Sunday, November 30, 2008


Have you ever seen the movie "spanglish"? It came out in 2004 and has Adam Sandler, Téa Leoni and Paz Vega. It's about a woman from Mexico who moves to Los Angeles and is the housekeeper for Adam & Téa. She doesn't speak any english, but tries to help the dysfunctional family in other ways. She then learns english and well I don't need to go into the whole movie. If you haven't seen it, it's cute, funny and entertaining. The title is what I'm looking at anyway.

What does that have to do with me.'s been 2 months here in the Aveyron. 5 week of my french class in the village (2x a week - 3 hours per class). I also took french in the states for 2 1/2 years (1 day a week for 1 hour), but it was really hard to practice in Los Angeles.

When I first arrived here I was a bit shy about speaking. But now I just go for it. I love being corrected, it's a great way to learn and the french are so nice to me even though I fumble with their language. But one thing I have noticed lately is that I'm starting to speak "franglais". I'll be rattling off a sentence and then not remember 1 word and so I throw in the English word. Now it's cool when I'm speaking to someone who also speaks English, but most of the time they don't and they just look at me like I'm nuts and sometimes I really don't even notice I'm doing it. It just flows out so easily.  I think I'm fluent in Franglish!

So, Franglish is a portmanteau combining the French words "français" ("French") and "anglais" ("English"), and it is a slang term for an interlanguage, although the word has different overtones in French and English.

In English, (Franglish) usually consists of either filling in gaps in one's knowledge of French with English words, using false cognates with their incorrect meaning or speaking French in such a manner that (although ostensibly "French") would be incomprehensible to a French-speaker who does not also have a knowledge of English (for example, by using a literal translation of English idiomatic phrases).

Some examples of Franglish are:
Longtemps, pas voir. – Long time, no see.
Je vais driver downtown. – I'm going to drive downtown.
Je suis tired. – I am tired.
Je ne care pas. – I don't care.
J'agree. – I agree.

I have never used the examples above. But I would do something like this:

"demain, vous descendons au village pour voir si nous pouvons trouver quelques RUGS pour le FLOOR"
I didn't know the word for RUGS - couvertures or the word for FLOORS - le plancher

the sentence reads: "tomorrow, we are going to the village to see if we can find some rugs for the floors"

Now if you knew french and english you'd get what I'm saying, but if you were french you would have NO idea what the hell RUG or le FLOOR (like if I put a "le" in front of the english word they will magically know what I mean) is. So then I have to describe with my hands what I'm trying to say. I'm not sure this is normal for someone in a foreign country learning the language, but it is for me, I'm embarrassed to say.  


Ksam said...

Ha, welcome to the club! It only gets worse as time goes on, especially if everybody you know is bilingual. Then you just get lazy and use which ever comes to mind first because you can. Doesn't really work too well when trying to talk to family or friends back home though!! :)

PS. We tend to call it "franglais" around these parts!

La Framéricaine said...

Totally normal.

And the results in Aveyron should bring you lots of laughs!

I actually love Franglais/Franglish code-switching & code-mixing. It's fun to speak with others who are also fluent in it.

There's a nice reflection upon it from:

When you alternate between two (or more) languages during your speech with another bilingual person, that means you have code-switched. Here is one of my favorite examples of code switching (cited from, my translation):

A: Yanis, tu veux du "gado-gado"? (1) (Yanis, would you like gado-gado?)
B: Mais oui, je veux aussi du "es dawet". Quand on travaille dur, on a toujours faim. (2) (Yes, I’d like es dawet too. When we work hard, we are always hungry.)
A: Pak Mar, tolong pesen gado-gado kalih, es dawet kalih. (3) (Pak Mar, please bring us two gado-gado and es dawet.)
C: Inggih, inggih. (4) (Alright.)

You can see speaker A changes her language from French to Javanese (in utterances 1 and 3). She speaks French when talking with her friend B because her friend knows French too, and then switches to Javanese to talk to C as C does not speak French.

As for code mixing, it occurs when you incorporate small units (words or short phrases) from one language to another one. It is often unintentional and is often in word level. You probably say or hear someone saying something like "jangan suka nge-judge gitu dong. orang kan beda-beda" (note that "judge" is the English word inserted in the Indonesian utterance). You can see that in code mixing, you don't alternate the whole sentence, but you only use one word or two. This often happens unintetionally. Sometimes you have a bunch of lexicons that get jumbled in your brain, and you often use more than one languages.

Now you can see the difference between code switching and code mixing. When you change language intentionally and you do it because of specific purposes (e.g. the presence of third person that does not share the same language, or the change of topic or situation), in other word the switch is functional, that means you code-switch. When you insert a piece of word other than that of your language, and you have no specific purpose or intention when doing that, that means you code-mix.

I'm really excited for you with all of your progress in French and your always evolving life in France.

Happy Thanksgiving Weekend!

Megan said...

