevalier-Karfis, founder of French Today, for her tips.

How important is it to roll your Rs? Can’t we just skip it if it’s too hard?

Unfortunately it is important for the way that words are pronounced, but you don’t need to overdo it. It’s really quite a gentle vibration rather than a roll.

Where do foreigners usually go wrong?

People often overthink it, or try to overdo the vibration – if you’re gargling or spitting then it’s too much, it should be a gentle.

People often listen to Edith Piaf and think the Rs need to be pronounced in that really guttural way, but that’s an effect for a song in her own French accent, it’s not how most people talk in everyday life today.

So how should we do it?

Firstly don’t be afraid. People often freak out and pause too much before trying the R, it helps to think of it as part of the word.

In French the vowels are much stronger than the consonant – in English it’s the other way round – so think of the sounds of the vowel in the word that you’re saying and let the R ride along with them.

But I have a three-step technique for making sure you have the right sound.

Let’s hear it then!

1. Stick the whole of your tongue onto the roof of your mouth

2. Lower only the tip of your tongue and press it hard against the back of your lower front teeth

3. Make a hard ‘g’ sound as if you were saying ‘get’ –  study the vibration that happens then in your throat: the sound should come out as a soft rrrrrrr sound – and that’s the French R.

READ ALSO Three steps to the perfect French R pronunciation – with audio recordings

Any other tips?

Think of a cat purring. If you’re getting a sore throat when you’re doing it then you’re probably overdoing the vibration, but as with any new technique it’s important to protect your voice and take it gently at first.

Camille Chevalier-Karfis is a French language expert, and founder of FrenchToday.com. If you have a question for Camille, email us at [email protected] and we’ll ask her advice.

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