Daily French Slang that Just Might Throw You Off Guard

When you are learning a language through a course of lessons, especially when your teacher is a non native speaker, you often end up sounding like a textbook when you put your knowledge into practice and speak to actual natives. Unfortunately, this is more so the case in French than in other languages. As if French in its ''correct'', traditional form wasn't challenging enough to learn already, colloquial French involves a substantial amount of slang words, or argot, that can very easily throw you off guard or even sound like a different language altogether.


As a French student, I was lucky enough to have been taught quite a few of the most common words you are likely to hear in France in preparation for my year abroad. Thanks to this, I did manage to not be completely befuddled by these strange words. However, if it is even possible, you do tend to only be taught the more 'textbook' slang like 'meuf' for woman, 'gamin' for child etc. Everyday French spoken by natives has a substantial amount of colloquial words that are almost always used instead of the correct word we have learned as foreigners.


So, I have compiled a list of the slang words I hear most on a daily basis, to help you distinguish and understand them immediately! Do remember, though, French people really don't expect you to know all of their argot. They know it's difficult too so don't worry if you don't quite catch the meaning the first few times!


So to begin with the basics, if you're ever at work and your french colleague begins talking about la bouffe or conjugating the verb bouffer, don't panic and scan your internal dictionary for words, he's talking about food. A far cry from nourriture and manger, I agree, but at least this way you only have to remember one word that you can also conjugate into a verb!


If it just so happens that he doesn't enjoy his food, he might choose to refer to it as dégueulasse, a word quite implicit in its essence and although you initially knew it as dégoutant, you might manage to get it from the context – unless it's the first time you hear of it and he's shortened it to dégueu. Which brings me to a little bit of a side note: watch out for abbreviations like that. There are more of them than you initially realize!


So once you've eaten and you're ready to pay for your food, if he talks about le fric or les sous, he means argent, he's just using the cool words! And after lunch, when you're ready to head back to your taf, your guess is correct, he does meantravail. A nasty one, I know – I used to think I was cool when I used boulot but taf is definitely a necessary addition to your vocabulary!

After work it is common in France to go for a, as they call it, after-work, which obviously means an after-work drink. However, if the expression you know is boire un verre, an invite for coup or a pot might confuse you just a little bit. Again, fear not! These are just synonyms for the boring word you learned in class!


But don't just take my word for it. Do some research yourself! Below is a list of helpful articles and dictionaries that explain French slang, check them out! And most importantly, do ask the people you are speaking to when you don't understand! It's no secret that the French in particular thoroughly enjoy their language, they'd be more than happy to explain!


  • L'Argot French Slang - http://www.uqtr.ca/argot/ (A great site which allows you to practice using slang vocabulary and listen to it's pronunciation).

  • Verlan- About.com - http://french.about.com/od/vocabulary/a/verlan.htm (Explains the usage and gives examples of a particular type of French slang known as Verlan).

  • Informal French and slang - http://ielanguages.com/frenchslang.html (A really useful site that gives examples of interjections and filler words, explains how to use informal French, and also has a dictionary of French slang).

  • Lexilogos Dictionnaires d'argot - http://www.lexilogos.com/argot.htm (A list of different sites that for learning about French slang or 'argot').

  • French today - http://www.frenchtoday.com/blog/parler-d-jeunes-french-slang-generation-y-part1 (An interesting article giving examples of the type of slang used by young people today, specifically those born in the 90's)


    There are also several good books on French Slang available on sites like Amazon:

  • Streetwise French Dictionary/Thesaurus: The User-Friendly Guide to French Slang and Idioms by Ian Pickup and Rod Hares

  • Harrap's Slang Dictionary English-French: Francais-Anglais by Helen Knox

  • Dirty French: Everyday Slang by Adrien Clautier and Henry Rowe

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