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What Is French Argot and Why Is It Useful?

Young women walking in Paris, France speaking French Argot.There’s learning a new language, and then there’s learning argot. If you want to experience another culture like a local, argot is your passport to the language that is really spoken on the streets of your destination.

Argot is the term used to describe the informal language of a particular group of people. Think of it as the everyday lingo, or even a secret language, that you won’t be able to look up in a dictionary or learn in your typical language course. That’s where we come in.

What is argot?

In short, it’s slang. The lines of different argot often exist along certain social classes, groups, and identities.

For French language learners, getting familiar with argot is a guarantee you’ll get to interact with the most authentic aspects of French life. For example, if you’re a young person looking to find the best live music during your visit to Paris, understanding French Argot will help you get to the right spots and be able to interact with locals while you’re there. Likewise, there’s an entire system of emphatic expressions, pronoun usage, and grammar associated with French Argot that you’ll want to understand.

With Bastille Day upon us, now’s the time to take Mango Languages’ French Argot specialty course (translation: quick, easy, and immediately applicable!) for a spin to prepare for the celebrations.

Why is argot useful?

We know it’s tempting to lean on the basics you learned in your college French course, but the truth is that most locals won’t be using phrases you learned in that rented textbook. Particularly in France, there’s an everyday language that will help you experience the real French perspective, beyond the tourist boundaries.

For example, if you’re headed to France (or French-inspired parties!) for Bastille Day, you might hear someone say 'On fait la teuf ce soir?' [Are we partying tonight?] and not quite recognize what the person is trying to ask. To say 'we do' in French, you say nous faisons. But in everyday language, or argot, nous is often replaced by on and the verb must agree with on and not nous — and that’s why you say on fait.

Where is argot used?

French slang is used everywhere by native speakers, but formal French will be used in French literature, restaurants, hotels, museums, and other cultural attractions. You’ll need to whip out your shiny new argot skills when you’re requesting transportation, shopping in the markets, exploring nightlife, and befriending locals.

For example, when you’re booking your hotel for your visit, formal French will suffice.  But when you’re at a party one night and want to express how much a certain someone has caught your eye 'Je suis amoureux de toi' [I am in love with you] might be coming on a little strong. Instead, play it cool and let a friend know that you’re interested in the person by saying 'Je kiffe cette meuf' [I dig this chick]. After all, the quickest way to let someone know you’re speaking their language is by actually doing it. Beyond nightlife, argot is the transactional language in everyday life. You might think to call a car une voiture in French, but the slang term is actually une caisse [a case].

These are just a few examples of how useful argot is for your French language learning. Our latest specialty course will guide you through learning the most essential aspects of French Argot, all while learning the culture and grammar necessary to make a trip to France as colorful and authentic as possible. Ready to start learning?


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What's one famous argot word that you know in your language? Share with us in the comments section below! 

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Jillian Rodriguez

Jillian is a writer and editor out of Detroit, Michigan. She loves connecting people through new ideas, interesting stories, and good conversation. In her free time, Jillian loves to read, write, and listen to podcasts - in Spanish and in English!

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