I’m always amazed by the American stereotype that France disdains American culture and the English language. I recently read a web page on the subject of How you know you’re becoming French (sorry, I can’t find the link). One of the clues was “you mix English in with your French.” This is absolutely accurate. We Americans avoid this if at all possible, and in French-speaking Canada it’s not looked upon well, but the French throw in English all the time–it’s considered cool, and makes you sound au courant. I kept track of the English words that got thrown into conversation for a couple days. Here’s what I came up with.
- “Live:” This came up while a friend made the point that modern classical music has to be listened to “live.” I wasn’t expecting an English word, and asked: “live” as in en direct? Yes, she said.
- “Raw data:” This came up in a conversation about a kind of analysis that I was discussing with a research oncologist. (France has one of the best health care systems in the world–totally comparable to America’s, except inexpensive.) A minute later she used the French expression: données crudes.
- “Outward-directed:” This came up in a discussion of the nature of happiness at a café philo. The speaker immediately gave the French equivalent, dirigé à l’extérieur, so it’s clearly not the case that he didn’t know how to say it–it’s just cool to say it in English, right?
- “Star:” This came up in a discussion of a job opening at a Parisian university: “they’re looking for a ‘star,'” said my interlocutor. As I write this, there’s a conversation on the radio talking about what makes someone a star, versus a star de qualité, versus a navette (movie star), versus an étoile (star in the heavens)–do box office receipts equate to quality?
- “Karma is a bitch:” This came up at the conclusion of a news story on the very hoity-toity radio program that I listen to in the morning. It was at the conclusion of a story about well-known scumbag Martin Shkreli’s arrest. I don’t know the French equivalent.
- “The weather is pretty good:” Same hoity-toity radio program. (France culture matin–excellent program. It’s like Morning Edition or All Things Considered in the US, multiplied by 10.) No particular reason that I could tell of for throwing it in there–like I said, it’s just cool to mix English with your French here.
So, don’t sweat your vocabulary–speak French as much as you can, and if you have to mix in some English vocabulary, it’s not going to be the end of the world.