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Mixing Up Chocolate Croissants And Croissant Chocolates In French Posted by on Oct 10, 2018 in Vocabulary

Sometimes I surprise myself when I make une faute (a mistake) speaking le français. Même si (even if) I have years of experience, I still can oublier (forget) words or realize I don’t know how to talk about certain subjects. Occasionally, I just make really silly mistakes that don’t seem to make any sense, but that’s a part of learning la langue (the language).

Image from Pixabay. Licensed under CC0.

Mes parents sont venus (my parents came) to visit me à Paris recently and it was a great couple weeks of touring around the country. Beyond taking a moment to be a tourist and enjoy la France, the visit made me see some of the struggles les anglophones (English speakers) have communicating dans un pays francophone (in a French speaking country). To be fair, after spending a few days switching between le français and l’anglais, I started to make strange mistakes in both languages too.

Par exemple (for example), one morning au café (at a café), I ran into a problem while trying to place our order:

Bonjour !
Bonjour !
Alors vous êtes prêts ?
Oui, on veut deux cafés au lait, un café et trois chocolats au pain.
Trois quoi ?

Hello!
Hello!
So, are you ready?
Yes, we want two lattes, one coffee, and three croissant chocolates.
Three what?

I didn’t realize la faute and thought le serveur (the waiter) was making a joke about the different ways to say the famous bread en français.

Je ne vais pas dire une chocolatine !
Ah, d’accord. Donc deux cafés au lait, un café normal et trois pains au chocolat. C’est tout ?
…Oui c’est tout.

I’m not going to say a chocolatine!
Ah, okay. So two lattes, a normal coffee, and three chocolate croissants. That’s everything?
…Yes that’s everything.

I immediately felt embarrassed for making such a silly mistake, but heureusement (luckily), le serveur didn’t seem to care.

During all this, mes parents were trying to follow along and mon père (my father) thought the order wasn’t complete. He wanted to be sure to get his morning coffee before le serveur left and quickly added:

Et un café au lait aussi !
Donc trois cafés au lait ?

And a latte too!
So three lattes?

It was confusing at first, but after taking a moment to explain to both mes parents and le serveur that we didn’t need an extra café au lait, everything was fine. Le serveur then shouted our order to la cuisine (the kitchen):

Un express, deux crèmes et trois viennoiseries !

One express, two creams, and three viennoiseries!

Mes parents noticed that what le serveur shouted didn’t sound anything like what we had just ordered, making them worried we were not going to get le petit déjeuner (the breakfast) we wanted. Cependant (however), I assured them they understood our order because those are all just different words to say more or less the same thing:

Un expressAn espresso (shortened from un expresso, which is a normal coffee in France)
Un crèmeA coffee with cream (shortened from un café crème, coffee with cream)
Une viennoiserieA pastry (a more generic term than pain au chocolat, but easy for la cuisine to understand with context)

I may have made a pretty strange mistake by accidentally saying chocolat au pain instead of pain au chocolat, but in the end it all worked out and made the experience au café more memorable for me and mes parents. Making mistakes is always an important part of learning, even if it sometimes leads to embarrassing moments.

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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.