Talking About Sports in French: Preparing for the Olympics

Talking About Sports in French: Preparing for the Olympics

Learning a new language is all about discovering new things, expanding your world view, and exploring a different culture. It requires an open mind and a love of learning, especially if you're learning the language on your own rather than in a classroom. Another thing it requires, however, is finding the right inspiration to keep you motivated to learn.

There are a lot of different ways French learners stay motivated, but one primary way is by incorporating their interests into their everyday learning. For a lot of people, this means listening to French music, watching French TV shows, or reading French books. If you're a sports fan, though, then this is your year! France is hosting the Olympics this summer in Paris, giving you the perfect excuse to incorporate sports-related vocab into your French study sessions.

Olympic rings and statue.

When Are the Paris Olympics?

The Olympics are the perfect way to practice sports-related vocab so if you're a sports fan learning French, you couldn't have chosen a better time to start learning! Not only will you be able to learn new words, but you'll also have access to an abundance of listening and reading comprehension tools.

This summer, the Olympics will begin in Paris on July 24 and end on August 11. As usual, different events will compete on different days and there will be medal events and non-medal events. You can either watch them all, or just your favorite events. It's up to you!

If you want more information on when each event will take place and whether it will be a medal event, here's a link to the official page where you can find more information. The link will take you to the French version of the website, but try navigating it before you switch it to another language. I bet you could figure out at least some of the events before you even scroll through the vocab lists below.

Swimmers racing in a pool.

French Vocab for Sports and the Olympics

Alright, are you ready for a long list of words in French? Don't stress about memorizing everything. While many of the words are similar to their English counterparts, no one expects you to remember everything after your first scroll-through.

You can pick and choose which words to remember or you can challenge yourself to learn them all by the time the Olympics begin. Learn at your own pace, but be sure to learn the gender along with the words themselves.

Types of Sports in French

Some types of sports are often known by a shorter version of the full word. If this is the case for a certain sport, then the short version will be listed in parentheses. It's good to know both versions of the words, but if you only want to study one, then focus on the longer version.

French English
Le baseball Baseball
Le basket-ball (Le basket) Basketball
Le football (Le foot) Football (US Soccer)
La danse Dance
La gymnastique Gymnastics
Le tennis Tennis
La natation Swimming
La natation synchronisée Synchronized swimming
La plongée Diving
Le golf Golf
Le rugby Rugby
Le football américain American football
Le volley-ball Volleyball
La boxe Boxing
La lutte Wrestling
Le cyclisme Cycling
La course Track
Le surf Surfing
Le handball Handball
L'escrime Fencing
Le judo Judo
Le tennis de table Table tennis (Ping-pong)
Le hockey sur gazon Field hockey
Le badminton Badminton
L'aviron Rowing
Le saut à la perche Pole vaulting
Le saut en hauteur High jump
Le saut en longeur Long jump
Le tir sportif Shooting (sport)

Skier on top of mountain.

Winter Sports in French

While only the summer Olympics are being held in France, there's no need to limit yourself to only summer sports vocabulary. Here is a list of some winter sports in French that you can study and learn in order to be prepared for the next winter Olympics, or just this next season.

French English
Le hockey (sur glace) Ice hockey
Le patinage artistique Figure skating
Le ski Skiing
Le ski acrobatique Freestyle skiing

Sports Verbs in French

You can't talk about sports in French without knowing the necessary verbs. While this is by no means a comprehensive list, these are some of the most common verbs you'll encounter when speaking everyday French, but especially when talking about sports.

French English
Courir To run
Jouer To play
Marcher To walk
Bondir To leap
Sauter To jump
Nager To swim
Plonger To dive
Donner un coup de pied To kick
Donner un coup de poing To hit
Lancer/Jeter To throw
Attraper To catch
Pousser To push
Tirer To shoot
Frapper To hit
Marquer To score
Gagner To win
Perdre To lose
Acclamer To cheer
Applaudir To clap
Faire un flip To do a flip
S'étirer To stretch (yourself)
Danser To dance
Bouger To move
Se battre To compete
Passer To pass
Plaquer To tackle
Compter les points To keep score
Chronométrer To time
Nager le crawl To swim freestyle
Nager la brasse To swim the breastroke
Nager le dos To swim the backstroke
Nager le papillon To swim the butterfly stroke

Just like in English, there are idioms in French used to talk about sports. Here are just a few of them.

French Literal Translation English Meaning
Prendre une valise To take a suitcase To lose very badly
Mouiller le maillot To wet your jersey To give everything you have
Jouer avec le frein à main To play with the handbrakes on To not compete to the best of your ability
Se faire coiffer sur la ligne To get your hair cut on the line To be winning a race only to be caught at the finish line and end up losing

View of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Where Can I Watch the Paris Olympics?

Now that you have a long list of new French vocabulary to learn, where can you put it to the test?

While much of the promotion for the Olympics is being done in English, you can certainly find content in French. It isn't hard. The Olympic Games (or les Jeux olympiques/les JOs in French) will be streamed live around the world and relevant content won't be difficult to find.

Depending on where you're at, you'll have to access a different platform or service. Most of Europe will be able to watch the Olympics on the Warner Bros Discovery channel, including France and the UK. For those in Canada, tune into CBC. Americans can watch via NBC or Peacock while New Zealanders can watch on Sky Network and Australians can watch on Nine. To find out more about where other countries can stream the Olympics, download the PDF here.

To prepare for the Olympics, you can use French news sources to stay up to date on any changes or news. This is a great way to test out your new vocab and your reading or listening comprehension as sports vocab will make a regular appearance.

Soccer fans watching a game.

Practice Your New French Vocabulary

Now that you have a new list of French vocab to study and memorize, you're ready for the Olympics! This really is the perfect time to be learning sports vocab as so much news content will be focused on the Olympics, sports, and atheletics.

If you're lucky enough to be seeing the Olympics in person, then you may want to add public transportation vocab to your list of things to learn this summer. Even if you aren't going to be in Paris, it's still useful to know some basic transit vocab.

All in all, practicing your new sports vocabulary shouldn't be hard at all, especially if you're already a fan of sports. Whether you're here as a sports fan or you just want to branch out with your study plan, good luck with your new French vocab and take advantage of your unique ability to enjoy the summer Olympics as a French language learner!