French Language Blog

French Vocabulary – Teaching and Learning Posted by on Oct 29, 2019 in Culture, Language, Vocabulary

In a few short months, I will be completing my studies towards a Masters in Education. If all goes well, one of these days I hope to become prof de français (a French teacher) in a local college ou lycée (middle or high school). While that days is still a ways off, my work got me thinking about the different types of knowledge and about the different ways to talk about teaching and learning in French.

To teach or to learn?

One of the nuances of French that I have always wondered at is the way that the verb apprendre can mean both to teach and to learn. While most of us learn the later definition, it is commonly used in French to mean it opposite.1The French linguist and philosopher Roland Barthes called words like this – that can mean one thing and their opposite – énantiosèmes. You can see a few more of them here. Let’s look at some examples. [Click the play button if you would like to hear each phrase pronounced.]

J’apprends le français. / I am learning French.

J’apprends le français à mon neveu. / I am teaching my nephew French.

Nous apprenons à jouer au tennis. / We are learning to play tennis.

Nous apprenons à jouer au tennis à nos nouveaux amis. / We are teaching our new friends to play tennis.

Apprendre is a regular -re verb. The present tense conjugations are: j’apprends / tu apprends / il/elle/on apprend / nous apprenons / vous apprenez / ils/elles apprennent . You can see more here.

Of course if you’re mad at someone, you can also say “Je vais t’apprendre … !” which would mean “I’m gonna teach you … !”

The other common verb for to teach is enseigner. It is a bit more formal than apprendre and likely to be the word you would hear and would use when talking about teaching in a school. A French teacher would be more likely to say “J’enseigne le français.“, for example, when asked what they do for a living.

Don’t forget that French also has multiple words for talking about what is being taught. Review this post to see how the verbs savoir and connaître can both mean to know.

Fait divers / Variety

I don’t want to let this week go by without acknowledging that Halloween is Friday. If you are someone qui aime avoir peur (who likes to be scared) you might like the new series now streaming on Netflix, Marianne. The story takes place in France and is filmed entirely in French. A (potentially) great way to work on your listening comprehension skills … if you can stand the fright! 😉 I will miss the fun this year as I will be on a plane flying to France! More on that when I return la semaine prochaine (next week).

Apple picture CCo from

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    The French linguist and philosopher Roland Barthes called words like this – that can mean one thing and their opposite – énantiosèmes. You can see a few more of them here.
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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Since my first trip to France at 16, I have been a passionate francophile. I love the language, food, music, art, people, and more that make France and la Francophonie in general such an amazing part of our global community. Having lived in France and studied the language and culture for over 35 years, it is my great pleasure to be able to share a little bit of my deep love with you through this blog.