French vocabulary - tips and tricks for English speakers,
part 2

by Geoffrey Barto

Picking out cognates. A number of words in English have come to us from Latin. When this is the case, the French words may not at first be so evident. However, knowing the connection may help us in memorizing new words. On this page, we are going to take a short passage and pick out words with which we may establish a connection. Then we'll decipher. Finally, there will be a full translation. Here's the first paragraph of the passage:

Il était une fois, une petite fille de village, la plus jolie qu'on eût su voir: sa mère en était folle, et sa [grand-mère] plus folle encore. Cette bonne femme lui fit faire un petit chaperon rouge qui lui seyait si bien, que partout on l'appelait le Petit Chaperon rouge.

Let's take the first paragraph line by line to see what we can find.

Now, here's the paragraph in English. The words we figured out from Latin or our conversions are in bold.

There was one time a little girl from town, the loveliest one could ever see: her mother was crazy about her, her grandmother more crazy still. This good woman had a little red hood made for her that went with her so well that everywhere one called her the Little Red (Riding) Hood.

Needless to say, this is the opening of Little Red Riding Hood. Let's hit paragraph two.

Un jour, sa mère ayant cuit et fait des galettes, lui dit: "Va voir comment se porte ta [grand-mère], car on m'a dit qu'elle était malade. Porte-lui une galette et ce petit pot de beurre." Le Petit Chaperon rouge partit aussitôt pour aller chez sa [grand-mère], qui demeurait dans un autre village. En passant dans un bois, elle rencontra compère le Loup, qui eut bien envie de la manger; mais il n'osa, à cause de quelques bûcherons qui étaient dans la forêt. Il lui demanda où elle allait. La pauvre enfant, qui ne savait pas qu'il était dangereux de s'arrêter à écouter un loup, lui dit: "Je vais voir ma [grand-mère], et lui porter une galette, avec un pot de beurre, que ma mère lui envoie."

Needless to say, the tricks didn't help us completely decode the passage. But they gave us a good headstart along with some memory aids so the words will look more familiar next time. Here's our full passage, again with the words we've learned in bold.

There was one time a little girl from town, the loveliest one could ever see: her mother was crazy about her, her grandmother more crazy still. This good woman had a little red hood made for her that went with her so well that everywhere one called her the Little Red (Riding) Hood.

One day, her mother having cooked and made some galettes, said to her: "Go see how your grandmother is doing (carries herself), for (some)one said to me she was sick. Carry her a galette and this little jar of butter." The Little Red Riding Hood parted soon to go to her grandmother, who lived in another village. In passing through a wood, she encountered Mr. Wolf, who had a desire to eat her; but he didn't dare, because of some loggers who were in the forest. He asked her where she was going. The poor child, who didn't know it was dangerous to stop to listen to a wolf, said to him: "I am going to my grandmother's, to carry a galette to her, with a jar of butter, that my mother sends."

Page 3: How word families can make learning vocabulary easier.

Here's the first vocabulary page.

Return to The Language pages at gbarto.com.

For learning French vocabulary, we recommend:

French with Michel Thomas. Thomas explains how to quickly expand your French vocabulary by learning the patterns of families of cognates - related words.

French by Association. Though the tricks are familiar - "think of your father dressed as a pear - French for father is père" - this is a large grouping of such tricks which can help you learn a lot of vocabulary provisionally until it sinks in from actual usage.

Our sister site, multilinga.info, which teaches you about Spanish, French and Italian as cognate languages.