What’s making us cry today

For context, (a) 9/11 didn’t make me cry per se; I was shocked, I was horrified, I gave blood, but I didn’t cry; and (b) I’m a middle-aged American male and hence have been raised from childhood not to cry.  But, this blog post brought me to tears.  It’s an excellent French lesson from the Lawless French web site.  It’s more or less a perfect lesson for intermediate-to-advanced students of French who already speak English–it includes a video segment, the French transcription, the English translation, a vocabulary section, a grammar points section, and links to further reading.  You couldn’t ask for more.

The tears-inducing part is that the lesson is centered completely around Hollande’s address to the French people right after the Friday 13 November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris.  What got me was the contrast between the topic of the material and the topic of the material in French lessons when I was taking French 101 in college.  We had lessons centered around eating in a restaurant, renting an apartment, or meeting interesting French people (a little unrealistic, since Americans in France practically never meet French people on a personal level, but perhaps that’s part of its charm).  That was French language instruction when I was a younger man–French instruction today seems often to be about terrorism.  (If you look back through the previous year and a half’s worth of posts on this blog, you’ll find a disturbing number about vocabulary that I learnt in the context of news story about terrorist attacks.)  This is not the world that I grew up in…

Some vocabulary from Lawless French’s lesson on expressing sorrow and regret:

  • être désolé(e) de qqch: to be sorry about something.  Desole de ne pas vous avoir donne des nouvelles pendant un mois mais l’explication de ce sejour prolonge sera bientot l’objet d’un prochain article.  [NOTE: the author didn’t use any accents.]  “Sorry not to have given you any news for a month, but the explanation of this prolonged stay will soon be the object of a forthcoming article.”  (Source:tour-du-monde-autostop.fr)
  • être navré(e) de qqch: to be sorry about something.  Étant député d’une région où le taux de chômage est relativement élevé, je suis extrêmement navré de constater que ce gouvernement laisse tomber toute une catégorie de la population. “As a member of parliament for a region where the unemployment rate is relatively high, I am greatly distressed to see that this government is ignoring a whole category of the population.” (Source:www2.parl.gc.ca, via linguee.fr)  Je suis navré d’apprendre la mort de L.B. Je le connaissais depuis plus de 30 ans.I am very sorry to learn of the death of L.B. I knew him for more than 30 years.”

In American English, “I’m sorry” can be an admission of guilt (“I’m sorry I broke your foot”) or an expression of sympathy (“I’m sorry you broke your foot”).  As far as I can tell, désolé tends more towards the former, but also works for the latter.  Navré seems to be more for the latter.  I haven’t found firm native speaker judgements about this; WordReference.com gives examples of both for désolé.


One thought on “What’s making us cry today”

  1. Bonjour,

    Thank you for writing this article. I had very mixed feelings about creating this lesson, as you can imagine, but in the end I decided that using a historic speech as the basis for listening practice is at least as useful and relevant as something about visiting Marseilles or French table etiquette.

    Re. désolé vs navré, I was always under the same impression as you, but while creating that list of expressions (after Charlie Hebdo) I asked French friends, who confirmed that both can be used for both.

    Merci encore et bonne continuation –

    Laura K. Lawless


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Curative Power of Medical Data

JCDL 2020 Workshop on Biomedical Natural Language Processing


Criminal Curiosities


Biomedical natural language processing

Mostly Mammoths

but other things that fascinate me, too


Adventures in natural history collections

Our French Oasis


ACL 2017

PC Chairs Blog

Abby Mullen

A site about history and life

EFL Notes

Random commentary on teaching English as a foreign language

Natural Language Processing

Université Paris-Centrale, Spring 2017

Speak Out in Spanish!

living and loving language




Exploring and venting about quantitative issues

%d bloggers like this: