Learning the days of the week in another language can be tough.
Especially for a beginner.
Remember how hard of a time Apollonia Corleone had with the English days in “The Godfather”?
Don’t want to show up to your mardi doctor’s appointment on mercredi, do you?
One of the reasons why learning the week can be hard is that it may seem boring. Days of the week just don’t have the exciting vibe of the color spectrum or even the months of the year, which at least have associations with different kinds of weather and festivities.
So here are some ways to actually enjoy learning and memorizing the French days of the week.
The Basics: The Days of the Week in French
Before we get to how you can make these days of the week a habit, it’s important to establish what they are:
lundi – Monday
mardi – Tuesday
mercredi – Wednesday
jeudi – Thursday
vendredi – Friday
samedi – Saturday
dimanche – Sunday
Remember: Just like the French months of the year, the days of the week in French are not capitalized, and the French week starts on Monday rather than Sunday.
Here are some more useful words and phrases for talking about the days of the week:
Un jour – a day
Une semaine – a week
Hebdomadaire – weekly
Les jours de la semaine – the days of the week
Le week-end – the weekend
Faire le pont – (lit. “to make a bridge”)
This last one refers to public holidays that fall on Tuesdays or Thursdays. In France especially, it’s customary to (either officially or unofficially) transform these holidays into four-day weekends by taking the day off on the intervening Monday or Friday, respectively. In doing so, you “bridge” the gap between the holiday and the weekend and get an extra day of R&R!
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, it’s time to discover some excellent techniques for memorizing the French days of the week.
3 Hebdomadaire Ideas to Learn the French Days of the Week
1. Make Them a Habit
One of the best ways to learn the French days of the week is the way you learned the English ones—by making them a habit. And that means not just practicing the days of the week, but actually using them every day.
Luckily, this isn’t that hard to do. It just takes changing a few of your habits!
Take, for instance, your planner. If you’re still using a paper planner, you can easily buy one in French instead of in English. You can occasionally find planners in office supply stores that have the days of the week in French, English and Spanish, but if you want one that’s just in French, you’ll have to go a bit further.
If you can’t make it to Europe to buy one, you can order one online: This site allows you not only to choose the language of your planner but also allows you to design it the way that you’d like it.
If you’ve switched to the web for your planning needs, it’s even easier: Just switch out your Google calendar for the French Google agenda by switching the language in your calendar settings.
You can also switch the days of the week on your cell phone, on your desktop computer calendar and even on your television. Change as many of these options as you can to really immerse yourself in the French versions of the days of the week and to ensure that they become automatic for you.
These options will all help you integrate the French days of the week into your way of thinking naturally, as you’ll be noticing the French term for a day of the week every time you come across it. Pretty soon, you won’t even have to think about it anymore!
2. Set Them to Music
One of the best ways of learning new vocabulary is by setting it to music. There are already some great days of the week songs out there that can work as mnemonics; here are just a couple:
If you don’t like these songs, or if you want something a bit different, you could always make up your own song, setting the French days of the week to music. My French teacher used to sing the days of the week to us to the tune of “Frère Jacques.” 20 years later, it still sticks—sometimes the simplest techniques are the best ones. Use this song or another catchy tune—the alphabet song works as well, but so could your favorite pop song.
You can also try using online videos, like this one, which isn’t a song but does get you involved in naming the different days of the week as well as considering simple questions, like which day comes before which. It’s great practice!
If you enjoy learning new language concepts through videos, feel free to check out more on FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
3. Create Mnemonics Using Etymology
This might seem like a lot of work just to remember the days of the week, but trust me—once you know the etymology behind the days of the week, they’re a lot easier to remember.
Lundi is an easy one. The French word for moon is lune. Like in English, Monday (moon day) is devoted to the moon. This is a simple translation mnemonic.
Mardi is a little bit tougher. It’s named for the Roman god of war, Mars, but seeing as in English, Tuesday is named for the god Tyr, unless you’re particularly well-versed in Norse mythology, chances are this won’t help you too much.
Instead, try to remember the holiday Mardi Gras, which many know given the famed celebration of it in New Orleans. Mardi Gras is a Catholic feast day, also known as Fat Tuesday. It’s the day before Ash Wednesday, when Christians traditionally ate all of the butter and flour in the cupboard in preparation for 40 days of fasting for Lent.
Mercredi is similar to mardi in its etymology: It’s known as the day of Mercury, the Roman god of financial gain, commerce and eloquence. Not too helpful, especially given that Wednesday in English is associated with another Norse god, Odin.
That said, you could try to remember that Mercury, as the communicator between the mortals and the divine, is kind of halfway between worlds, just like mercredi is halfway through the work week.
Jeudi is once again named for a Roman god, this time Jupiter. In English, Thursday is named for Thor. As Thor is a fairly well-known god—especially given the recent popularity of superhero films he appears in, you might be able to remember that Thursday is named for the most important god—Thor in Norse tradition and Jupiter in Roman tradition.
If not, however, there’s another fun trick to remember jeudi. Up until 1972 in France, primary school students didn’t go to school on Thursdays; it was used as a day for play, or jeux. In 1972, this was switched out for Wednesday.
Interestingly, since 2013, France has started to reform its elementary school rhythms again by adding classes on Wednesdays in most primary schools, which has been the source of much debate.
Vendredi is once again named for a Roman god, or in this case, a goddess: Venus. If you know your Roman mythology, you might know that Venus is the goddess of love and beauty—nothing easier than remembering that Friday is all about love and beauty, right?
Samedi is one day that’s not associated with a god, unlike in English, where Saturday is named for Saturn. Instead, in French, samedi comes from the Latin sambati dies, which means “day of Sabbath.” Even if you don’t know too much Latin, you could remember that Sabbath and samedi both start with the sound “sa,” and Saturday is the Sabbath day in the Jewish tradition.
Dimanche is also not named for a Roman god, but rather from the Latin dies dominicus, meaning the day of the Lord. Because Sunday is the day of Sabbath in the Christian tradition, this translation makes a whole lot of sense.
Of course, these are just suggestions of ways to remember the days of the week.
You might prefer to create your own anagram with the first letters of the days of the week or even a rhyming poem to remember which day is which.
Just remember that practice makes perfect, and soon you’ll be using the French terms for the days of the week like a pro.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.