7

Despite the basic grammar I've learned, I still don't know how to translate the following: "Do you want me to speak French?".

I can say

Est-ce que tu veux parler français?

If I try to put in a word for "me", I might say

Est-ce que tu veux me parler français?

but my guess is that "me" is some kind of object [indirect or direct?] for the verb parler.

My next closest guess would be

Est-ce que tu veux que je parle français?

but I'm not sure about this. If this is correct, I'm not sure why it's correct (and why I would need that que there).

I do not know what grammar concept to use, and I'm not stumbling on the concept when I browse French grammar sites!

  1. How do I translate this sentence?
  2. What grammar construction is being used in the translation (or indeed, what grammar construction is being used in the English version of this sentence)?
  • All these suggestions are correct, but they all seem awkward. I would suggest a collective for the subject. – GAM PUB Oct 26 '15 at 14:20
9

Est-ce que tu veux que je parle français ? is correct.

The grammar you need to know here has to do with subordinate clauses. The construction "do you want me to speak" just doesn't exist in French; you have to say, literally, "do you want that I speak."

Que is a conjunction, and the verb after it may be the indicative (normal present tense) or the subjunctive, depending on what comes before que. With vouloir, for example, you need the subjunctive, but in this case it doesn't matter because the first person indicative and subjunctive of parler are identical.

Est-ce que tu veux me parler en français ?

This means "do you want to speak to me in French?"

  • How fascinating that "do you want me to speak" construction doesn't exist in French, and that this is an example of a construction I probably would not have known to use in French without exposure. It's fascinating how I have to say things quite differently in French than in English, sometimes! – silph Oct 23 '15 at 1:36
  • I am now curious about the construction used in the English sentence. I'm going to post on the English Learner's language stack exchange, but if anyone wants to give their input here in the comments (if that's appropriate -- i think comments allow much more than posts do?), you're welcome to! – silph Oct 23 '15 at 1:37
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    This seems like a very unnatural sentence. As a native, I can't imagine saying that and not feeling condescending. – GAM PUB Oct 26 '15 at 14:21
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    Est-ce que tu veux que je parle français ? is correct, but colloquial. Veux-tu que je parle français ? is better French, but paradoxically more familiar. – chqrlie Oct 28 '15 at 23:58
  • @silph The French construction has a nearly direct parallel in English. "You wish that I would speak French." "Do you hope that l will speak French?" The choice of verb dictates which constructions are valid. "Wish" takes either construction. "You wish me to speak French" is also acceptable (although I feel the two phrases have slightly different usages). "Want" only takes the "me" construction while "Hope" only takes the "that" construction. "Do you hope me to speak French?" is not grammatical English. – weissj Apr 14 '16 at 21:45
4

In addition to the other answer, you can express that as following:

  • Voulez-vous/Veux-tu que je vous/te parle en français ?
  • Souhaitez-vous/Souhaites-tu que je vous/te parle en français ?

Note that unlike with English language where the name of a language is written with the first letter in capital (Italian, English, German ...), in French language you must not do that (italien, anglais, allemand) because, for instance, Allemand means a German (citizen) whereas allemand means either the German language or something related to Germany (adjective)

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    thanks for the added explanation about why I do not capitalize the names of languages. Especially helpful was your contrasting Allemand with allemand. It will surely help me to remember that rule, now! – silph Oct 23 '15 at 1:51
2

I would rather use a collective:

  • Vous préférez qu'on parle français ?
2

"Do you want me to speak French?" seems quite an idiomatic turn of the English language, don't you agree ? So as to say it expresses what is called in French " le génie de la langue", in English: "the language spirit".

Here, the part of the sentence more particularly at stake is : "Do you want me to (do something) - that can be translated as : Veux- tu que je ? A good example can be found in : "What do you want me to do?" (Song of Mike Scott) translated as "Que veux-tu que je fasse ?"(La Coccinelle du Net) - The questioning by the singer can be more fully understood a few sentences further in the song :"What do you want me to do, Lord?". The reliance is emphasized. Involvement in subjection is expressed. A strong will upon which to rely. "Veux-tu que je".... A close translation is then chosen .

As Gam showed it well, to express the somehow polite, friendly, playful, sweet, (according to context), "Do you want me to" , French uses the collective form. The underlying law ruling it is most certainly to be found there : according to the French way of thinking, no one is supposed to want something from someone - if not related to a relationship of clear obedience from one to another. The French language is intent on emphasizing equality between the protagonists.

Hence, in addition to the translations suggested, some other examples of translations could be :

"On parle français ?"

"ça te va si on parle français ?"

"Si tu préfères, on parle français"

"Tu préfères peut-être qu'on parle français ?"

"Si c'est ce que tu préfères, on parle français"

"On peut parler français si tu préfères"

"J'ai l'impression que tu aimerais mieux qu'on parle français"

"Qu'est-ce que tu aimes mieux, qu'on parle français ou anglais ?"

  • Although I asked my question more to ask about grammar, your explanation about the spirit of French is very much appreciated! It makes it much more clear to me why using the collective on is the more natural way to ask the question "Do you want me to speak French?". I also liked your use of the song lyric "What do you want me to do, Lord?" to show the contrast. – silph Oct 27 '15 at 18:20

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