5 Steps for becoming a Motivation Guru

Motivation is more complex than you think

Motivation is more complex than you think

Note to self, motivation is one of the most important factors for success in language learning. Yet, beyond the fact that everyone tells us to “be more motivated,” how much do we really know about it? First off, you should be aware that there is more than one kind of motivation. Secondly, know who this guy is because he literally wrote the book (or in this case the article) on motivation and language learning: Richard Gardner.

There are 4 kinds of motivation

Integrative- The title says it all. People who posses integrative motivation want to learn a foreign language in order to integrate with native speakers. They are interested in communicating with people and learning about their culture and language.

Instrumental- With this type, language becomes a tool (or instrument if you will) that allows you to achieve some goal such as passing your French exam or getting a job promotion.

Intrinsic- Motivation to learn comes from within.

Extrinsic- You are motivated to learn a language because someone else is either going to reward you or penalize you for it. Where as intrinsic motivation tends to correlate with long-term success, extrinsic is linked to more short term gains.

What the research says …

Gardner said that it’s hard to define motivation but it’s easy to list the attributes of motivated people (they tend to be driven, goal oriented, self-efficacious, not afraid to make mistakes). He also said that motivation impacts the thought processes, feelings and behavior of learners and went on to create the Attitude and Motivation Test Battery to use in his studies, a tool that tries to get at the different types of motivation learners have. He focused much of his research on the distinction between integrative vs instrumental and in Gardner and Lambert (1959, 1972) showed that integrative motivation correlated with greater success in language learning.

Be a motivation guru

5 Steps for becoming a Motivation Guru

So, considering that researchers today say you can’t always tease the instrumental from the integrative, how can you motivate yourself to have more of the “awesome” kind of motivation that correlates with success in language learning?

1. Ask yourself why you are learning a language.
Is it just for school or work or because you are actually interested in the culture? If it’s not the latter then become interested. Learning about the people and places where a language is spoken helps, but so does relating this knowledge to topics you already care about. For example if you fancy your morning Starbucks look into how Italians take their coffee. In this way you will develop both integrative and intrinsic motivation to learn more. If you are already interested in the culture, keep up the good work! Pick up a book on the local music, culinary, or religious traditions and read it in parallel to your language study.

2. Seek out people who speak the language or come from the target country.
This one is a no-brainer. Humans are social creatures and we like company, especially new friends we can communicate with. Making contacts outside of your mother tongue language circle will not only encourage incidental learning and up your exposure to language input, but it will foster more integrative emotions and expand your perspective at the same time.

3. Watch a soap opera or romantic comedy in the target language.
Do the characters seem like-able? If at the end you’d like to tell them off or invite them over for dinner, you’re on the right path. The goal of this activity is to make you want to communicate with speakers of the target language, even if at the end of the day they are only characters played by actors.

4. Focus on speaking and listening and don’t sweat the small stuff.
We tend to engage in more informal communication with people verbally. And guess what? With speaking and listening there is no record of any mistakes you may have made. So you can feel free to let loose, even if you don’t make a whole lot of sense all of the time.

5. Take a step back and appreciate the language for what it is.
Language learning can be both tedious and overwhelming at times. To fall in love with a language, its culture and its speakers, sometimes we have to step away from it and see it in a more global context. For example, if Spanish has been giving you a hard time, you might take a quick look at Chinese and then develop a new found appreciation for the alphabet and rolled rrrrrr’s.

What do an avocado and a lawyer have in common?

Word origin: Avocado

Un avocat means lawyer and avocado in French

The avocado pear, or how to distinguish your French male lawyer from a testicle. Whether you’re meeting your solicitor or speaking to your barrister, working as an attorney or training as a litigator, English has enough words for lawyer that you’re unlikely to lack the terminology to distinguish your legal counsel from your sandwich filling.

This, however, is not the case for French speakers with male lawyers, since an avocat can equally be translated as an ‘avocado.’ (If you’re lucky enough to be taking advice from a female avocate then you’re in the clear.)

Avocados are pretty tasty, versatile and inoffensive, so perhaps your lawyer might not be that upset about the confusion. It gets more interesting when we look at how this one word came to have two such different meanings.

