The Perils of Learning French In A College Dorm

The good news about learning a new language is that it is a lifelong process. The bad news about learning a new language is that it is a lifelong process. No matter how fluent you are, there is always something else to learn as a non-native speaker. It’s exciting and exhausting at the same time.

Luckily, when you’re in a place like France, it is easy to learn new stuff about things like, well, you know, French. Here are just some of the words and phrases I’ve learned while being here:

  • Videur = Bouncer. Yep, learned this one the hard way. Let me tell you, “videurs” here do not mess around. We were at a club one night and my friend went a little Lindsay Lohan. She ended up getting kicked out after passing out at the bar (maybe she was just really tired). I didn’t know she got kicked out so I decided to be a good friend/live out my dream of being exactly like Dog the Bounty Hunter and try to find her. I cut the line to the bathroom to check and see if she was in there, apparently a capital offense in French nightclubs. The bouncer consequently “escorted” me out. When I tried to explain what I was doing, he pushed me to the ground! I guess I understand, I must have seemed very threatening in my lime tutu and neon pink suspenders. But then again, if we let every person wearing fluorescent ballerina attire scare us, we’re just letting the terrorists win. 
  • Tirer = Pull ; Pousser = Push. Doesn’t matter how imprinted in my brain these words are, because every single time I approach a door, without fail, I will do the opposite of what it says and end up looking like I should be a cast member on The Hills or another equally unrealistic MTV reality show. I was at university one day and, upon exiting, kept trying to pull a door that clearly displayed the word “pousser” at the top. As I was walking away, I told a girl approaching the door that it didn’t work. She gave me a weird look, went up to the door, pushed it, then left. Luckily the word for “idiot” is the same in French. 
  • Bad Words in French = Pretty Much Exactly the Same as Bad Words In English. So I got my very first French midterm back! And I actually got a good grade despite inadvertently cursing in the writing portion and not following the directions whatsoever! Basically, we had to write a lengthy description using certain elements for a French writing/literature class. My composition DID have all of those elements, despite being a rhyming poem (apparently I didn’t fully understand the directions). In the teacher comments section, my professor wrote: “This is not what I asked for at all, so this composition is very unuseful, but admirable! Good job!” She also pointed out that one word that I used is actually a bad word in French, for which I apologized in class. I hear people in my dorm say it all the time, so I didn’t think it was bad (plus it rhymed)! Wish I could say that was the first time I’ve used the word “shitty” on an exam.*

These are just a few of the highly important/useful things I have learned in France thus far. But don’t worry, it hasn’t been all give and no take.

English words and phrases I have taught non-native speakers in the past week alone include: queef, barsexual, swag, and the important distinction between “f***ing somebody” and “f***ing with somebody.” Because, of course, you couldn’t survive in America without knowing those!

“Breed as much as possible.” Wise words from a Spanish graffiti artist.

*Other times were not by accident.


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