The Ultimate Guide to Texting in French

The Ultimate Guide to Texting in French

As you advance in your French learning journey, the odds are high that sooner or later, you'll start texting in French. Whether you move abroad to a French-speaking region or you meet French speakers online, you'll probably find yourself faced with the daunting prospect of texting in French. The good news is that, just like other aspects of French, once you've got a hang of it, texting isn't actually that complicated at all.

Group of people speaking and looking at phone.

Is Texting in French Really Different from Spoken French?

Just like in English, texting in French is quite a bit different from speaking in French. There are acronyms and slang words used in texts that you won't see in class, school, or work. As such, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with them beforehand so you aren't confused when they do pop up.

It is important to remember that French is a living language. It's always changing and adapting, so you can't account for absolutely every strange word, acronoym, or phrase that you may see while texting. That being said, learning some of the most common texting shortcuts can greatly alleviate your initial confusion.

Man texting and smiling.

4 Tips for Texting in French

Don't worry. There will be a list of common French texting shortcuts and phrases, but first, I wanted to give you some tips on texting in French. It can be scary when you just dive right in, so here are some things to keep in mind.

#1. Familiarize Yourself with French Slang

French slang is common in both texting and informal conversation. I'm not talking about informal or vulgar words, though you will encounter these as well. I'm talking about the unique world of French slang known as verlan.

When you're talking with younger people, you'll almost certainly encounter verlan. If you're new to verlan, check out this article to learn the basics. Knowing the rules of verlan will greatly help you navigate informal conversations, even if you don't understand a particular word.

While verlan follows the same rules across the French-speaking world, you will also want to account for regional French words. Along with verlan, each Francophone region will have words that are unique to the area and that you won't hear anywhere else. If you're living in or traveling through one of these regions, knowing this unique slang is a good way to feel prepared for any conversation.

#2. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

Some people feel that once you reach a certain level of French fluency, you can't ask what a word means. This isn't true! Even if French were your native language, you would still come across words that you don't recognize or understanding. As a French language learner, there will always be words that you don't know.

There's no shame in asking what a certain word, phrase, or acronym means. Asking for clarification doesn't mean you don't know French; it just means you're still learning the language. I spent a lot of time in university asking my peers what certain words meant and they were always happy to explain them to me. Asking really isn't as scary as it feels.

#3. Be Easy on Yourself

No matter where you're at in your French learning journey, there will always be roadblocks that pop up. Texting may very well be one of them. The rules and language are quite different from standard French; don't be hard on yourself if you don't understand them perfectly.

Improving your French fluency is a journey that can be both frustrating and energizing. Texting is one of the necessary steps. Even though it seems simple and easy, don't be surprised or upset if you struggle at first. Consider it a new opportunity to learn and improve your French.

#4. Expect Some Very Bad Grammar

Between me and you: You probably won't be the worst texter out there, no matter how poor your French is. Native French speakers are almost impressively bad at spelling and grammar. Even if you struggle with writing, you probably won't be worse than native French speakers.

To boost your confidence, here are a couple of very real texts I've received from native French speakers:

  • Ne vous inquiété pas > correct version: Ne vous inquiétez pas
  • Je le ferai si sa vous convient > correct version: Je le ferai si ça vous convient
  • Ont se tient au courant > correct version: On se tient au courant

The level of poor spelling amongst French people is so bad that many instutitions have tried to introduce solutions. If you want to test your reading comprehension, here's an article by OrthographIQ about the problem.

Person writing a list of words.

French Words to Know When Texting

In the years that I've been living in France, I've received a lot of odd and incomprehensible texts (as seen above). Over time, I've learned how to decipher what the sender (most likely) meant. If you're just beginning your French learning journey, then this won't come as naturally. That's okay. To help you out, here's a list of some words to know when texting in French.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it does contain some of the most common texting abbreviations and slang words that I've seen and used:

  1. Mdr (mort de rire) - "lol"
  2. Cc (coucou) - "Hi/Hey"
  3. C (c'est) - "It's"
  4. Ct/C t (c'était) - "It was"
  5. Cv (ça va) - "It's good"/"Well"
  6. Qqn/qq1 (quelqu'un) - "Someone"
  7. Qqc/qqch (quelque chose) - "Something"
  8. tt (tout) - "All"
  9. Auj (aujourd'hui) - "Today"
  10. Tjr/tjrs/tjs (toujours) - "Always/still"
  11. Jsp (je (ne) sais pas) - "I don't know"
  12. Tkt (t'inquiète) - This techincally means "Don't worry" despite there being no negation (ne pas), but that's a different grammar discussion and I won't dive into it here.
  13. Slt (salut) - "Hey/Hi"
  14. Stp/svp (s'il te plaît/s'il vous plaît) - "Please" (informal/formal)
  15. Prcq/pcq (parce que) - "Because"
  16. Prq (pourquoi) - "Why". Be careful with this one as it's so similar to "because".
  17. Bcp (beaucoup) - "A lot"
  18. P (pas) - "Not" (negation)
  19. Cad (c'est-à-dire) - "That is" or "i.e."
  20. Jms (jamais) - "Never"
  21. Vs (vous) - "You" (formal)

You'll notice how there are a couple of suggestions for some abbreviations. As French is a living language, you'll probably come across different ways of shortening words. Everyone will text differently, though some abbreviations like mdr, jsp, and tkt will be spelled and used the same way by everyone.

If you want a longer list or even a PDF, here's a website that offers both. You'll find that there are a lot more abbreviations listed, but I've never come across them in the many years I've spent texting French people, so I didn't bother including them. It may be a good idea to glance at them, though, as if you do come across them, you won't be as surprised.

Group of friends texting and chatting.

Time to Text

The best way to feel more confident in your ability to text in French is to practice, practice, practice. It'll take time to get used to and you will come across new, odd words and abbreviations that you don't recognize, but don't worry. It'll be okay. You already have the basics. Now it's just time to put them to practice.