Where does the word avocado come from?

Lawyers who look a bit like avocados are quite common across Europe. The Spanish abogado, German Advokat, Russian адвокат, Italian avvocato, Dutch advocaat, Portuguese advogado, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian advokat, Turkish avukat and even English advocate. They descend, quite predictably, from the Latin advocatus, a person who was ‘called to’ (ad + vocare) to vouch for someone else.

Meanwhile, the Spanish were off in Mexico discovering new things, one of which was the aguacate or ‘avocado’, taken from the Nahuatl (or Aztec) āhuacatl (probably along with a good crop of the fruit itself). The original Aztec word, though, had another meaning, which was ‘testicle’. The similarity in shape is self-evident, and I’ll let you guess which was named after which.

The avocado comes from South America

Other European languages didn’t have a word for avocado, since they had probably never seen one, and the English managed to confuse the Spanish aguacate with the word abogado, or ‘lawyer.’ The avocado then rolled out across Europe with its (somewhat confusing) new name. Most languages (especially the Spanish, who admittedly had an unfair advantage) managed to come up with a slightly different sounding word to distinguish between their jurists and their salad ingredients, (most went with avokado or avocado), but the French, it seems, ran out of ideas, or got hungry sitting in court all day, leaving their male lawyers with that embarrassing testicle reference.

Fun Fact: There is yet another link between the European court system and male genitalia. The Latin testis meant ‘witness’, and obviously gives us the modern medical word. The theory is that the Latin term was used as slang for the body parts which bore witness to a man’s virility, and this spawned the diminutive version testiculus.

Language learner of the week – Alexandra

Favorite word in English and Spanish

Why did you choose to learn English and Spanish?

I’m a teacher of English, and I’m  learning Spanish because I love the language.

What’s the most difficult part of language learning for you?

Lexis and fluent speaking.

What are the most helpful tips you can share with us?

A lot of my students have already installed Lingua.ly – I like this service a lot and advise them to use it. You should practice the language whenever you can and the app gives you this opportunity.

What’s your favorite word in English and Spanish?

LOVE or amor

Why is language learning important?

It broadens your horizons.

How does Lingua.ly help you with your English and Spanish?

Lingua.ly offers me interesting articles to read.  It’s very convenient as I don’t need to surf the net looking for materials on my own. This service not only translates unknown words for me, but also pronounces them which is very important for language learning. I see the context of the word, and my visual and audio memory start working at the same time.

What is more, I can see a picture related to the word which helps me build associations with its meaning, and ALL of my word are saved in my own vocabulary – so there is no need to write them down on different pieces of paper that collect over several days and then eventually get lost. I can keep on practicing again and again, looking through the words I want to remember – and that’s really great! I like it!!!

What’s next on your list of languages to learn?

Chinese or Greek

English and Spanish Language Learner of the Week, Alexandra

Name: Alexandra
Country: Ukraine
Languages: English and Spanish

If you’d like to be featured in Lingua.ly’s Language Learner of the Week series, just send us an email at info@lingua.ly telling us a little bit about yourself and why your are passionate about your language. Please also include answers to the above questions and don’t forget to attach a photo or two. We can’t wait to hear from you! 

Language learning vocabulary (Pt. 5)

Language learning vocabulary and Vygostky

Language learning, vocabulary and Vygostky

Here’s the final post in our five part series to guide you through some of the key terms you need in your language learning vocabulary. If you haven’t read Part 4 yet, you can find it here.

T is for Travel and Teaching

One of the best ways to stay motivated to learn a new language is through travel. People, place, culture, they are all experiences you can live and learn about through the lens of your new language. When you travel to a new country, you’ll be immersed in authentic language, and more importantly, given the chance to interact with native speakers. Travel can inspire you to connect with language outside of the classroom and find words and phrases you’d never otherwise have encountered. Imagine that first moment when you step off the plane and both understand and are understood by everyone around you. There’s nothing more exciting for a passionate language learner! Learn more: Travel, Teaching

