Pastime Parlance! Talking About Your Hobbies in French
Have you read any good books lately?
Are you a knit-wit with purls of wisdom?
Have you bowled a spare in your spare time, then despaired that it wasn’t a strike?
Do you prefer pickin’ and grinnin’ to hummin’ and strummin’?
Have you watched the director’s cuts of all your favorite films?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may have a hobby.
And you can save time and learn French faster by parlaying your pastimes into a dynamic way to practice your French.
Let’s find out how you can increase your French language skills by talking about hobbies in French.
How Talking About Hobbies Can Be a Pleasurable Way to Learn French
Hobbies aren’t just a way to kill time; they’re also a way to connect with other people. Share les plaisirs des loisirs (the pleasures of hobbies) with your French-speaking friends, whether you simply talk about your pastimes or participate in them together.
Get to know native speakers at (and using) your leisure
When you first introduce yourself to new Francophone friends, you’ll want to be able to describe how you spend your leisure time. Talking about hobbies can be a great icebreaker when you’re getting to know other French speakers.
Relax and learn: Read and talk all about your hobbies
Once you learn some vocabulary pertaining to your hobbies, you can use it to practice your French by reading hobby-related magazines, books and blogs.
With the magic of the internet, you can practice your French from anywhere in the world through online discussions about your favorite hobbies. The social connections you make with your fellow enthusiasts can help you overcome any trepidation you might feel about conversing in French.
Word games for word gains: Use media and quizzes on the subject(s) of your choice
To practice your hobby-related French vocabulary in stimulating and entertaining ways, try these online exercises, quizzes and games.
French-Games.net offers topic-focused, colorful lessons and games for learning simple French hobby vocabulary. European-style road signs lead you through a series of vocabulary cards, exercises and classic games like Memory (Pelmanism) and Hangman.
Either study or play with Quizlet: Take your pick of flashcards, writing or spelling exercises to help you master sports and hobby vocabulary. Test your knowledge or race the clock in a hobby word matching game.
Take a deep dive into your favorite leisure activity with these detailed sets of French hobby words. Escape the executioner’s noose by divining the hidden words to beat Hangman, match the correct word to its picture or successfully complete a listening comprehension exercise.
How to Really Nerd Out Talking About Your Hobbies in French
La vie sportive (The Sporting Life)
Roll a ball, hit a target or take to the hills. Whatever your pleasure, bowling, darts and hiking are just three of many leisure sports enjoyed around the world.
Modern bowling likely evolved over the centuries from the same roots as the quintessentially French pétanque.
Over seven decades after the first crack of a ball against a duckpin was heard in France, the sport has remained popular and spread throughout the country.
- jouer au bowling — to go bowling
- le bowling — bowling alley
- la boule de bowling — bowling ball
- le bowling à dix quilles (f pl) — tenpin bowling
- la piste / l’allée (f) de quilles — lane
- les caniveaux (m) — gutters
- le carreau — frame
- l’abat — strike
- la réserve — spare
Words in context:
Le champion de l’équipe bowling n’avait jamais laissé la boule faire rouler aux caniveaux. (The champion of the bowling team never let the ball roll in the gutters.)
Bullseye! Hit the target for fun with a popular pub sport that began in England but now has fans all over the world. France is host to several international darts tournaments, notably an electronic darts competition every year in La Rochelle.
- les fléchettes (f) — darts
- les fléchettes électroniques — darts played on an electronic board
- une partie de fléchettes — a game of darts
- lancer une fléchette — to throw a dart
- la ligne de lancer — the oche, also called the “throw line” or “toe line”
- la cible de jeu de fléchettes — dartboard
- la bulle — center of the target
- la bulle intérieure — bullseye/double center; also literally translated from English as l’oeil de boeuf (m) (the eye of the bull)
To refer to darts as a game or sport, we would say le jeu de fléchettes. “To play darts” is jouer aux fléchettes, but “to play a game of darts” is faire une partie de fléchettes.
If you’re new to the game and would like to give it a try, here are the basic rules in French.
Words in context:
Il ne faut pas franchir la ligne de lancer quand on lance une fléchette vers la cible. (One must not cross the throw line when one throws a dart toward the dart board.)
The French language has lent much terminology to hiking and climbing as a sport. French-derived names are commonly used by English speakers for everything from types of rock formations to types of rope. For example, a high, narrow rock outcropping is called an aiguille, from the French word for “needle.” And if you carry a small rope with you, you might refer to it as a cordelette, a diminutive of the French word la corde (rope).
If you’re already an avid hiker or climber, you’ll have a head start in this French vocabulary. If you’re blazing a trail into a new hobby, here are a few terms to get you started:
- les chaussures (f pl) de randonnée (f) — hiking boots; also, les chaussures (f pl) de marche (f) (literally, “walking shoes”)
- la piste de randonnée — hiking trail
Une piste de randonnée (hiking trail) can also be called un sentier. If the trail is marked, it’s known as un sentier balisé.
