Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Being French Means Never Having to Say You're

So, so, sorry!

The French language is so complicated, so complicated that after four years of living here, I learn at least one new thing every day. And while my relationship with France is a true "love story," the more French I learn, the less fluent I feel.

I actually speak quite well, but that's only one aspect of knowing French. I suddenly realized that, before I move back to New York in July, I need to make some progress in my French...writing wise. So I signed up for a business writing course which starts next week. YIKES, I am going to get my derrière kicked!

At my gym, Lady Fitness (a circuit-style Curvesesque kind of gym, because nothing else exists here in the land of les skinny femmes,) I was chatting with one of the coaches and she told me that I should never say "Je suis désolée..." to express  "I am sorry..."  Now, I have probably said that one million times, thinking I was correct. She explained that, in France, you may never excuse yourself, you must ask forgiveness of the person you have wronged, and it is for them to pardon you...or not! You never admit wrongdoing.

So here's what you can say when you don't respond to someone's email quickly enough next time:

Je vous prie de bien vouloir m'excuser du retard de ma réponse. (I pray of you to really want to excuse me for the lateness of my response.) Who knew?    or 

Veuillez m'excuser de ne pas avoir répondu plus tôt à votre courriel (Would you excuse me for not having responded earlier to your email?) I beg of you, please please, I procrastinated ;-(

When you think about it, c'est logique (it's logical.) You can't pardon yourself. You have to accept the fact that some will pardon you, and some will not. And besides that, the French do not like to take responsibility for anything, and I do not say that lightly. They might be sorry, and they might not be, but you are never going to get them to admit it, not on your life. No siree. Sorry buster.

Je suis navrée! Non, vachement navrée!

1 comment:

Veronique Huard-Prabel said...

Here is an additional comment from a French woman with poor Englisk skills (sorry, nobody is perfect ;-). You can actually say "Je suis désolée", this is absolutely correct and commonly used in French (Je suis désolée de ne pouvoir venir, je suis désolée de ce qui vous arrive, je suis désolée de ceci ou de cela). However, what you can't say is "Je m'excuse". The correct phrase is "Excusez-moi". The simple reason is that you can't excuse yourself. It is more a question of courtoisie and savoir-vivre than "French do not like to take responsibility for anything"... A bon entendeur.