6

Problem

One of the challenges of learning a new language is the "shame" factor. One can feel trepidation for putting oneself out there in a way that could potentially subject oneself to ridicule.

Of course, dealing with this factor is perhaps one of the most inviting and rewarding means of experiencing personal growth. Once the trepidation and fear give way, the possibilities are endless.

Therefore, I wish to begin in earnest with my effort to learn more French, with artistry and style. That's why I ask this question:

Question

Can you tell me three different ways to say "I do not speak French." but also in ways that have some style, sophistication and class?

So far, this is all I have to work with, and I am looking for some creative alternatives:

Je suis desolé, mais je ne comprends pas le Francais

Update

Je suis désolé mais j'ai encore du mal avec le français

  • 6
    The more sophisticated you are in your way to deny speaking French, the less likely you are to be believed. – Un francophone Nov 6 '14 at 16:42
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    Even your chances ;-) "Ej en prendscom sap el çaisfran solédé." En verlan. – user3177 Nov 11 '14 at 22:24
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The more common and simple way is: "Je ne parle pas français" or "Je ne parle pas le français". (but you must already know that form).

A more elaborate form would be: "Je suis désolé mais j'ai encore du mal avec le français" which you can roughly translate by "I am sorry but I am still struggling with French".

An alternative would be: "Je ne maitrise pas encore le français" which can be translated by "I have not yet mastered the French language".

  • Can anyone break these sayings down? Why is there the "pas" in "Je ne parle pas le français," what's wrong with "Je non parle français" for instance? – Bobak Hashemi Jun 7 '16 at 12:21
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    "Je non parle français" is not a correct form. This is litteral translation. In fact the word "pas" can be linked to "not" as in "I do NOT speak French". – Plinn Jun 8 '16 at 14:29
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    @BobakHashemi that's correct if you want to say "I no speak French," which is no more right in French than in English. – temporary_user_name Mar 8 '17 at 18:23
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ORIGINAL ANSWER (please see ADDED below for edit)

Here are some more options that might work depending on your audience:

If you're speaking:

to a French audience, you could earn some points by saying:

"Je suis désolé, mais je ne parle pas (encore) votre belle langue."

to a literary audience you could say either:

"Je suis désolé, mais je ne parle pas (encore) la langue de Molière." or

"Je suis désolé, mais je ne parle pas (encore) la langue de Proust (Marcel)."

and finally, to a perhaps less literary audience you could say (just kidding with this one, he's a race car driver):

"Je suis désolé, mais je ne parle pas (encore) la langue de Prost (Alain)."

[or (and please note that this is intended SOLELY as a snarky/sarcastic jab AT MYSELF ALONE) you could just say (if it is the case, as it is with me):

"I am an American" and chances are that your audience will understand you and assume that you don't speak French!]

ADDED

In addition to considering different ways to say “French” (the language) to help to reduce your “shame level,” you could also consider using different French negation formations to vary the “I don’t speak” part of your dilemma to try to show not only a bit more creativity but also to show the degree of progress that you’re making as you move down the list:

« Je NE parle NI NE comprends….(le français/votre belle langue/la langue de Molière/etc.) »

(I think “ne…ni…” can be used with two verbs like this, but even if not, the mistake at least helps to confirm the substance of what you’re trying to say!)

« Je NE parle JAMAIS (le français/etc.) puisque PERSONNE NE me comprend »

« Je NE parle POINT (le français/etc.) »

[until today I thought « ne … point » was used to sound a bit more emphatic and absolute than « ne … pas » (like adding “DU TOUT” after “PAS”), but while preparing this answer I found evidence that it’s simply used in formal writing just to say “ne … pas”]

« Je NE parle PAS (le français/etc.) »

(less formal (and perhaps less emphatic) than « ne … point »

« Je NE parle GUèRE (le français/etc.) »

« Je NE parle (le français/etc .) QU(E)’avec difficulté. »

« Je NE parle (le français/etc.) QU(E)’avec les yeux. »

[This one makes little sense, but it might get you somewhere with that special someone you’ve got your eye(s) on !]

Here’s a weird combination of a slang expression with « la langue de Molière » that will either get an appreciative chuckle or else increase your “shame level” ten-fold:

« J'ai un mal de chien à apprendre la langue de Molière ! »

and finally, this one:

« Je [ne] pige QUE dalle à la langue de Molière ! » .

  • 1
    I would say "Je NE parle NI NE comprends". Also, given the language level of piger and que dalle, I would omit the NE: je pige que dalle – njzk2 Dec 12 '14 at 18:17
  • Also the preposition would be à. "Je pige que dalle à la langue de Molière”. – Stéphane Gimenez Mar 8 '17 at 23:01

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