- le col — mountain pass
- franchir un col — to cross over a mountain pass
- la canne — walking stick
- le sac à dos — backpack
- la boussole — compass
While the compass itself is la boussole, the points on the compass are known as les points cardinaux.
Words in context:
Même si le GPS a remplacé la boussole pour beaucoup de gens, il faut mieux garder une boussole. Après tout, on peut utiliser la boussole aux bois profonds sans avoir connection au réseau. (Even if the GPS has replaced the compass for many people, it’s better to still keep a compass on hand. After all, you can use a compass in the deep woods without having a network connection.)
Music is known as the universal language; its melodies and rhythms speak to people from all walks of life, all over the world.
If you spend some of your leisure time singing or playing tunes, this vocabulary will keep you rapping about your harmonious hobby.
Strike up the band! Many people like to relax by playing music, whether in organized groups or solo at home. Two of the most popular instruments are the guitar and the piano.
La guitare (Guitar)
- jouer de la guitare — to play guitar
- les cordes (f) — strings
- le plectre — guitar pick
- un accord — chord
Although the word for “strings,” les cordes, sounds like “chord” in English, un accord is the sounding of several strings at once.
- le capodastre (le capo) — capo
- le manche — neck (of the guitar)
French uses the word manche (sleeve) rather than the word cou (neck) to describe the neck of stringed instruments like the guitar. This term also applies to related instruments, such as le banjo (the banjo) and la mandoline (the mandolin).
- la touche — fretboard
- les frettes (f pl) — frets
Les frettes are also known as les barrettes (f pl)—the same word commonly used in French (and English) for hair clips.
- le chevalet — bridge
- la table d’harmonie — soundboard
Le Piano (Piano)
- le piano droit — upright piano
- le piano à queue — grand piano
- le clavier — keyboard
Clavier refers to both the array of keys on a musical instrument and the object used to type information into a computer.
- les touches (f pl) du clavier — keys (on the keyboard of a musical instrument)
- les touches noires — black keys
- les touches blanches — white keys
- le pédalier — pedals (as a group)
On grand pianos, the pédalier is also called une lyre, due to its resemblance to a harp-like instrument.
- la pédale forte — damper pedal (also called the “sustain” pedal)
- la pédale douce — soft pedal (also called the una corda pedal)
Normally, quand on joue du piano (when one plays the piano), the preposition de (of) is used with the definite article (le or la, yielding du or de la, respectively) to describe the activity. However, if you want to modestly say, “I play a little piano,” you would say, “Je joue un morceau au piano.”
Autres instruments de musique (Other Musical Instruments)
The names of many musical instruments in French bear striking similarity to their English-language counterparts.
- la flûte — flute
- la batterie — drums, drum kit
- l’accordéon — accordion
- le cor d’harmonie — French horn
- la trompette — trumpet
- la harpe — harp
- le violoncelle — cello
- le violon — violin
- le hautbois — oboe
- l’orgue (m) — organ
La notation musicale française (French Musical Notation)
If you participate in discussions about music with French speakers, you’ll note that they use a variant of the “do, re, mi” notation system made famous by Fraulein Maria in “The Sound of Music.” In France, this system is called solfège. France uses what’s known as the “fixed do,” meaning that each name always refers to the same note. Here’s how the two systems correspond:
- la note — musical note
- le bémol — flat (half-tone lower)
To refer to individual flat notes, we use the term bémol in conjunction with the solfège name of the note. For instance, B flat would be si-bémol, and E flat would be mi-bémol.
- le dièse — sharp (half-tone higher)
Sharp notes are named the same way as flats. Sol-dièse, for example, would be G sharp.
- le clé / le clef — musical key or clef
- le clé de ré mineur — the key of D minor
- en clé de sol-dièse majeur — in the key of G sharp major
- le clé de sol — treble clef
- le clé de bass — bass clef
Words in context:
Je joue bien de la guitare, mais je ne joue qu’un morceau au piano. (I play guitar well, but I only play a little bit of piano.)
Croon a tune. Whether your singing never leaves the confines of your shower or you regularly sing with a choir, these words will keep you in tune with other chanteurs (singers).
- le vers — verse
- le chœur — choir, chorus (group of singers)
In French, the chorus of a song (a group of repeated lines sung in between the verses) is called le refrain. However, a single song sung in unison by a group of people can be called un chœur (a chorus).
- le ton — pitch
- chanter faux / ne chanter pas juste — to sing flat
- chanter en harmonie (f) — to sing in harmony
- le déchant — descant
- chanter en solo — to sing solo
- à l’unison; en chœur (adj) — unison
Words in context:
Le chœur chanterait normalement en harmonie, mais quelquefois il a chanté à l’unisson. (The choir would normally sing in harmony, but it sometimes sang in unison.)
