Some French idioms are guaranteed to bring a smile to your dial.
They’re not fancy, you probably won’t study them in French class and the person saying them to you will think nothing of it.
You, the novice French speaker, will notice because at their heart these phrases all mean one thing: “You are making sense to me”.
What could be sweeter than that when you are learning a new language?
I heard all 10 of these from an adorable real estate agent in Provence.
She zoomed me around pencil-thin rural roads at terrifying speeds playing high-volume opera, taking mad detours to point Cezanne’s favourite view or Napolean’s sister’s chateau – all the time overlooking my clumsy, jetlagged, heavily accented, painfully slow French to chat with me as if I was an old friend.
Whenever I said something that made the slightest bit of sense she would respond: “Absolument!” [Absolutely] or, “Tout a fait! [exactly] or, “C’est ça!” [that’s it] or “C’est vrai!” [it’s true!] or “Exactement!” [exactly].
Each time I heard one of these little gems, I felt a rush of confidence and warmth toward this person whose kindness came from a good heart, not the prospect of a deal (it was obvious to both of us that none of the houses she was showing me were quite right).
Here I was, outside the security of an Alliance Française classroom, speaking French in the real world and being understood.
“Desolée,” she would say. “Je parle trop vite!” [Sorry, I am speaking too quickly] then slow down for at least 20 seconds.
It was impossible to keep up so I stopped straining to understand and instead let her words wash over me. Nuggets of gold began to appear. I don’t know what she is saying but I know what she means.
It was a revelation.
A few days later I went out with her again and she took her eyes from the road to give me a huge smile and comment that my French had improved markedly in four days.
“Really?” I said.
“Ab-so-lu-ment!” she replied, flooring the gas again.
Truth is, she could some of the credit for that.
- C’est ça [That’s it]
- Tout à fait [Exactly]
- Voilà [You’ve got it]
- Absolument [Completely]
- Mais oui [Of course]
- Vous avez raison [You’re right]
- C’est parfait [That’s perfect]
- C’est vrai [It’s true]
- C’est sûr [Of course]
- Exactement [Exactly]