Most French people give a lot of importance to their birthdays, particular decades (30, 40, 50 etc) which they believe must be celebrated in a memorable way so that everyone around them will remember the celebration.
In the following dialogue, Mathieu invites Jean Luc to his birthday party next weekend.
- Tu es libre samedi?
- Ben, je fais rien de spécial... Pourquoi?
- Je fais une teuf pour mon anniv!
- Ah c'est ton anniversaire samedi?
- En fait c'est aujourd´hui mais je le fête ce week-end.
- Ah eh bien, bon anniversaire mon vieux! Ça te fait quel âge?
- Je fête mes 40 ans!
- 40 ans quand même! Je te voyais plus jeune. Mais bon c'est vrai que tu commences à avoir des rides et des cheveux gris...
- Ouais OK ça va... Bon alors, samedi tu viens ou non?
- Je rigole, ne te vexe pas! Oui bien sûr que je viendrai. Ce sera chez toi?
- Non, j'ai loué une mega salle avec un super DJ.
- Ah oui carrément! Et il y aura beaucoup de monde?
- Oui pas mal. Par contre il y a une petite participation au frais.
- Pas de problème, c'est combien?
- Ah oui... Euh d'accord. Mais là, tout de suite, j'ai rien sur moi, je te les file plus tard. OK?
Listen to the audio:
Here's the English version of the dialogue:
Are you free Saturday?
Well I don't have any special plans... Why?
I'm having a party for my birthday!
Oh Saturday is your birthday?
Actually it's today but I'm having the party this weekend.
Oh wow well happy birthday old buddy! How old are you turning?
That old huh... Thought you were younger! But you are starting to get a few wrinkles on your face and some gray hair...
Yeah well, whatever. So are you coming Saturday or not?
I'm kidding! don't get offended. Yeah of course I'm coming. Will it be at your place?
No I've rented a huge ballroom with a great DJ.
Oh you did, didn't you! So there'll be a lot of people?
Yeah quite a few. By the way, everyone has to chip in.
Sure, no problem, how much is it?
50? Uh... sure... I don't have any money on me though, I'll give them to you later OK?
The invitation to the party
Before extending his invitation, Matthieu first makes sure Jean-Luc is free on Saturday:
Tu es libre samedi?
"Tu es libre?" is used a lot when asking someone if they're available.
"Je suis libre ce week-end" (I'm free this weekend)
Ben, je fais rien de spécial...
"Je (ne) fais rien de spécial" literally means "I'm not doing anything special." A common question and answer is:
"Qu'est-ce-que tu fais ce week-end?" (what are you doing this week-end?)
"Oh rien de spécial" (nothing special)
Mathieu then drops the big news:
Je fais une teuf pour mon anniv!
"Teuf" is a hip way of saying "fête" (party) using the "verlan" hipster language, a language created by youths in rough city areas by inverting syllables. Examples:
- Reum = mère
- Reup = père
- Keuf = flic (this one is a bit more deformed as the "L" is dropped)
- Relou = lourd
Verlan has now gone mainstream for certain common words often used by middle-aged people as well - "teuf" is one of them, synonymous with having fun and staying young.
Mathieu is in a party mood so he also uses "anniv" for "anniversaire", an abbreviated word youngsters use a lot. In general, French speakers abbreviate words a lot (see this section for more about how French speakers use word reductions).
Ah c'est ton anniversaire samedi?
This is how you say "it's your birthday":
"C'est mon anniversaire aujourd'hui!"
"C'est son anniversaire le mois prochain."
"C'était l'anniversaire de ma soeur la semaine dernière"
En fait c'est aujourd´hui mais je le fête ce week-end.
"My birthday is actually today but I'm celebrating it this weekend". "Fêter un anniversaire" is how you say "celebrating a birthday" or "having a birthday party".
Demain on va fêter mon anniversaire! (tomorrow we'll celebrate my birthday, we'll throw a party for my birthday)
Ah eh bien, bon anniversaire mon vieux!
He's wishing his buddy happy birthday, and adds "mon vieux" which means something like "buddy" or "pal". In this particularly context, Jean-Luc also uses the word "vieux" (old) as a kind of joke because Mathieu is turning a year older. However, "mon vieux" is used in a way similar to "old pal" in English:
Salut mon vieux! Ça fait plaisir de te voir! (Hey buddy, it's nice to see you!)
Note that the phrase "mon vieux" is mainly employed by people over 30, it's rarely used by the younger crowd - these will say "mec", "man", or "mon frère" or "ma soeur" for those of Arab origin.
Ça te fait quel âge?
This is a colloquial expression for asking "how old are you?", it literally says "what age does that make you?" This often has a connotation of "you're must be getting older by now..."
Elle n'est plus toute jeune! Ça lui fait quel âge maintenant?
(She's not getting any younger... How old might she be now?)
Mathieu is turning 40 and wants everyone to know he's having a big party:
Je fête mes 40 ans!
For French speakers, this spells big fun party to celebrate the completed decade. If you tell someone you're turning 40 (or 30, 50, 60...) they'll generally respond with something like:
Tu vas fêter ça comme il se doit!
(you're going to celebrate that as you should)
40 ans quand même...
Here, the expression "40 ans quand même..." means something like "40 really? that old?" Jean-Luc expresses his surprise about Mathieu is turning 40.
Another example of such use of "quand même" is a person who asks a friend how much he paid for a mountain bike. Suppose the friend says 5.000€. The person might say:
Ah quand même, 5000€...
(as in: 5000€! that's not cheap...)
