French Language Blog

French Raisin Juice – Dried Grapes And False Friends Posted by on Oct 4, 2017 in Vocabulary

Misunderstandings can be the best way to learn un nouveau mot (a new word), as long as you eventually figure out what you didn’t understand. I have learned many nouveaux mots from not understanding something, par exemple, les piles et la lessive (for example, batteries and laundry detergent).

Photo by tribp on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Grapes and wine bring up thoughts of France, but learning le vocabulaire de la viticulture (the viticulture vocabulary) involves many nouveaux mots and sometimes falling for des faux amis.

If cette phrase (that sentence) was confusing to you, ne vous inquiétez pas (don’t worry), I had the same thought:

« Viticulture » est un mot que je ne connais pas en anglais, encore moins en français !
“Viticulture” is a word that I don’t know in English, never mind in French!

For those who are curious, voici la définition de viticulture selon le CNRTL (here’s the definition of viticulture according to the CNRTL; Centre national de ressources textuelles et lexicales, National Center of Textual and Lexical Resources):

Ensemble des techniques permettant de cultiver la vigne pour produire du vin.
Set of the techniques that allow the cultivation of grapevines for the production of wine.

Similarly, I didn’t know the word for grapes in French until one day I was à l’épicerie (at the grocery store). While looking for everything on ma liste de courses (my shopping list), I saw something on the shelf that stood out to me:

Jus de raisin 

I knew that jus was juice, but made the mistake of thinking in English and assuming raisin en français was the same thing as raisin in English. I thought I was looking at raisin juice.

Alors qu’est que c’est le jus de raisin ? 
So what is le jus de raisin

I could not imagine how les Français (the French) managed to make juice from raisins. It was such an absurd idea to me that I started laughing in the middle of l’épicerie!

Je devais l’acheter. 
I had to buy it. 

Une fois rentré à la maison (once I got home), I thought maybe I should add some water to le jus in order to make it more palatable, but decided I wanted to first try pure raisin juice before adding anything to it.

I poured a glass of le jus de raisin and wondered if I would regret it. Heureusement (fortunately), as soon as le jus hit mes papilles (my taste buds) I knew what it was.

C’est du jus de raisin ! 
It’s grape juice! 

I had to look up how to say raisin en français before I realized my mistake:

Le raisinGrape 
Le raisin secRaisin 

The word for raisin is literally dried grapes, but my confusion came from how normal grapes share the same name as the English word for the dried fruit! I still have never had raisin juice, but remembering my mistake assures that I never forget how le raisin is not the same thing as the raisin.

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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.