U is for Understanding, Use and U-Shaped Learning

Understanding what you hear and see is no easy feat, and there are more steps in the process than you might think! For written and spoken language, first you have to decode the letters and actually hear the phonemes. Next, you need to know where one word stops and the next one starts (also called parsing). Finally, there’s the step of actually making meaning out of the language you’ve encountered using both prior knowledge and whatever you can gather from the context in which the language is delivered. U-shaped curves may sound more like a diet plan than a language related term but they actually describe the process of learning a rule, experimenting with it (and making mistakes) and then understanding the exceptions and applying it without error. This is a process language learners all go through as they acquire grammar. Learn more: UnderstandingLanguage-Use, U-Shaped Learning

V is for Vocabulary and Vygotsky

Vocabulary is not just about lists! Funnily enough, most learners don’t realize that they are actually building two vocabularies as they pursue language study: a productive one and a receptive one. The vocabulary that you can say and write is typically much smaller than the amount of words you recognize in written or spoken form. Have you ever heard of Vygotsky? He famously developed the Sociocultural theory that held learning as an inherently social act whereby learners acquire new knowledge via a zone of proximal development. Learn more: Vocabulary, Vygotsky

W is for Words

Words are the building blocks of language (thus this post on language learning vocabulary). Without them- we’d have nothing to say! That’s not to say we couldn’t conceive of an apple, only that the label for it would be missing. When you start to learn words in a new language, your brain needs to construct a network in which to house them. Until you have enough of them, it simply stores them alongside terms that sound similar or have the same meaning. Learn more: Words

Read More from this Series: The ABCs of Language Learning (Pt. 1) (Pt. 2) (Pt. 3) (Pt. 4).

The electric language connection

Andrew Whale [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Ancient and modern, from electricity to amber

Few things represent the advent of modern times as much as the day-to-day use of electricity. From switching on a light to sharing your holiday snaps in real-time from the other side of the world, our mastery of electrical possibilities defines the modern age.

In quite direct contrast to this, a good representative of pre-historic times, as far back as we can imagine, might be a chunk of amber, with a couple of ancient insects preserved in it for good measure. And yet these two hallmarks of their time are in fact intrinsically connected, at least etymologically speaking.

Language connection and greek mythology

So what’s the language connection?

In Ovid’s Metamorphoses we hear the story of Phaethon, son of the Sun God, who was charged with driving his father’s chariot, and with it the sun itself. Phaethon wasn’t too keen on following orders, things went a bit pear-shaped, and he ended up being killed by a lightning bolt. His sisters wept for him, and as they did so they were transformed into poplar trees, but they were still crying, and their tears appropriately became drops of amber (electrus in Latin).

Pliny tells us in his Natural History that these tears got their Latin name from the Greek word elektor, meaning ‘the shining sun,’ after Phaethon’s escapade. Indeed the Greek word electron did mean ‘amber,’ and if we stray a little from etymology into the history of science, amber was a pretty important experimental substance. The Greek philosopher and scientist Thales knew that if you rubbed a stick of amber (against a cat’s fur, apparently) it became ‘charged’ and could attract light objects such a feathers. This is what we know today as static electricity, but it wasn’t until centuries later, in the 1600s, when Latin was very popular among scientists, that the word electricus, meaning ‘of amber,’ came to be applied to this phenomenon.

By Ken Bosma from Green Valley, Arizona, USA (Electric Slide  Uploaded by Pieter Kuiper) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Ken Bosma

As modern electricity developed, both scientifically and linguistically, amber went in a different direction. The language connection between the English word ‘amber’ is to the Arabic anbar and the Hebrew inbar. That said, ‘amber’ does make an appearance in the Old Testament (Ezekiel 1:4), where the Biblical Hebrew word chashmal is used, translated into Greek as elektron in the Septuagint, and finally becoming the Modern Hebrew word for ‘electricity.’

12 Ways to level-up your Brazilian Portuguese

Practicing Brazilian Portuguese

I remember my first trip to Rio de Janeiro.

Although I was blown away by the scenery, charmed by the locals and inebriated by the caipirinhas, do you know what I most remember?

Not understanding a thing.

I thought my Portuguese was okay before visiting Brazil.

But boy was I wrong.

The hallmark lazy Rio accent combined with endless Carioca slang expressions proved too much, and I spent much of my first few weeks there staring at people wide-eyed, grinning, and pretending I understood what they were saying.

