French Lessons with Netflix’s Lupin: 8 Expressions to Sound Natural in French

Are you looking for a French tutor? If you are, we have someone to recommend. His name is Assane Diop. He’s the only son of a couple from Senegal who moved to France when he was a baby, and… he’s a professional thief.

If you know who we’re talking about, it means you’ve also become addicted to the French show Lupin, the first Francophone series to make it to the top 10 on Netflix in the United States.

One of the great things about this show is that, thanks to its gripping plot, you won’t want to leave your seat. In this way, brushing up on language skills will be something you do for pleasure!

How can I learn French with Lupin?

The first thing you should know is that Netflix allows you to set both the audio track or a set of subtitles in French. This means that, instead of listening to a phoney English dubbing, you get to listen to hours of dialogue in French which you can also read whenever you feel you’re getting a bit lost.

However, as it happens with any language, those unfamiliar with the usage of culture-specific phrases could have a hard time catching up with some of the expressions on the show. For this reason, we’ve decided to compile a list of the most interesting vocabulary from Lupin with examples and definitions.

1. déraper — to get out of hand

The word déraper, whose literal meaning is skid, as when a vehicle slides on slippery ground, metaphorically serves to talk about situations that get out of control.

Example from the show: Je me rasais et ça a dérapé. (I was shaving and it got out of hand.)

2. coloc — roomie (roommate)

Coloc, which comes from colocataire, is an instance of clipping, i.e. the shortening of a word without a change in meaning.

Example from the show: Voilà ton nouveau coloc. (Here is your new roommate.)

3. ouvrir une parenthèse — to digress

This expression, which is also used in Spanish (abrir un paréntesis) serves as a warning that you’re going to deviate from the main subject to go off on a tangent for a minute. For example, you might be talking about your friend’s breakup and suddenly “open a parenthesis” to call her attention to how great your hair looks today.

Example from the show: J’ouvre une parenthèse. (Figurative meaning: Let me digress for a minute)

4. maladresse — clumsiness, awkwardness

This term is derived from the root adresse, to which the prefix mal- (similar to mis- in English) has been added to describe the feeling of worry, unease or embarrassment you get from listening to a socially inept person.

Example from the show: Ce qu’il essaye de dire avec beaucoup de maladresse… (What he’s so awkwardly trying to say is…)

5. Se foutre de ma gueule — to make a fool of me

This is one of those phrases that shows why language cannot be divorced from culture.  A disastrous literal translation would start with the (English!) F-word, and end with “my mouth”. Its figurative meaning is closer to English expressions such as “make fun of me” or “laugh in my face”.

Example from the show: Vous savez vous foutre de ma gueule. (You know how to make a fool of me.)

6. déformation professionnelle— occupational hazard

This expression, which has nothing to do with malformations, is another one that might leave you scratching your head if the context is unclear. It merely refers to the habits we acquire in our jobs and then apply in other contexts. For example, a “déformation professionelle” that some teachers may have is checking that everyone is wearing their uniforms correctly, even if they are not students.

Example from the show: Non, désolée. Déformation professionnelle. (No, sorry. Occupational hazard.)

7. taf — (slang) job

One of the disadvantages of learning languages with traditional textbooks is that you rarely learn informal expressions or slang. If you’re a French learner, you’re probably familiar with the words emploi and travail, but you might have never heard about taf. Taf is a synonym for emploi, but it’s only used in very informal contexts.

Example from the show: J’aimais mon taf. (I loved my job.)

8. pécho — (slang) to hook up

This is a popular slang word used by French teenagers. It’s used to talk about a casual encounter between two people who are not in a serious relationship and do not expect to meet each other’s parents any time soon.

Example from the show: Je suis l’homme de ta vie, mais sans qu’on se pécho?  (I’m the man of your life, and still you won’t hook up with me?.)

These are just a few examples of all the expressions you can learn from watching the highly addictive show Lupin. If anything, they show us that there’s a reason why so many people quote Netflix as a language-learning resource. When you watch a contemporary show from a foreign country, you get to listen to hundreds of phrases whose meaning is embedded in the culture in which they have been created, which can teach you a lot about how people communicate in real, everyday situations.

At Language Trainers, we follow a similar approach. We believe that language cannot be separated from culture and that if you want to learn to communicate effectively you have to learn from native speakers.

So, if you want to learn French with a native tutor (now we are not joking!), send us a message. We’ll pair you up with the best teacher so you can start working on your fluency right away.