I provided students with the following list of words:

  • Le catastrophe (catastrophe)
  • Le pamplemousse (grapefruit)
  • Oubliable (forgettable)
  • Chercher (to look for)
  • Le prestidigitateur (conjurer/magician.... REALLY hard to say!)
  • Saperlipopette! (Oh my goodness!/interjection to show surprise)

They were then asked to think of any other French words which they thought sounded amusing, and add them to the list. Finally, they could search for more in dictionaries/vocabulary lists, etc.

Try asking students to create their own French-sounding nonsense word (à la Flight of the Conchords and Foux du fafa). This requires them to think about the sounds which are typically 'French', and combine them in an original way. Therefore, it takes them up to the 'create' level of Bloom's taxonomy.

Students could also investigate words which do not have a direct equivalent in English, and find the most appropriate translation:

"My French vs English word-list"
This person has a list of words which are 'unexpressable' in the other language.

Give students the words in context and ask them to guess at the meaning. Ask them to look in different dictionaries to see how the words are translated. Do they agree?

Further examples, which students may have come across:

la charcuterie
je ne sais quoi
la consigne
le goûter
la journée
la tartine
la patrie
la rentrée


Have a look here for a picture of a francophone icon using this word.