For the Birds Radio Program: French That's for the Birds

Original Air Date: April 13, 1988

Jeanne Tonkin, the French teacher at Ordean Junior High School, helps us learn a few words in French.

Duration: 3′59″


(Recording of

I recently learned that some students at Ordean Junior High School in Duluth listen to this program before school in their French classroom, when they should be studying French. Uh oh–the jig is up. Today you guys are going to learn some French–at least some French that is for the birds. Unfortunately, my own knowledge of human languages is limited to English, Spanish, and Pig Latin, so I enlisted the aid of Jean Tonkin, the French teacher at Ordean, to enlighten all those listeners who have wanted to learn ornithology and how to speak French in one fell swoop.

The most basic word, of course, is “bird.”

(Jean–French for “oiseau”)

The state bird of Minnesota, the common loon, which is also found in France, is called

(Le Huart a collier)

Wisconsin’s state bird, the American robin, which isn’t found in Europe, is translated:

(Le Merle americain)

The most important bird in all of North America, the Blue Jay, isn’t found in France either, but lucky Frenchmen who see one in America call it:

(Le Geai bleu)

Ravens, found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, are called

(Le Grand Corbeau)

In spite of their name, french fries are an all American food, and Ring-billed Gulls only mooch for them in America. But the French would call them

(Le Goeland a bec cercle)

The French share some similar idioms with Americans. (Mere poule) means a mother hen.

To eat like a bird is an expression in French, too–

(avoir un appetit d’ oiseau)


To kill the hen that lays the golden eggs is another expression shared with the French.

(Tuer la poule aux oeufs d’ or)

The French have a saying about chattering like a magpie–

(Bavarder comme une pie)

A bird’s egg in French is an oeuf, and Jean expalined that that’s why the French never eat two eggs for breakfast–One egg is an oeuf.

Important bird phrases you might need in the Northland are:

Let’s count hawks today.

(Contons les rapace aujourd’hui)

It’s tme to feed the birds.

C’est l’heure nourrir les oiseaux.

Baker’s Blue jay Barn–up the shore aways. (La grange Geai bleu de Baker–le longue de la cote pas loin)

Darn it–what did that gull do to my car? (Zut alors–qu’ est-ce que cette mouette la a fait sur ma voiture)

(Recording of a Ring-billed Gull)

This is Laura Erickson, C’est Jean Tonkin, et ce program a ete pour les oiseaux.