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Bonne Fête Nationale ! – Happy Independence Day In French! Posted by on Jul 4, 2019 in Culture, Vocabulary

Happy 4th of July to all les lecteurs américains (the American readers)! Here’s to a day off, barbecue, and fireworks!

Image from Pixabay. Licensed under CC0.

While today is the big national holiday for les États-Unis (the United States), nearly every country has an important fête (holiday) centered around their national identity in some way or another.

Here en France le 14 juillet (Bastille Day, literally: July 14th) is still 10 days away, but people are already getting excited for all les feux d’artifices et les défilés (fireworks and parades).

While les dates (the dates) may be more than a week apart and l’histoire (the history) completely different, there are still some fun connections between the 4th of July and le 14 juillet.

USA : Le jour de l’Indépendance, la fête nationale
France : La fête nationale, le 14 juillet

USA: Independence Day, the 4th of July
France: Bastille Day

Notice how both days can be called fête nationale (National Day) in French. Beyond les feux d’artifices and all the fun with family and friends, the similar names led mon collègue (my coworker) to make a simple mistake in English:

Salut John ! Tu es prêt pour ta National Day ?

Hi John! Are you ready for your National Day?

Yes, they really did say National Day in English while everything else was in French. It’s not uncommon for les Français (French people) to add English words to French sentences, especially for idea deeply connected to an English speaking culture like the 4th of July.

It can sometimes feel like teasing or le second degré (sarcasm), but it’s important to remember that it’s actually coming from a place of friendship.

Saying National Day in itself was however a funny mistake I wasn’t going to led slide after saying so many silly things en français to mon collègue:

Haha, oui ! Mais tu sais, on dit pas National Day aux États-Unis.
Ah ouais ? Tu dis quoi alors ?
On dit the 4th of July ou Independence Day.

Haha, yes! But you know, we don’t say National Day in the United States.
Ah yeah? What do you say then?
We say the 4th of July or Independence Day

Mon collègue was a little embarrassed, but happy to learn something new. They had accidentally been thinking en français, translating fête nationale into National Day.

So as you’re watching les feux d’artifices tonight, practice your French with a hearty:

Bonne fête nationale !
Happy Independence Day!

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.