Life in Paris

The French You Don’t Learn at School – The Verlan Episode

Do you remember when you were a child and you used to make up your own language that your parents couldn’t understand? Maybe you used words in the wrong context, or deliberately reversed the order of words to confuse any eavesdropping adults. Whatever you did, it exists in French too. Originally used by French teenagers, verlan is a part of every day life and frequently appears in conversational French.

So what exactly is Verlan?

Verlan is the practice of taking a word and inversing it to make a new word with the same meaning. Yes, this means more vocabulary to learn, but Verlan is fun! And if you use it with French people you are demonstrating an ability to speak a more informal, relaxed version of the language. It’s a good way of showing you’re here to stay and not just a tourist lost in translation.

So let’s start with some basics and see if you can incorporate these into your every day French.

Let’s see what all the fun is about…

Relou – Lourd : if something is lourd it means it’s tedious and annoying. “Ce truc est relou!”= This thing is so annoying!

Une meuf – femme : Une meuf is slang for a woman, used between friends. “Salut meuf, ça va?” = Hey girl, how are you?

Un keum – un mec : Un keum is slang for a guy/a man. “Ce keum est toujours en retard!” = This guy is always late!

Pécho – choper : This is an expression you hear a lot between friends, especially if one of your single friends has been on a night out. Choper means to hook up with someone. “Tu as pécho hier soir?” = Did you pull last night?

Rebeu – arabe : I often heard people using this term before I actually understood what it meant. Rebeu is slang for arab so to say that someone is of arabic origin you can say rebeu. Like all verlan words, this is spoken French, not written.

Teubé – Bête : One of my favourite verlan expressions, teubé is the verlan version of bête which means stupid. I love how the word sounds and find when I use it French people are usually impressed. Unless I’m calling them teubé of course…

Zarbi – Bizarre : Easy for any English speakers to learn as we already know the word bizarre. “Il est trop zarbi aujourd’hui.”

Vénère – enérvé : I only recently discovered that this was actually verlan! I learnt the two words separately and just had no idea. Vénère / enérvé means to be very annoyed at something or someone. “Je suis vénére avec lui” – I’m so pissed off at him!

So what now?

Now you need to try to put these into practice! Make sure you use Google translate if you’re not sure how some of these words are pronounced. They have a handy little speaker button next to the word and if you click on it, you can hear the pronunciation.

Start with these and see where your verlan journey takes you! You may even start to sound like a fully fledged Parisian!


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