Learning a new language certainly isn’t easy!

How to speak fluent Brazilian Portuguese

Fast-forward a few months, however, and I was speaking fluently, with a native-like accent, and being mistaken for a local by taxi drivers.

What changed? How did I go from zero to fluent in a matter of months?

I’ll give you a hint: I didn’t waste my time watching Portuguese movies, I didn’t go on a mission to study grammar, and I certainly didn’t drop a tonne of money on language classes.

It all started with a mission to learn Carioca slang.

The more I listened, the more I realised that I was hearing the same little phrases repeated over and over again.

They never appeared in my textbooks, and they didn’t always make a lot of sense…

…but that’s what people were saying.

So I learnt them all.

For this post, I’ve whittled down the dozens of phrases and expressions that I learnt into the 12 most useful of all.

They have helped me personally not only understand others, but start to be able to express myself like a local… and even be mistaken for one!

These are not the typical Brazilian “party trick” phrases that you see elsewhere. These are expressions that will actually help you express yourself and hold a conversation.

You also may not find these in a dictionary, or Portuguese textbook, but they’re essential if you’re looking to take your Brazilian Portuguese to the next level!

Here goes.

12 Brazilian Portuguese expressions you need to know

1. Tipo assim… - It’s a bit like this…
Use this when you’re having trouble explaining something and need to describe it a bit.

2. É o seguinte- It’s like this… / Here’s how it works… (Lit. It’s the following.)

This sounds a bit clumsy in English, but is an everyday way of explaining yourself in Portuguese. Use it to let people know you’re about to explain something to them.

3. Eu vou te falar… - Let me tell you… (Lit. I’m going to tell you.)

Use this when you want to give a strong opinion about something, or make a strong point.

4. Olha só… - Check this out / Take a look / Listen up!

Use this to draw someone’s attention to something, whether it’s an object or what you’re about to say.

5. É mesmo? - Seriously? / Really? (Lit. Is it the same?)

Use this the same way as you would in English – when you’re surprised at what someone’s said.

6. Sei lá - I have no idea (Lit. I know there.)

Again, use this the same way as you would in English.

7. É isso aí - Exactly! / That’s exactly right. (Lit. It’s that over there.)

Use this when you want to agree with something that someone’s said.

8. Pois é - Exactly / Well, yes (Lit. Well, it is.)

Use this to agree with someone. Similar to “É isso aí”, but a bit softer, and not quite as certain. It’s as if you’re still thinking whether you agree or not!

9. Não acredito! - I don’t believe it! / No way!

This is used exactly the same way in English and Portuguese, but you can use it even more liberally in Portuguese.

10. Fala sério! - Come on! / Seriously? (Lit. Talk seriously!)

Stronger than “Não acredtio” because it’s aimed at the other person – “What are you talking about… are you serious?”

11. Que é isso?/O que que é isso? - What do you mean? / What’s that all about? / What are you saying? (Lit. What is that?)

A very flexible expression that you can use in lots of different contexts. If someone says this to you, they didn’t agree with, or didn’t like whatever you just said!

12. Não dá - It’s not possible / You can’t (Lit. It doesn’t give.)

This is the kind of expression you wish existed in English. Beautifully simple, you can use it in virtually any situation to say “it’s not possible / it’s not going to work” in a nice, soft way.

-  -  -  -

So there you have it!

Whatever else you’re doing to learn Brazilian Portuguese, you should start with these 12 phrases.

…and watch what happens!

Meet the author


Olly Richards is originally from the UK and speaks 8 languages.

Want to learn the secret to learning so many languages? Olly reveals it all on his blog, I Will Teach You A Language, where you’ll find hundreds of videos, articles and tutorials to get you started.


10 Things learning Italian has taught me

Melissa Muldoon learning Italian in Italy

Ciao! I am Melissa, the “crazy linguist” – la studentessa matta!

I have made learning Italian a lifestyle choice.

I studied Art History in Florence and sixteen years after my Florentine college adventure concluded, Italy was still weaving its magic over me. I ached with “nostalgia” or homesickeness for Italia.

To fill the sentimental void, I decided to resume my language studies. Since then I have learned a lot more than grammar and vocabulary!

