The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Don't Tell People You're Hot

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During my first week in France, I quickly learned that English and French do not directly translate. Before I hopefully give you a chuckle at my own expense, here’s a quick language crash course. In French,  “Je” means “I,” and “chaud(e)” means “hot.”  The verb “Être” means “to be,” and “suis” is the “I-“ form— so “Je suis,” means “I am.” The verb “Avoir” means “to have,” and “ai” is the “I-“ form— so “J’ai (Je+ai),” means “I have.” 

Je - I

Être- To be

Suis- I-form of être

Je suis- I am

Avoir- To have

Ai- I-form of avoir

J’ai (Je+ai)- I have

Chaud(e)- Hot

I would just like to quickly say that I consider myself conversational in French, and that I definitely could have prevented my mistake, had I been given more time to think about what I was saying. But I didn't have a lot of time, so I had to rely on the automatic translator in my head.  

It was one of my first nights in France, around 23:00, or 11:00 pm.

I was in a loud, crowded bar, feeling like a sardine. After ten minutes of being squished in between sweaty bodies, I decided to step outside to get some fresh air. On my way out, my French friend yelled after me, “pourquoi tu pars,” why are you leaving? To which I shouted back, “Je suis chaude!” As soon as I said that, a good amount of fellow sardines around me turned around, some with their eyebrows raised, some smiling. My French friend immediately grabbed my arm and ushered me outside.

*freezeframe* If you don't speak French and haven't caught on to my embarrassing moment yet, allow me to explain what I mean when I say English and French do not directly translate.  

You see, what I was trying to tell my French friend, was that I was physically hot, like sweating buckets and on the verge of dehydration. However, what I ~actually~ announced to the entire bar, was that I was feeling like Nelly Furtado in a certain hit song of hers featuring Timbaland. If you're not sure what I mean, Google it.  Also, give it a listen because it's a classic.

Basically, I came on to the whole bar.  Not because I was attracted to every person in there—I definitely was not. This was just your classic case of sloppy semantics. In English, we say, “I am,” when describing our temperature. I’m hot. On the contrary, in French they say, “I have,” when describing temperature. I have hot. They use “I am” to describe mental states. So, what I really should have said, is “J’ai chaud.”

You know the saying, “What doesn't kill you makes you stronger?” Well, it’s true. Was I initially red-faced with embarrassment while my french friend was explaining my mistake? Yes. However, am I still alive? Yes. Plus, I am a better French speaker because of it.  

When you're learning a new language, mistakes happen. You just have to laugh them off and keep trying. At least now I know why my middle school French teacher knew I was a serial Google translate user.

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