I’ve always loved the French language and indeed the French people and their culture. I started learning French from a young age at school and found it a wonderful language to speak. Even before I started learning French I was learning Latin (spoken in the Roman Empire and referred to as a ‘dead language’). Many European languages have incorporated Latin words, terms and structure, as well as being influenced by other sources.
Having an understanding of Latin, therefore, really helps to learn and understand European languages a lot better and is especially helpful in understanding French. The similarities of English and French are many and both languages use many elements from Latin.
Beyond this, a lot of French words, terms, expressions and phrases ‘turn up’ in the English language (and many of ours in theirs). One little word we like to use quite a lot, for example, is the French word ‘sans’, which means ‘without’ and when used in English can be pronounced ‘sans’ or ‘sonze’. It might be used like this: ‘I got soaked on my way to work this morning as I left the house SANS umbrella’ (meaning ‘I left the house WITHOUT (an) umbrella).
Another relatively common term is ‘pièce de résistance’ (pronounced ‘pee – ESS – de – re – ZIS – tonce’) which means ‘the most important or remarkable feature’ and is often used to refer to the finest dish or course of a meal (‘now you’ve had your starter, let me bring out the pièce de résistance’).
We even use french terms to express ‘philosophical’ ideas – a favourite term being ‘joie de vivre’ (pronounced ‘shwa – de – VEE – vruh’) which translates literally as ‘the great enjoyment of life’. We often use it to refer to the attitude of positive, joyful people. For example: ‘I met Tom the other day and I couldn’t help but admire his joie de vivre’ meaning ‘I couldn’t help but admire his joy passion for life’.
Possibly our most common or favourite French philosophical expression is ‘c’est la vie’ (pronounced ‘say – la – VEE’) which means ‘that’s life’ and is mostly used ‘in the face of’ a difficult or unpleasant situation. You might say ‘I didn’t get the exam results I wanted. Oh well, c’est la vie’.
Beyond these conversational and philosophical terms we also make daily use of French when it comes to food and cooking. In the UK especially, much of our food and cooking vocabulary is French. For example: You might use a ‘chinoise’ (pronounced ‘sheen – WAHS’) which is like a fine sieve; or you might need to cut your vegetables ‘julienne’ (pronounced ‘jue – lee – EN’) which means ‘thin strips’; or maybe you need to cook your fish ‘sous vide’ (pronounced ‘sue – VEED’) which means to ‘vacuum seal’ a food item and cook it in hot water in a vacuum bag.
I think it’s a great thing that England and France use a lot of each others’ languages – it brings us closer together and it makes learning those languages from either perspective much easier!
【例】I got soaked on my way to work this morning as I left the house sans umbrella.
「piece de resistance」主役
【例】Now you’ve had your starter, let me bring out the piece de resistance.
「joie de vivre」人生の謳歌
【例】I met Tom the other day and I couldn’t help but admire his joie de vivre.
「C’est la vie」人生はこんなものさ
【例】I didn’t get the exam results I wanted. Oh well, C’est la vie.
その他、料理用語では、chinoise(金属製のこし器）, julienne（千切り）, sous vide（真空調理), などなど。