Jean-Luc continues saying:
Je te voyais plus jeune = I would have tought you were younger
Notice the expression "je te voyais...", literally "I was seeing you as...". Imagine you see an actor you love in person for the first time, you might say to your friend:
Je le voyais plus grand (I thought he was taller)
Je la voyais plus âgée (I thought she was older)
Then Jean-Luc throws one of those venomous arrows French speakers commonly do:
Mais bon c'est vrai que tu commences à avoir des rides et des cheveux gris...
He's basically saying, I was a bit surprised to learn you're turning 40 as I thought you were younger, but come to think of it, you do look older... That's quite a nasty thing to say by US/UK standards, yet something you might hear from a French-speaking friend - as well as other harsh critics on your physical or moral imperfections.
Mathieu is a French speaker so he expected this kind of comment. He just takes the blow and says:
Ouais OK ça va...
This is equivalent to something like "yeah, OK, whatever". It shows Mathieu doesn't enjoy the remark but won't comment on it. He has a specific goal in mind:
Bon alors, samedi tu viens ou non? (so, are you coming on Saturday or not?)
Here, "ou non!" still reflects his annoyance with Jean-Luc's unpleasant comment, it's a bit like saying "let's cut through the BS, are you coming or not!"
Imagine you've been standing for hours in a store to help a friend chose a new couch, but she's still hesitant and you're getting really annoyed. You might say to your friend:
bon alors, tu l'achète ce canapé ou non!
(so, are you buying this couch or not!)
Jean-Luc detects Mathieu's annoyed tone and says he's just joking:
Je rigole! te vexe pas!
"Je rigole" means "I'm kidding, it's actually a highly colloquial word you only use in everyday spoken French but never in formal writing - the right would be "je plaisante".
"C'est vrai, tu trouves que je ressemble à un clown?" (you really think I look like a clown?)
"Bien sur que non, je rigole!" (of course not, I'm kidding!)
"Ne te vexe pas!" means "don't be offended!", it's often used in spoken French following "je plaisante" or "je rigole", e.g. if the person didn't take your joking comment well, like in the previous example.
Ne te vexe pas, c'est une blague! (don't take it seriously, it's a joke)
Jean-Luc confirms he'll come to the party:
Oui bien sûr que je viendrai.
Note the expression "bien sûr que..." to express certainty or a strong willingness to do something:
Bien sûr qu'il fait beau en juin (of course the weather is nice in June)
Bien sûr que j'irai à New York pour le mariage (for sure I'll go to NY for the wedding)
He then asks whether the party will be at Mathieu's place:
Ce sera chez toi?
Mathieu proudly answers:
Non, j'ai loué une méga salle avec un super DJ.
When you're celebrating a decade birthday, it's cool to throw a big event in some external venue with hired musicians. Mathieu rented a really big place ("méga salle") with a great DJ ("un super DJ").
Une méga fête (a big big party)
Un super buffet (a great buffet)
Jean-Luc is impressed:
"Ah oui carrément!"
This is a very commonly used spoken French phrase. "Carrément" normally means "outright". Here, "ah oui carrément" means "so you're going all out, you're not holding back, you're doing the whole shabang!"
For example, someone decides to learn to play the music and so has a complete home studio built in their house. A friend who see that may say:
"Ah oui, un studio de musique, carrément!"
They may add:
Tu ne fais pas les choses à moitié, toi! (you don't do things half-assed)
Et il y aura beaucoup de monde?
Oui pas mal.
Literally, this translates to "yes, no bad". In this context, however, this is short for "pas mal de ...", i.e. "quite a bit of":
Il y aura pas mal de monde
Cette voiture fait pas mal de bruit (this car makes quite a bit of noise)
Ça fait pas mal de temps (it's been quite a while = quite a bit of time)
Par contre il y a une petite participation au frais.
"Par contre" normally means "on the other hand", "contrariwise". French speakers, however, often use it to introduce a caveat, an obligation, or something sort of negative. In this case, "par contre" makes the transition from the fun stuff (the party with lots of people) and the related obligation (chipping it to cover the costs).
It's also a way to warn someone about the caveat:
Tu peux me déposer en voiture? (can you give me a ride?)
Oui, par contre je n'ai plus d'essence... (yes, but you should know I'm out of gas)
Jean Luc is OK with the idea of chipping in, and asks what the amount of the contribution is:
Pas de problème, c'est combien?
Jean-Luc is quite shocked by the amount Mathieu is asking from him and says:
50? Ah d'accord...
The phrase "ah d'accord..." is used all the time in spoken colloquial French. You typically say it when you're shocked by some news and you need a moment to digest the information. A close English equivalent may be "OK I get it...".
Finalement je ne pourrai pas t'aider pas pour le déménagement. (in the end I won't be able to help you move)
Elle dit qu'elle ne veut plus te voir.
Ah OK d'accord...
Jean-Luc quickly gets over his surprise and says:
Mais là, tout de suite, j'ai rien sur moi, je te les file plus tard. OK?
Notice the phrase "là, tout de suite" which is redundant - "là" means "now", "tout de suite" = "right now". French speakers often use the phrase to express a sense of immediacy:
Là tout de suite, je ne peux pas, je suis super occupé (I can't right now, I'm super busy)
The expression "je n'ai rien sur moi", literally "I have nothing on me", means I don't have any money.
Tu peux me prêter 10€?
Désolé je n'ai rien sur moi.
He then adds:
Je te les file plus tard, OK?
"Filer" here is slang for "donner":
Tu peux me filer une cigarette? (can you give me a cigarette?)
"Je te les file plus tard" is probably a way of blowing his friend off and not giving him the money at all while continuing to appear relaxed and friendly.