Would You Like Ice with Your Fries: A French Lesson

We tell people that we keep coming back to France because we at least speak French so it’s easy to get around. That’s not the whole truth of it though.

The Husband and I have both had French lessons. I actually took french for four years in high school and I swear I didn’t learn a thing. We both have taken classes when we’ve come to Paris for an extended time as well.

Every morning we both open our Duo Lingo app and go through some basic French lessons. I can assure you that if ever we have to ask for a table for four people and a horse or if we ever have to point out the obvious, “YOU are a horse”, this will come easily for us. Asking for fresh fruit instead of fries? Absolutely not.

Helpful phrases I have learned for my travel to Paris

We went to the flea market our first week here and after exhaustive shopping we had lunch. We ordered everything in French and felt pretty good about it until the waiter brought us ice. Ice from a French waiter is the equivalent of the buzzer and an X in a video game. We just died. Or as I like to say, we got bitch slapped. Only the Americans order ice. We apparently use a lot of salt and pepper and ketchup too which, if delivered, is more than a bitch slap—it’s a declaration of culture war.

We went back to the flea market with Judy and Marsha and had lunch at a different restaurant. Things were going pretty well. The Husband and I were ordering for everyone and the waiter even got my little joke about him looking like Richard Gere. Where it went wrong was that I tried to substitute Judy’s French fries “frites” with fresh fruit “fruits frais”. The guy must’ve thought I said, “…and instead of normal French fries, she’ll have fresh French fries…” because when he delivered Judy’s plate (very much the same plate as The Husband’s and Marsha’s) he did it with some aplomb as if announcing “Madame, may I present to you the freshest French fries in all of France”. Bitch slap. (Or in keeping with the alliteration, Femme Frappé). I wanted to then tell him he looked like Richard Gere circa 2017 not Richard Gere circa Officer and a Gentleman but I couldn’t work out the French so I just ordered some ice.

Just so you know—Google translate hasn’t worked out all the kinks. This is the menu from the freaking fresh fries place

So far this trip we have discussed how heavy our bedrooms are (our legs were tired); we asked a waiter if we could build a small garden on the table (we wanted to share a plate); and we ordered our hamburger to be served at a bridge (cooked medium rare).

French is hard. We ran into a girl who spoke six languages. We started to speak to her in French and she realized it wasn’t our first language (Wow! She had an ear didn’t she?) so she asked to converse in English. She said French is ridiculous. And it really is.

All this to say, if you come to France with us we promise: you’ll have all the ice you need.

**Please tell me your own funny language stories in the comments**


  1. Il y a toujours un problème avec les menus en France. Les noms des plats décrivent trop souvent un style de cuisiner ou une région d’origine. Donc il n’y a rien à voir avec les ingrédients. Il faut avoir une dictionnaire spécialisée. J’ai commandé une galette avec andouille à Montpellier pensant des saucisses de nom d’andouille aux États Unies. Mais j’ai reçu une galette de chitlings! Smelled and tasted like the barnyard.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh non! Les chitlings dans toutes les langues sont horribles! Une fois j’ai commandé lambs brains—les cervelles? Je pense. J’ai essayé de l’oublier. Merci pour votre réponse.


  2. Canada claims to be bilingual but most of us don’t speak French. After years of French in school when I was a teen the only things I think I remember… emphasis on think… are the black board and the window. Please don’t ask me to write them in French. On the plus side, whenever we visit Quebec City there is always someone who speaks English. Important for a city that relies heavy on tourism. I really liked Paris but we were travelling in an English-guided group. The one night we needed to find a meal on our own, we were lost and useless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You wouldn’t be lost and useless anymore. There are pizzas, hamburgers and tacos on every block. I am moderately ok with written french. It’s trying to speak it with all those forgotten letters that throws me. Thanks for your comments on my posts. I really appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You’ve heard me butcher please and thank you in French so it goes without saying I have no ear for languages. But there was the time we were traveling in France with Eric and Amy and I was trying to order an eclair at the patisserie. How hard could that be…we have eclairs in the states right? I almost broke the glass jamming my finger against it pointing to the coveted pastry while practically shouting “Je voudrais l’eclair!” over and over in my Okie accent. They looked at me like I was an alien with 3 heads and just stood there blinking at me. Needless to say Scott had to step in to which they immediately responded “Voila”. AHHHH!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hah! Scott to the rescue. The ladies love him in any language. Just yesterday we ordered two quiche from a patisserie and I asked for two forks and she gave us one small spoon? We just tucked our tails and shared the spoon.


  4. After one too many Parisians responded to my high school/college French by saying, “Would you care to speak English?” I took to going shopping at places like La Samaritaine to find French-only-speaking clerks who would patiently struggle through conversations with me. They probably went straight to the tranquilizers when I left.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One year my French teacher in Paris was “welcoming” our new student from Texas. The student was super enthusiastic about her two weeks course but her accent was so thick. The teacher pounded her so hard the first day—like mocking her accent, the poor girl never came back. When they switch to English with me I try to stay with french and let them know I’m practicing. It works but then I get the ice and ketchup later!


  5. I teach French, I grew up in Montreal, I live in Toronto.

    Duolingo is okay, but it is not a very good app to learn French, if you already studied French, it is a nice app to revise material that was studied..

    Quizlet, memrise and French reword are good apps to learn french, and an app called french sentences, it has 10,000 english sentences to translate to french by selecting words from a list.

    I added the apps to the website I created..

    They are at the bottom of the website page, with links to download them.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have had several years of formal french and I have french speaking friends. It is just difficult to move past intermediate level without being immersed. Thank you for the suggestions!


  6. My favorite language confusion story is from San Francisco in the early ’90’s. I was behind a city bus that displayed a sign in big block letters:
    I was trying to figure out the politicsl meaning, then suddenly realized it was Spanish for “Use Condoms”.
    I almost drove off the road laughing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s really funny! I have a whole catalog of vacation photos of translations gone wrong. Like the China bumper sticker “Baby on Road” (instead of onboard).


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