There are many different reasons why people come to do a French language stay in France; personal or professional. Some of the people I have met whilst learning French in France have wanted to learn every single technicality of language; often these are people studying for an official qualification like the French DELF exams. Others are just learning for personal use and are interested in the language commonly used. I think there are advantages to be had in learning the slang no matter what your motivation for doing a French immersion course but particularly if you are focusing more on conversational language learning slang words and phrases can be really helpful. I will delve into the benefits of learning slang in another article but for now I want to discuss some of it you are likely to come across in relation to complaining so you know what’s going on when you chat with locals. Also they are so fun particularly when you learn the literal translations.
Je suis crevé(e) – I’m nackered
Crever is a synonym for mourir (die) but also means ‘to burst’ so the form used in the phrase is the past participle or the adjective form of the word so literally it can be seen as I am dead or I’ve burst and is quite familiar. A polite version you could use would be ‘fatigué(e)’.
J’ai la flemme – I can’t be bothered
This is a fun one and is useful for expressing when you don’t have the drive to do something. It translates literally as I have the slackness which doesn’t really make much sense but there is a vague relation between the words.
J’ai la crève – I have a bad cold
I’ve been hearing this a lot in the winter time without really understanding what it means. It seems to be used in this form soley for having a cold but as we saw about there is a very similar family of words meaning ‘to die’ or ‘to burst’ so it could orbit around that.
J’ai la dalle – I’m starving
I like this one because of the imagery it provokes when I translate it literally into English which is ‘I have the slab’. There have been times during my time learning French in France where I have been so hungry it has felt like I’m dragging around this huge weight so this phrase really struck a chord with me. ‘J’ai faim’ is the simple and polite way of saying this phrase and the couple below and if you are in doubt about which is acceptable just revert to this. Some of these are very familiar and people in different circles will have different opinions about what is appropriate.
Je meurs de faim – I’m dying of hunger
Continuing with a variation on the theme this one brings a lovely bit of exaggeration into the phrase.
J’ai un petit creux – I’m peckish
This is a slightly softer version of its boisterous brothers above and describes when you are little hungry by saying you have ‘a little hollow’ in your stomach. Nothing to intense just a little room for some grub.
Je m’en fous – I don’t care
Probably screamed by French teenagers from Montpellier to Strasbourg followed swiftly by the slamming of a door this is a useful little phrase that can be applied to many situations. Basically it means it makes no difference to me and is very common so useful to know.
So there are a few phrases to look out for in the street but it’s unlikely you will hear them in your DELF preparation courses in France but they are useful to know for everyone learning French in France as the locals use them all the time. It’s very fun to hear them in the street whilst you’re walking around Montpellier and using them from time to time is even more fun.