French Language Blog

French Lessons Hiding In Un Café – Coffee Order Mistakes Posted by on May 29, 2019 in Vocabulary

Le café (coffee) hides a lot of surprising lessons for anyone learning la langue de Molière (the Language of Molière, French expression for the French language). From the size of the cup to the establishment itself, there’s a lot to learn from le café français (French coffee).

Image from Pixabay. Licensed under CC0.

My daily routine has become amazingly regular over the past couple of months. Many people à Paris (in Paris) have a fun little rhyme for that monotonous cycle of working, commuting, and sleeping:

Métro, boulot, dodo
Subway, work, sleep

The morning stretch of my daily métro, boulot, dodo journey was recently slightly altered when I went to order my usual morning coffee. I walked into le café (the cafe) and immediately went into autopilot:

Bonjour, ça va ?
Bonjour, ça va et vous ?
Ça va. Alors, un allongé s’il vous plaît.
D’accord. Veillez attendre juste à côté, s’il vous plaît.

Hello, how are you?
Hello, I’m fine and you?
I’m fine. So, a long black please.
Alright. Please wait to the side please.

As I moved aside to wait, I heard the barista shout my order to son collègue (their coworker), except what I heard wasn’t what I ordered:

Un Alain Grey !
An Alan Grey!

Shocked out of my usual morning zombie state of mind, I quickly caught the attention of le barista (the barista) to fix the oh so important order.

Excusez-moi ! Je voulais un allongé…
Oui, un Alain Grey.
Non ! Un a-long-gé !
Ah, je suis désolé monsieur.

Excuse me! I wanted an allongé…
Yes, an Alan Grey.
No! An a-long-gé!
Ah, I’m sorry sir.

My order was fixed, but I felt slightly embarrassed mon accent (my accent) had made things more difficult.

I was also a little confused because I had no idea what un Alain Grey was even supposed to be!

When I picked up my order, I decided to ask le barista about the mysterious morning drink in order to better understand what I had accidentally ordered.

Voici votre allongé.
Merci ! Et en fait, tout à l’heure quand je l’ai commandé vous avez entendu un Alain Grey ?
Un Alain Grey ?
Oui ? C’est ce que vous avez dit ça à votre collègue ?
Non… En fait je pensais que vous aviez commandé un Earl Grey.

Here’s your allongé.
Thank you! And actually, earlier when I ordered it you heard an Alan Grey?
An Alan grey?
Yes? That’s what you said to your coworker?
No… Actually I thought you had ordered an Earl Grey.

It was like les feux d’artifices (fireworks) in my mind as I realized I misheard my mistaken order!

The whole situation was somewhat awkward, but the real lesson was in not being afraid to make mistakes and then ask about them. Even if it’s embarrassing, learning from simple errors and misunderstandings is a big part of learning la langue de Molière.

With my morning thoughts thoroughly shaken up, I left for le bureau (the office) a bit later than usual, but at least I had mon allongé.

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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.