Learn French: Christmas Conversations, Part 1

Learn French: Christmas Conversations, Part 1

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traditional French Christmas Eve midnight dinner

Tradtional repas de Noël. Photo: Reed à son Pellier

To celebrate the holidays, let’s learn some French set in context in this small, simple and realistic French dialogue. Here are some expressions that may come in handy around the holidays. Even if you’ve know some French, I hope this will be a fun refresher.

This is the first in a two-part lesson. The second lesson will be published later this week—watch our home page!

French Vocabulary for the Holidays

  • Joyeuses fêtes [shoa yeuz fayt]: Happy Holidays
  • Joyeux Noël: Merry Christmas!
  • Noël: careful, pronounce like “no” and then “elle”, no gliding: Christmas.
  • Qu’est-ce que tu fais (vous faîtes) pour Noël cette année?: What are you doing for Christmas this year?
  • Être catholique [“sa” to lead, hard “t” sound]: to be Catholic.
  • Prier: to pray
  • La messe de minuit: Christmas mass held at (or before) midnight
  • Le Réveillon: repas de Noël: Christmas meal
  • Les cadeaux: gifts (un cadeau)
  • Les huitres, une huitre [lay zwee tr, oon whee tr]: oysters, an oyster
  • Le foie gras: Really? You don’t know that one by now? A French type of duck or goose liver paté
  • Une dinde: a turkey
  • Les marrons: chestnuts (when you eat them) or horse chestnuts (when on a tree, and if you are precise… a chestnut is really une châtaigne)
  • Une bûche de Noël: a Christmas yule log (a typical Christmas cake)
  • Être pratiquant: to be active in a religion
  • Un sapin de Noël: A Christmas tree (un sapin is a type of pine tree)
  • Une guirlande [gear land]: a garland
  • Une crèche: a little shelter with sculptures of Mary, Joseph, usually the donkey and the cow, the three wise men, a few sheep and shepherds. On Christmas Eve, after mass, the youngest child usually adds little baby Jesus.
  • Une réunion familiale: a family reunion
  • Souhaiter: to wish

French Holiday Dialogue

Camille : Bonjour Patrick, ça va ?

Patrick : Salut Camille, ça va bien, et toi ?

Camille : Très bien merci. Dis-moi, qu’est-ce que tu fais pour Noël cette année ?

Patrick : Noël est une fête très importante pour ma famille. On est très catholiques chez nous. Le 24, on se rejoint tous pour prier, et aller à la messe de minuit : même si la messe est avant minuit, c’est trop tard pour mes parents qui sont un peu âgés pour faire le Réveillon le 24 au soir. Alors on le fait le 25 : on ouvre les cadeaux, et on déguste le repas de Noël avec des huitres, du foie gras, une dinde aux marrons, et puis bien sûr une bonne bûche de Noël. Le tout arrosé de Champagne bien entendu ! Et toi ?

English Translation

Camille: Hi Patrick, how are you?

Patrick: Hi Camille, all is good, and you?

Camille: Good, thank you. Tell me, what are you doing for Christmas this year?

Patrick: Christmas is very important for my family. We are deeply Catholic in my family. On the 24th, we all join in prayer, and go to the midnight mass: even if the mass is before midnight, it’s too late for my parents who are a bit too old to wait for the Christmas meal on the 24th. So we celebrate it on the 25th: we open the presents, and savor the Christmas meal with oysters, duck paté, turkey with chestnuts, and of course a good Christmas yule log. All washed down with Champagne of course! And you?

Notes for French Speakers

  • In modern street French, “on” is used instead of “nous“. The verb is at the third person singular. The adjectives, however, agree in gender and number with the meaning of “on.”
  • Contrast “un sapin artificiel” with “un sapin naturel
  • Déguster: to savor, more elegant than “manger
  • Arroser” (to water a plant) is also used with alcohol as an idiom: “c’était un dîner bien arrosé” means “It was a dinner with many alcoholic drinks.”
  • Watch out not to mistake “en fait” (in fact) with “on fête” (one celebrates)
  • Ne plus jamais: never anymore
  • If your family is French, say “j’ai des origines françaises,” don’t say “je suis français” unless you are of French nationality
  • Une belle-famille: in laws
  • Quand même: still, nevertheless

Camille Chevalier-Karfis lives in Brittany and she’s been teaching today’s French language to adults around the world for over 19 years with her company, French Today. Please click on her name to learn more about her by reading her complete profile.

 

 

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Although born and raised in Paris, Camille lived in Boston for 16 years and has been teaching today's French language for 20 years to adults around the world in person, by phone and through Skype. Repatriating to Brittany, France, in 2008 to be closer to family and to practice a balanced lifestyle, Camille created French Today, offering original audio novels and audio courses based on the adult student needs and interests, and written and recorded using the modern French language. She is the author of a full French audio method called “À Moi Paris” comprised of 4 audiobooks for the French beginner and French intermediate learner. She is also the author of more than 15 other audiobooks and audio lessons on grammar, modern pronunciation and vocabulary. In October 2014, Camille was also chosen to be the About.com French Expert, the largest French web site in the world.

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