Cultural intelligence

France: Faux Amis


English and French Cognates: These are similar sounding words in both languages that have very different meanings. The similarity of the sounds trick speakers and result in embarrassing faux pas, though don’t use that expression with the French because they refer to these verbal slips as une gaffe. And just to save you from red-faced moments, here are a few more tricksters. A chef may cook in the English-speaking world, but in the Gallic nation, un chef is a leader. Similarly a French patron is not a customer but rather a boss.


A common source of annoyance among English speakers occurs when their French colleagues say “I demand ….which, despite its assertive tone in English, in French merely means to ask. And while a sale means a transfer of ownership in English, across the Atlantic it means dirty or soiled. Finally, a decade in France is ten days instead of ten years. Quelle différence!


>  Do you have some favourite French phrases that you can share ?


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