A Guide to Valentine's Day and Romantic Vocabulary in French

A Guide to Valentine's Day and Romantic Vocabulary in French

As we approach Valentine's Day, you're probably coming up with date night ideas, planning Pal-entine's Day, or compiling a list of your favorite romances, whether they're films or books. In any case, the thing that is first and foremost on your mind is most likely love. As a French language learner, though, you may also be thinking of the language of love.

French is almost universally considered to be the language of love and as a French learner, you get to take advantage of this. After all, knowing how to say "I love you" in the language of love is just about the most romantic thing one can do on Valentine's Day (except, of course, proposing).

As a French language learner, this is your holiday. This is your time to shine. And no matter how new to French you are or how advanced your language skills may be, here are some ways to make the most of your language learning journey this Valentine's Day.

Couple kissing in street with heart balloons

Valentine’s Day in France

While it's understandable if you can't spend Valentine's Day in France, it can still be fun to know how the day is spent by the French people. After all, every country has its own traditions and France is no different.

Valentine's Day in France is not dissimilar to the rest of the Western world. The origins of the holiday date back to Saint Valentine and the story surrounding the day is the same. However, there are some things that distinguish France from the rest of the world, notably the English speaking one.

#1. Valentine's Day is Mostly for Couples

Unlike some countries where Valentine's Day is celebrated by friends and schools, Valentine's Day in France is almost exclusively celebrated by couples. You won't see school children handing out Valentine's Day cards or candies to their classmates, and you most definitely won't see groups of friends heading out together.

#2. Valentine's Day Cards Aren't a Thing

While you will see a very small collection cliché cards in the supermarkets, Valentine's Day cards aren't a mainstream thing in France. You're much more likely to see heart-shaped pâtisseries.

#3. There Use to Be a Loterie d'Amour

Although it's no longer practiced, there used to be a tradition in France called the loterie d'amour that occured on Valentine's Day. Single people would stand outside and call out to each other until they were all paired up. Women whose partner had abandoned them would gather together and burn pictures of the men who had left, cursing them as well.

A couple on a date

French Vocab to Know

No matter where you're planning to be for Valentine's Day, the language of love can be useful. Even if you aren't planning a romantic dinner or going out with friends, taking advantage of the holiday to switch up your vocabulary practice can help you stay motivated to learn.

To help you get ready for Valentine's Day, here's are some Quizlet sets that will teach you all the phrases and words you must know. The great thing with using Quizlet is that you can listen to the pronunciation as you learn. You don't need to make an account to access the study sets, but if you want to make the most out of your study time, I would highly recommend it.

Depending on your plans and situation, the vocabulary you should study will differ. For example, if you're going on a date with someone for the first time, you probably wouldn't need to know how to say "I love you" or "Marry me" in French. If you're going out with your longtime partner, though, then both of these phrases may come in handy.

A Note on Regional Differences

Something that many French learners don't realize when studying vocab is that some words will be different depending on where you're at. African French will have a different word than Quebec French. Quebec French will have a different word than standard French. Here's an article about regional differences in French-speaking countries if you want to know more.

Some differences that the article talks about are useful for Valentine's Day. For example, the word for "girlfriend" is different in all four regions:

  • Quebec: ma blonde
  • Africa: ma go
  • Louisiana: ma bele
  • France: ma petite-copine

If you plan on asking someone to be your girlfriend or you already have a girlfriend and want to introduce her, knowing these differences are important.

Group of friends laughing together

Slang and Valentine's Day

If you're talking with younger people, you'll likely encounter slang. For French learners, this is both incredibly frustrating and a great opportunity. You can still use the standard vocabulary words that you learned, but you may decide that you also want to learn the slang for certain things as well.

In France, there's a method to creating slang. It's called verlan and you can read more about it here. While it isn't exactly limited to Valentine's Day vocabulary or love, French learners should still be familiar with it. After all, if you're going on to a teuf with a French person and they call your their meuf, you'll want to know what that means.

Couple watching a movie

Romantic Movies and Books in French

Most French learners aren't going to spend Valentine's Day in France. However, that's no excuse not to practice your holiday vocabulary. There are plenty of romantic movies to watch that will help you get your daily French practice in and put you in the romance spirit. You can even make a date night out of it!

Here are some ideas:

  1. Les enfants du paradis: Think Gone With the Wind but in Nazi-occupied France. This black-and-white film is a classic and tells the story of a beautiful courtesan and her doomed romance.
  2. L'histoire d'Adèle H: If you like Victor Hugo, you'll like this movie based on his daughter and her romantic adventures.
  3. Paris, je t'aime: If you dream of visiting Paris, this is the perfect thing to watch on Valentine's Day. It's a series of 18 short films all focused on love.
  4. L’arnacoeur: If you want something that feels like a Hallmark movie but is entirely French, this rom-com is right up your alley.
  5. La vie d'Adèle: If you like spicier romances and were hoping for something queer to watch, you're in luck! This queer, French romance is hot, sweet, and romantic in all the best ways.

If you're more of a book worm, don't worry. Here are some suggestions for you:

  1. La Belle et La Bete by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve: You probably know the story of Beauty and the Beast, but as a French learner, you can read the original version in French! It's a great way to practice reading comprehension as you already know the story and can focus on new vocab.
  2. Gigi by Collete: This classic is about a French courtesan who finds love in Paris. It was slightly taboo at the time, but is now considered a classic French romance.
  3. Bonjour tristesse by Françoise Sagan: This coming of age novel was written by the author when she was only 18 years old and caused quite a scandal as it tells the story of a young girl who ignores traditional ideas of love in favor of sexual freedom.

Girl studying

Practicing and Expanding Your French Valentine’s Day Vocabulary

Whether you spend some time in France, show off your new vocab on a date, or stay at home and watch a movie, Valentine's Day is the perfect time to hone your French skills and spice up your vocab practice. In any case, be sure to make the most of the holiday and 'wow' your friends and family with the language of love.