French Language Blog

Pick Une Carte Any Carte – A Deck Of Cards In French Posted by on Sep 27, 2017 in Vocabulary

I like to use les jeux vidéo to practice french, but the idea of learning with games is not limited to consoles and computers. Les jeux de cartes (card games) exist à travers le monde (all over the world) and the standard deck of cards that I grew up with aux États-Unis (in the United States) is a common sight in any French household.

Image by Caden Crawford on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

Les jeux de cartes offer a fun way to practice your French and connect with les francophones (French speakers), but unfortunately being familiar with les cartes (the cards) does not help you when you need to know how to say ace of spades en français!

L’histoire des cartes à jouer (the history of playing cards) goes back thousands of years and have historically existed in many civilizations throughout the world. Les cartes are thought to have entered Europe as early as the 14th century through the Arab world, possibly following la Route de la soie (the silk road) all the way from East Asia.

The style of deux couleurs (two colors), quatre enseignes (four suits), nine numbered cards, and four face cards became standard en Europe by the 16th century. Interestingly, until the 19th century the back of les cartes à jouer were completely blank and there was no joker!

Mais comment est-ce qu’on parle des cartes à jouer en français ?
But how do you talk about playing cards in French? 

Voici les quartes enseignes :



Cependant (however), the struggle of talking about les cartes does not stop there. Try to guess how to say Jack en français and you will understand the next hurdle. Les figures (the face cards) are hard to figure out if you think in English. There is even un faux ami you can easily stumble into with a Queen not being une Reine.

Voici les figures :



Heureusement (fortunately), the word for joker is the same en français et en anglais. The word may be the same in both languages because even though le joker is standard today, it was only added to les cartes à jouer in the 19th century, and at first only aux États-Unis.

Les jeux de cartes are a good way to practice French and make friends while having fun with a shared cultural element. However, you need to know le vocabulaire before the games can begin, or at least know how to say as de pique!

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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.