12 Things You Didn’t Know About The French Language

Hotel du Louvre
Hotel du Louvre | © Barn Images/Flickr
Delene Di Vita

Ever wondered what exactly déjà vu is? Have you made a faux pas? Eaten an hors d’oeuvre? Voulez-vous an explanation vis-à-vis the ensemble above? Then voilà, here’s a list of French words that have subtly entered the English vocabulary.

Je t’aime

Called the language of love, French is a romance language — a modern form of spoken Latin. Nobody says je t’aime quite like the French, and the language is full of doting words of affection such as amour (love), cheri(e) (darling), puce (sweetie), bisous (kiss), trésor (treasure)… How can you resist tomber amoureux/amoureuse – falling in love with French?

Robert Doisneau Kiss by the Hotel de Ville 1950

Au fait

French is the only language, along with English, that is taught in every country throughout the world. It was also the official language of England for over 600 years.

France operates the biggest international network of cultural institutes like the Alliance Française, with its 850 centers in 137 countries on five continents, which promote the French language and culture with courses for learners of every age.


Some say French is like a springboard for learning other foreign languages such as Spanish, Portuguese and Italian. Once you have French down, just remember: Spanish is -ción, Italian is -zione and Portuguese is -ção. What better way to get a head-start in exploring Spain, Portugal and Italy than through French?


Coup d’état, bureaucracy

French has a long history as an international language of diplomacy, commerce, literature, and scientific standards. It is also an official language of many international organizations, including the United Nations, NATO, the European Union and the International Olympic Committee.

Eiffel Tower dressed in EU colors

Eh bien, dansez maintenant

The language of Ballet (a French word) with its own vocabulary based on French terminology, which came into English usage around 1630. Ever seen a ballet dancer leap into a Grand jeté (a great split in the air) or a cabriole, or even perform a pirouettte?

Ballet shoes

En vogue, à la mode

French is the language of fashion — faux-fur, haute-couture, prêt-à-porter and eau de parfum.

Meandering through Paris, the fashion capital of the world, master the art of shopping à la Parisienne with boutiques on avenue Montaigne and place Vendôme. Leading French schools of fashion like ESMOD France, established in 1841, which Olivier Rousteing (head designer of Balmain) attended, offer prestigious fashion design courses.

Paris Fashion

Au revoir malbouffe

The language of taste buds will inspire you to bid adieu to junk food! ‘Anyone can cook,’ said Chef Gusteau in Disney’s Ratatouille (pronounced rat-tat-too-ee).

Ever looked at all those scrumptious morceaux (morsels) that make up any Bistro’s menu and wondered if you could cook them yourself? You can if you become a Cordon Bleu-grade expertin haute cuisine, including crème brûlée, mousse au chocolat, baguette and foie gras.


Carte blanche

France is ranked as the world’s seventh largest economy by purchasing power parity, so working in French has its advantages in the job market. French is also an official language in Canada, Monaco, Switzerland, Belgium and in some Northern and sub-Saharan African countries with prosperous and/or emerging economic markets.

Bon voyage

France is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Visit picturesque French villages like Giverny, Monet’s hometown, and experience travel without the feeling of being just another tourist.

If France’s charismatic appeal doesn’t lure you, why not travel to the French Polynesia Islands of Tahiti, where French impressionist painter Paul Gauguin spent the last years of his life.

Avant garde

French literature is a subject of national pride and has played an important role in European literature. The country tops the list of most Nobel prizes in literature, with more French writers being awarded Nobel Prizes in literature than novelists, poets and essayists from any other country.

Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers will teach you all about fencing, adventuring, injustice, abuse and friendship. Delve in to The Count of Monte Cristo, filled with themes of hope, justice, vengeance, mercy, and forgiveness – all in French, bien sûr.



Team spirit, pride and education are central to the language spoken in renowned French universities and business schools, which are ranked among the top higher education institutions in Europe and the world.

Study at Paris’ historic university, the Sorbonne, where Marie Curie, Vera Wang and Jackie Kennedy also studied. If you speak a good level of French other study opportunities, bursaries and scholarships for internationally recognized French qualifications may be available.

A view from Panthéon, Paris


A long list of celebrities speak French, including Jodie Foster, Bradley Cooper, Johnny Depp, John Malkovich, Diane Kruger, Elton John, Ewan Mcgregor, Halle Berry, Madonna, Mick Jagger, and John Travolta.

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