I think everyone goes through that, but I think, unlike Ksam, that it goes away after awhile. Sometimes I will say something in English and Alain will respond in French, but now we don't usually mix the two within one sentence.
But the worst phase is when you can't express yourself in EITHER language!

Veronica Yuill said...

Hi from a lurker (till now) -- I think I found you via Betty's blog.

I've been living in France for 11 years, and what you describe is totally normal :-) Bravo for your efforts! It's true you need to get over the hurdle of not being embarrassed by your mistakes, but most French people are delighted that you are making an effort to speak their beautiful language. If you meet someone who's not delighted, you probably don't want to get to know them better anyway! Just wait for the day you feel proud of having to use a French word because you don't know or can't remember the English one :-) Happens to us a lot when talking about wine-making ...

La Framéricaine, thanks for the explanation of code-switching and code-mixing. I do code-mixing very often, completely unintentionally. Most people we know are not bilingual, so when I'm speaking French I will be both speaking and thinking in French, not code-switching. But suddenly some silly word like "but" or "now" will come out without my realising it till it's happened -- and it's not because I don't know the French word.

Like Megan I sometimes fear that I'll end up mangling both languages, one because it's not my mother tongue, and the other because I don't spend enough time speaking it. Ah well!

Barbara said...

Hi Alicia,
I have only recently ( since the time I've been blogging) been socializing with expats.So, all these years( minus some occasional letters & ph calls) have been French only.
I never had much Franglais in my speech because of my French family & my neighborhood.
My hubby speaks some English and my family here, not a word.But in our couple, it's French everyday.

I have the problem of forgetting words in English on the other hand.
On the French side my vocbulary has increased, and the English side, not so !

Mark said...

lol, been there and got the T-shirt.I like to say "I speak really good perfect bad French"

NB:My Franglais is very fluent

Our Juicy Life said...

ksam - luckily we only have 2 friends that are bilingual and I don't do it with them, yet! All our other friends are french and don't speak english. i seem to do it more when I'm stressed out, trying to speak at a shop or something.

LF - most people here where we live don't speak english, they just look at me like I'm from mars!

Megan - I hope it will go away because I don't like it and if I don't know a word in French i need to learn it and remember it so I don't throw in an english one. It's just my lack on knowledge, not knowing every word. Luckily you have Alain.

Our Juicy Life said...

Hi Veronica - glad you have been lurking, but happy you have left a comment. I'm glad it's totally normal, there are so many words and if I haven't used it before I don't know it. The main thing I keep telling myself is if I don't know a word then come home, look it up and remember it for next time.

I can't wait for the day when I use a french word because I know it and it's easier to remember than the english word. Only being here 2 months I'm sure I have a long way to go before that happens.

Our Juicy Life said...

hi barbara - you are lucky, surrounded by french all the time. That's the best way, you have no choice but to learn. How long have you been in france?

Mark - ah, really good perfect bad french - love it. I want to become fluent in French, not franglish, argh!!!!

Barbara said...

Hi again Alicia,
Ooooh; I'm an oldie over here; I have 18 years on my expat counter.
Yes, it has been really,really helpful to have just French around. I will admit to have already studied French at Uni but, textbook & real life is not the same !!

Keep on learning & having fun ;)

Randal Graves said...

I laugh the laugh of frustration because I understand. When we talk in class, I find myself falling back on the same nouns and verbs while scrambling for the dictionary to find the French word for what I want to say. And no matter how many un-subtitled French flicks one watches, unless you're hearing it ALL the time or are a natural genius at it, it's a pain in the ass.

derfina said...

The Unit and I fantasize about doing something similar to what you two are doing, but this is one thing I worry about! I bastardize the English language bad enough-I'd hate to think how combining it with another language would turn out-I could offend two cultures at once!

Le laquet said...

My Franglais is not as bad as my Wenglish (Welsh/English) which is dire ... I speak a lot of Fraspanglish at the moment as a little boy has just started in the nursery who speaks French (mother tongue), English (he's soaking it up like a sponge) and Spanish (he spends a lot of time with his Spanish au-pair) - lots of my sentences sound a bit like this "Oh la la, estoy shattered aujourd'hui!" He understands ;o)

Our Juicy Life said...

RG - a pain in the ass it is. I too have the nouns and verbs that I know, but it always seems that when I need or want to say something I can almost complete the sentence in french but there is always that 1 noun or verb that I don't know and argh it pisses me off...

Our Juicy Life said...

derfina - well if you are here in french, don't worry about the english language...just focus on french. around where we are most people don't speak english so they can't tell if it's right or wrong. go for it I say!

la laquet - wenglish... I like that. There are a few welsh in my french class, I love their accent. I am actually welsh and english (my great great great great grandparents). Frangspanglish - that's good too 3 languages in one. And it's crazy that the little boy can understand and speak it....ah, to be young and learning a language!

Seb said...

Ici a Ottawa, Canada (la capitale du Canada)la ville est sur la frontiere entre l'ontario (anglais) et le Quebec(francais) donc tout le monde parle le franglais!!!

C'est un peu bizarre mais on s'habitue!