Here are ten things that learning Italian has taught me:

Learning Italian

1. Nothing happens unless you seriously commit to making it happen My desire to learn Italian may have begun on a nostalgic whim, but since then, each day I recommit to learning the language by finding new activities to improve reading, speaking and writing skills. Excuses and stalling tactics hold us back, but proactively dedicating time and energy to learning a language moves us forward.

2. Mastering a foreign language requires time There is no fast or magic way to expedite learning a foreign language. We all learn differently and at various speeds. Processing new information, forging long term memory recall, and understanding language nuances often takes prolonged exposure to rewire our brains. Forcing the process is counterproductive and often causes us to forget what we have learned in haste. Language learning is not a race, so enjoy the journey and go at your own pace.

3. Speaking a foreign language can be humbling, but mistakes should be positively embraced Some days speaking a foreign language seems easier than others; one day we are invincible, the super men of learning; other days we are reduced to babbling toddlers who can barely put two words together coherently. Errors are a natural part of the learning process. Mistakes can be frustrating and sometimes demoralizing but, instead of letting them detour you, let them propel you forward. I believe if you AREN’T making errors you aren’t trying hard enough. Mistakes can be your best teachers and often we have stronger memory connections for having committed the error in the first place.

Learning Italian

4. Becoming proficient in a new language requires boldness and stepping out of comfort zones When I was new to Italian, I was shy about conversing in Italian. I did’t want to sound stupid. Now, I don’t let an opportunity to engage a native speaker in a conversation pass me by. What caused the evolution from shy, shrinking violet to curious loquacious Italian conversationalist? At some point I decided I couldn’t wait to know every verb, preposition and conjugation before I opened my mouth to speak. So, I moved out of my comfort zone to embrace conversations with native Italian speakers as precious opportunities for improvement.

5. Pronouncing words in a foreign language is challenging, but knowing about culture helps us sound more like native speakers Perfecting a foreign accent requires learning new speech patterns and rhythms, so that we can make distinctions between single and double consonants. We  must learn how to form new sounds in different parts of our mouths and throats and wrap our tongues around tricky dipthongs and tripthongs. But, I have also learned that the secret to truly sounding like a native speaker lies in mastering idioms and colorful language expressions and that comes from studying a target language’s culture. You will sound more fluent when you understand the nuances of colorful phrases like “non vedo l’ora” or “in bocca al lupo” and don’t attempt to translate words and phrases verbatim.

6. You DON’T have to move to a foreign country to be immersed in its language To learn Italian well doesn’t require a move to Rome or Florence. In lieu of immigrating, I believe that it is quite possible to create a language immersion environment right at home. To begin fashioning a language immersion program you should incorporate activities that include LISTENING, READING, WRITING, SPEAKING & GRAMMAR. The internet provides a wealth of opportunities to hear radio broadcasts, watch films, chat with Italians, and read articles, such as on Lingua.ly.

Learning Italian
7. We learn things when we are engaged, relaxed and having fun 
It is important to choose language learning activities that are interesting, because if it isn’t fun, we aren’t learning. If chatting with an on-line language partner isn’t rewarding, or if it feels disjointed and awkward, find a new partner. If you are reading an article on politics and it is boring find another about your personal hobby. When you are relaxed, interested and comfortable your confidence is boosted and your learning escalates.

8. Hearing, understanding and communicating with others in a new language is an exhilarating experience There is no greater feeling of accomplishment than stepping off a plane in Milan or walking into a little town in Umbria and immediately being able to understand what is said around you. It is also delightful to see the eyes of an Italian widen in surprise when he realizes that you can communicate with him in his native language.

9. A foreign language can open doors to new opportunities and friendships My quest to learn Italian has led me on an amazing journey throughout il bel paese, as well as all over the internet. The Italian language has been the key to making new friends and unlocking opportunities for work and pleasure, that were never before possible or imaginable.

10. One never stops learning a foreign language When I started learning Italian, I thought there would come a time when I would be fluent and my project would be finished. I have since realized that the process of learning Italian will never be over. I am enjoying myself way too much! Each day that I navigate the internet, read articles, chat with Italian friends or listen to a song on the radio, I am reminded that I still have so much more to learn.

