I'm just starting in a language, and I'm having difficulty constructing a full sentence. How can I express a simple idea, with the help of a dictionary?

For example, how could I say the following in French?

Shawna listens to music and eats cake.

  • 4
    Tell us first how you would say it and be specific about the word or expression you want help with. – None Jan 31 '17 at 17:34
  • I want to be able to say this in french to my teacher for a test, she's asking me what I do in summer and this is one of my responses. As well as this do you think you could help me with some creative responses to this question? – Rosey Alejo Jan 31 '17 at 18:35
  • Welcome to French Language. Please visit le Help Centre. French Language is a question and answer site about French Language and a translation service. It will be OK if you write your idea of what you think the sentence is and what you are not sure about, and we will gladly explain. Here an example of a question asking how to say a sentence in French. They show they have searched how to say it. – None Jan 31 '17 at 18:54
  • Let me give you a hint rather than do your homework (or test) for you. If you use ami for friends, girls are amies and boys are amis. And if there are boys and girls, you would write amis since the masculine would cover both. However, if you use the word copain, you can see copains et copines and the difference between masculine and feminine can actually be heard, whereas the amis and amies are pronounced the same way. Plus, for young people like yourself, copain/copines is the usual word. – Lambie Jan 31 '17 at 18:55
  • I know how to say, friends, i just don't know the whole sentence. I'm trying to come up with good responses to "what do you do in the summer?" so when I do my speaking test I get a better grade for using more words. I just need a translation as i have many other questions i may be asked. – Rosey Alejo Jan 31 '17 at 19:04

To make it short, you won't get a translation here. Instead, here are some tips for how to go about doing this:

  1. Focus on verbs. Base your translation around them. I see two verbs in your sentence. One is easy: "talk". The other one is harder, because it's got two parts: "have fun". Use a good dictionary or online dictionary for very short phrases like this. A popular one is WordReference.

  2. Conjugate your verbs. That means asking: Is this past, present, or future? Who's doing it? Those two questions are usually enough to steer you to the right form.

  3. Figure out what the main parts of your sentence will be, how to slot the words together. If you're just stating a fact, it'll probably look like the English sentence. If you're asking a question, you might have to switch things around.

  4. Look up words you don't know to fill in the gaps.

  5. Don't be afraid to be bold! String something together, check what you can, but then launch it into the world soon and see what happens. There's only one way to learn that never fails, and that's to try, to make your mistakes, and to try again.

So let's try this out. Say my sentence was "Shawna listens to music and eats cake."

  1. The verbs are "listens" and "eats". WordReference tells me those are "écouter" and "manger".

  2. Shawna is doing both of those things, and they're ongoing, so present tense is okay. Shawna wouldn't be "je", because she's not "I". She wouldn't be "tu", because she's not "you". But "elle" matches "she". So I can use that form of the verb.

  3. So my sentence will probably look something like: "Shawna écoute MUSIC et mange CAKE."

  4. Okay, now I have to look up "music" and "cake" because I don't know those words. My dictionary tells me they're "la musique" and "le gâteau". So I can fill in those blanks. "Shawna écoute la musique et mange le gâteau."

  5. That's my sentence. I can feel good about it because I've done my work, and now it's the teacher's turn. I try out this sentence on her. She tells me to fix something: for some reason, I have to put "de la musique" instead of "la musique", and "du gâteau" instead of "le gâteau". "Shawna écoute de la musique et mange du gâteau." I'm not embarrassed to make a mistake, because I know my job is just to try and remember it for next time. I might not even understand why it was wrong, but it's okay. I will eventually learn that in class when the teacher gets there. For now, I just have to remember and practice making more sentences like that!

It might sound like a lot of work, but learning a language does require some thought. Try these steps out with your sentence. :)

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  • That couild be a nice answer on Language Learning but is not very relevant on French Language. – None Feb 1 '17 at 9:44
  • Ah, fair enough. I was thinking of alternatives to giving a translation or shutting it down, but too new here to be sure of the conventions. I'll keep that in mind for future. Thanks! – Luke Sawczak Feb 1 '17 at 13:51

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