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French writing – fail!

Recently, during lunch time discussion, one of my colleagues mentioned how she was preparing herself to help me settling in my first months in Paris. Not just at work, but also with accommodation search, administrative meetings, opening bank account, getting mobile phone, etc. She was duly impressed that I managed most things on my own, and knew right then that I like France enough to make all the effort to fit in.

Correct your French blunder

Oh if only she could see the imposter in me dancing away to this praise I don’t quite deserve. Sure, I read and speak better French now, and I can understand rapid conversations a lot easier (although I still talk a lot less than I would when a conversation is in English or in Chinese), but oh if only you know how atrocious my writing is (and can be)… We’re not talking about reports or poetry or anything of that magnitude; we’re talking 2 lines email to my group of friends!

Ah what the heck, I’ll share my embarassing email with you:


Nouvel An Chinois ça déroule ce dimanche (10 fév) et si tu es libre, ça te tente d’un diner ensemble?

Fais-moi une signe (tes partenaires sont même bienvenue!) bientôt donc je peux réserver la table au resto.


What I was trying to say was:


Chinese New Year takes place this Sunday (10 Feb) and if you are free, are you interested in a dinner together?

Let me know (partners are invited too!) soon so that I can reserve a table at the restaurant.


Frédéric started laughing (and visibly shaking) when he read that, and I knew then it was baaaaaaad. Well, more like entertaining for these folks who read it, and embarassing for me. But I get point for making an attempt at it? *blushes*

The following points are how I have gone so very wrong…

1. Overall, I should have used “vous” (you, plural) instead of “tu” (you, singular), even when the email was technically me speaking to everyone on a one-on-one basis. Afterall, I was still sending it to many. There would be an unspoken notion of “nous” (us) among the recipients.

2. The confusion between “dérouler” (to unwind, to unroll) and “se dérouler” (to take place) is easy to make. For some reason, I’ve always thought of it to be “ça déroule” instead of “se déroule”, which in conversation can sound very similar. Well if anything comes out of this, it is that I’ve learned to distinguish between the two now and I will not make this mistake again in future.

3. Spelling mistake aside for “dîner”, the more I think of it, the more I’m sure there are two more accurate/correct ways to suggest a dinner together. Instead of “d’un diner ensemble”, it should be either (1) “de dîner ensemble”, since “dîner” is a verb that means to have dinner; or (2) “d’avoir un dîner emsemble” by treating “dîner” as a noun. Or is the original phrasing ok on its own?

4. It seems I am still not very good in identifying a masculine or a feminine noun. “Signe” (sign) is more manly that I’ve credited it for, so the use of “une signe” doesn’t exist and should have been “un signe” but in any case, I actually don’t need the indefinitive article for once. “Fais-moi signe” would have been sufficient.

5. See the use of “tes partenaires” up there? A whammy double-error in that two little words alone! Apparently, you don’t refer to someone’s partner as “partenaire” in general in French, as that is commonly understood to mean “sexual partner” with or without the benefit of a relationship. Wish I had known that before I sent the email. Secondly, as open-minded as my friends are, they don’t have multiple partners each and yet somehow I’ve gone on to imply that they all do… oops. (Of course, had I used “vous” form of writing, the multiple partners thing won’t even be a thing.)

6. I am now pondering too if I have a subjunctive-related fault too. “…[D]onc je peux réserver…” would probably be more correct as “…pour que je puisse réserver…”?

7. And at the risk of sounding pompous, I’ve indicated that I could book the table at the restaurant. Pffft, who am I kidding? To get a table would have been great, so the swap would be between “la table” and “une table”.

So, this little piece of self-diagnosis aside, anywhere else I have gone wrong? I know the phrases sound, errr, Anglophone, and currently I am not yet in position to cure this situation. Give me more time. As you can see, I have a whole lot more learning to do!

(Perhaps it is time to look into putting myself back in a classroom somewhere for intensive grammar and vocabulary lessons…)

Category: France, Local lingo, Ma vie en France

Tagged: , , ,

8 scribbles & notes

  1. Sarah says:

    I’m here nearly four years and my written French is STILL atrocious. I run everything through a spellcheck first, and anything important, I get my boyfriend to check.

    • Lil says:

      I am more vigilant for anything important and always get someone to check first, be it F or other friends I can enlist help from. And perhaps because I’m more cautious in these instances, normally I don’t make quite as many mistakes either.

  2. flo says:

    Laughed a lot at this post! Although I should recognize your mistakes are quite normal…
    To add more blush to the terrible “partenaires” misfortune, you have accorded “bienvenu” to the feminine, implying that your friends have several “partners” but exclusively female ones (also an extra -s is missing at “bienvenues” since you still want the several partners to be counted in).
    And finally, let’s be very picky, in the booking table sentence, “donc je peux” would be much better “pour que je puisse” (so that I could), “donc” is more used for consequences: you said you would come, DONC I booked a table.
    Anyway, I cannot say anything as I am not even trying to write emails in German yet… So well done anyway! And offering free laughs to you recipients is also nice.

    • Lil says:

      LOL… gosh, I didn’t even notice that particular error! Funny, as “the partners” invited were actually males! :p And yes, I wasn’t very sure on “donc je peux” because I was starting to have doubt on everything at that stage!

      You’re still newly-moved so German would come along with time. I’m sure your Spanish is a whole lot better than my French!!

  3. med says:

    hehehe…good effort lil ;)

  4. Jo says:

    This is why I just give up after je suis/tu es/nous somme/vous etes. Even if I have an extra brain, I will never get it. You have to be proud of yourself; you are far ahead your fellow Anglophiles

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