About the Author
Melissa Muldoon-- learning Italian with the Studentessa Matta

Melissa began the blog “Studentessa Matta”  as a platform to improve Italian language skills and showcase helpful learning tools and practices. She chose the name “studentessa matta” or “crazy student” to convey the idea that anything is possible and you can go even further in your language learning journey, if you go a little crazy and let go of inhibitions. She also co-leads groups in Italy to learn language and dive deep into Italian culture. Check out the Matta blog for upcoming 2015 trips to Rome in July and Tuscany in September.



Why is the French the language of love?

Why is French the language of love?

Is French really the language of love?

Of course! Have you ever planned a romantic holiday to Paris, or learnt how to say je t’aime? There’s no denying that French really is the language of love. In fact, the romance of the French language is actually enshrined within the word ‘romance’ itself. Discover everything you need to know about the French language and romance, open up Lingua.ly and learn how to say it all en français!

What the Romans had to do with it

You might have come across the French word roman, which means a ‘novel’, although to the untrained English ear it might conjure up an image like this:

Roman portrait

And that’s exactly where the story of romance begins. The Romans conquered far and wide. But as their army battled for control of new lands, their language was secretly winning the war.

The Romans spoke Latin, and just like them, it was far from a language of love and rather a powerful  force. As the Romans took over Gaul (the area known today as France), people liked the sound of it and started mixing it into the language they were already speaking.

Roman territory

So Latin was no longer just Latin. As more variations were born, people who spoke these language were said to talk ‘romanice‘ or ‘in the Roman style’ (hence Romance languages).

Romance stories begin to take shape

Now while most language was spoken in that day and age, Latin was also a written language and certain storytellers in the newly conquered territories began writing in the Roman style. The stories they recorded, as you can imagine, were of heroes and adventures, and other things medieval people were interested in, such as damsels in distress.


In the Gallic (or French) version of the language, ‘romanice‘ became ‘romanz‘, and a ‘romanz‘ story was always one which involved chivalry and knights in shining armor.

Over time the ‘z’ fell away, and along with it the adventurous side of the stories (since we’re talking about the French now, not the Romans). This left Old French with the noun roman meaning ‘a romantic tale’, and the verb romancier meaning ‘to tell a romantic tale’.

And there you have it, the history of how French became the language of love. Do you know any other French terms that trace their meaning back to the Romans? Tell us about them in the comments!

Language learning basics (Pt. 4)

Language learning basics

Language learning basics, reading to speaking

Here’s the fourth installation in our five part series to guide you through some of the key terminology and language learning basics you need to achieve fluency. If you haven’t read Part 3 yet, you can find it here.

R is for Reading, Review, Realia and Repetition

We’re all about reading and there’s a good reason for that: It’s one of the most important language learning basics and the best way to expand your vocabulary’s breadth and depth. It also exposes your brain to new constructions in the language you’re learning. The more you see and learn, the more new words, phrases and structures you can integrate to improve speaking and writing. At the same time, the more you read, the faster you will become as a reader and time is power in reading. Used alongside a spaced repetition review system, reading is also a great way to exercise your vocabulary and make sure it stays active. So, what should you be reading? Realia of course! If it is written by native speakers for a native speaker audience, then you’ll be in good hands as long as you keep a dictionary by your side. Make sure you select something of interest to you (try newspaper articles) and don’t forget to focus on reading for gist AND specific detail. Learn more: Reading, Review, Realia, Repetition

S is for Speaking, Strategies, Skimming & Scanning

Say something out loud and hold a conversation in your language, even if you’re just talking to yourself! Speaking is one of those language learning basics that’s  a sure fire way to enhance  ability. Talk about what you see around you, verbalize your thoughts and just get comfortable putting words together. If you activate the pathways of fluency, they’ll be there when you need them in conversation. No matter what skill you are targeting, strategies are a must. Check out a blog (like ours) for tips and tricks to get more out of the language learning activities you are already undertaking. Skimming and scanning are just two examples of approaches that can help you up your comprehension. Learn more: Speaking, Strategies, School, Skimming & Scanning

Read More from this Series: The ABCs of Language Learning (Pt. 1) (Pt. 2) (Pt. 3) (Pt. 5).

7 Idioms for the perfect French romance

7 Idioms for the perfect French romance

A Guest Post from Lindsay Dow of Lindsay Does Languages

French. The language of love.

Paris is the most visited city in the world year after year and I’m pretty sure a crazy little thing called love has something to do with it. Did you know that a bridge in Paris was recently closed due to the amount of love locks weighing it down? I guess we love love. That’s why today seemed like the perfect time to share some lovely love expressions in French with you. I promise I’ll stop saying love. Well, I’ll try.

1. Coup de foudre

Let’s start with the most obvious French love phrase: coup de foudre – love at first sight. Literally this means a flash of lightning. In English, lightening sounds kinda bad, right? A flash of lightning kills 21.2 people each year in my hometown alone (statistics not accurate. I wouldn’t trust that) so it’s interesting that the French use this to describe love at first sight. I suppose it’s the impact that lightening and love have in common that brought about the use of this expression. Regardless, I love it. I can’t say it was love at first sight though, the first time I came across this I was a young French learner and I didn’t understand it. Stopping to check the dictionary kind of took the edge off. It was love at second sight maybe.

2. Avoir le béguin pour…

If it’s un coup de foudre but you can’t quite round up the courage to tell your new found love, then you could say that tu as le béguin pour [insertcrushnamehere] – you have a crush on them. Le béguin means bonnet. I wasn’t sure if this one is a very forward thinking reference to babies bonnets, or a reference to being so shy you’re covering your face with your bonnet. So I had to do some research. Turns out it has evolved from the old expression ‘être coiffé de quelqu’un‘, which meant very much the same thing.

3. Avoir des atomes crochus

Hopefully your love won’t poser un lapin on you (literally: lay a rabbit on you – commonly: stand you up) and you’ll avoir des atomes crochus. That is to say, you’ll really hit it off and have hooked atoms, and the future will be bright and filled with lots of happy sparks from your hooked atoms.

4. Trouver la perle rare ou l’oiseau rare

If it all works out, you’ll be telling everyone that you have trouvé la perle rare or l’oiseau rare. You’ve found your one in a million. Even if you did have to dive the deepest oceans and climb the highest trees to get to your rare pearl or bird. Two ways to describe that the crush you had has become THE ONE. I like both of these. Describing your love as the rare pearl or the rare bird is rather lovely.

5. Faire des pattes d’araignée

You’ve fallen in love, it’s all working out, it’s time to make spider feet. Or touch your partner lightly with your fingertips, whichever sounds best to you. Faire des pattes d’araignée means to touch lightly with the fingertips, but the more fun literal translation is to make spider feet. Seeing as most people are at least a little tiny bit scared of spiders, even if they won’t admit it, it’s probably best to stick to your fingers rather than finding an actual spider. I mean, you’ve already been to the jungle and found the rare bird, you can stay at home now.

6. Se passer la corde au cou

Considering the reputation the French have for love, this expression to describe getting married couldn’t be scarier. Se passer la corde au cou means to get married, but literally to put a rope around one’s neck. Then again, when the French say they’re putting a rope around one’s neck, we’re tying the knot. Team effort.

7. Ils vécurent heureux et eurent beaucoup d’enfants

Providing the wedding goes well and you avoid actually putting a rope around your neck, you may well hear the pitter patter of tiny feet (not spider feet – baby feet). The perfect French romance would end this way, just as all good fairytales do in French: ils vécurent heureux et eurent beaucoup d’enfants. They lived happily and had lots of children.

Meet Lindsay:

Lindsay does languages on idioms for a French romance

Becoming a language addict thanks to Shakira sparking my interest in Spanish way back in the early nineties, I’ve gone on to pursue a degree in French and Spanish with The Open University, studying Mandarin, Italian, German, and various other languages along the way. With formal studying never quite being enough, I’m always looking for other methods to engage my language learning brain, apps like Lingua.ly being one of them. Since starting my blog, Lindsay Does Languages, my interest has continued to grow and ‘just one more language’ is never enough. If you enjoyed this post, then be sure to head over and take a peek at my blog Lindsay Does Languages.

Which is your favourite French love expression? Share in the comments!