Arts & Crafts
Spanning a broad group of artistic activities, arts and crafts are some of the best-loved hobbies with an enduring popularity around the world.
Painting is a colorful way to show others how you see the world.
- la peinture — painting (as an activity); paint (as a liquid used to apply color)
- le tableau — painting (a picture created using paints on a canvas)
- le support de peinture — the medium on which one paints
- la toile — canvas
La toile can be made from a variety of materials, including le lin textile (linen), le chanvre textile (hemp cloth) and le coton (cotton).
- le pinceau — paintbrush
- le coup de pinceau — brush stroke
- une boîte de peinture — paintbox; box of paints
- la peinture acrylique — acrylic paint; painting with acrylics
- la peinture à l’huile — oil paint; painting with oil-based paints
- l’aquarelle (f) — watercolors; watercolor painting
The paints used to create your watercolor masterpiece are called les couleurs pour aquarelle.
- l’essence (f) de térébenthine (f) — turpentine
Words in context:
La toile est un support de peinture souvent utilisé. (Canvas is often used as a painting medium.)
La térébenthine est un solvant utilisant par des peintres. (Turpentine is a solvent used by painters.)
Sewing & Needlework
For centuries, various kinds of sewing and needlework have been a relaxing way to pass the time while creating decorative and useful objects.
Needlework is woven into the fabric of French life. It’s even regularly taught in French schools.
- coudre — to sew
- le fil — thread (or yarn)
- le patron — sewing pattern
- la machine à coudre — sewing machine
- la bobine — spool of thread
- le dé à coudre — thimble
- le point — stitch
- l’aiguille (f) — sewing needle
- le tricot — knitting (the product of the activity, not the activity itself)
- faire du tricot — to knit
- en tricot — knitted
- l’aiguille (f) à tricoter — knitting needle
- la maille — single loop
- le travail au crochet — crocheting (the product of the activity, not the activity itself)
- faire du crochet — to crochet
- le crochet — crochet hook
- le crochet en acier — steel crochet hook
- le crochet en plastique — plastic crochet hook
The word crochet literally means “hook” in French, and refers directly to the instrument used to make le travail au crochet (crocheting).
You’ll also see crochet as a boxing term (as in un double crochet du droit, a double right hook, or envoyer un méchant crochet du gauche, to throw a mean left hook), as well as in many other contexts in French.
- la châle faite au crochet — crocheted shawl
- l’afghane — afghan
- le napperon — doily
- la broderie — embroidery; embroidered cloth
- faire de la broderie — to embroider; to do embroidery
- la broderie de perles — beading; beadwork
- le point de croix — cross-stitch
- la dentelle — decorative lace
Words in context:
Ma grand-mère fit du crochet. Elle avait produit des afghanes et quelques napperons. (My grandmother crocheted. She produced afghans and some doilies.)
Books & Movies
With new novels, texts and films coming out all the time, being a bookworm or a movie buff is a hobby that will never get boring.
Reading can be a solitary pleasure that also lends itself to fascinating conversations.
- l’intrigue (f) — plot
- la fiction historique — historical fiction
- la science-fiction — science fiction
- la fantasie — fantasy
- le roman — novel
- le roman d’amour — romance novel
- le roman à suspense — mystery novel
- l’anthologie (f) — anthology
- le personnage — character
- le chapitre — chapter
- l’auteur (m); l’auteure (f) — author
- la littérature non romanesque — nonfiction
Nonfiction as a genre may also be referred to as les faits réels, which might be translated as “real facts.”
- l’histoire (f) véridique — real-life story; true history
- la biographie — biography
- autobiographique (adj) — autobiographical
- le manuel — textbook
- le club du livre — book club
- la foire du livre — book fair
Words in context:
Quand j’étais à la foire du livre, j’ai acheté une histoire véridique que j’aimerais discuter avec mon club du livre. (When I was at the book fair, I bought a true history that I would like to discuss with my book club.)
Watching TV & Films
Some TV and movie buffs just like to watch. Others get heavy into the technicalities of building the perfect home theater. Wherever you fall in the spectrum, these words are a good foundation for any devoted téléspectateur (viewer).
Film and television vocab:
- la fiction télévisée — TV drama
- la téléréalité — reality television
- la comédie de situation — sitcom
- le scénario — script (for a movie or television show)
- la suite — sequel
- le préquel — prequel
- le remake — remake
- la version réalisateur — director’s cut
- le téléspectateur passif/la téléspectatrice passive — couch potato
Home theater terminology:
- la télévision haute définition — high-definition television
- le lecteur de DVD — DVD player
- le graveur de DVD — DVD burner
- le magnétoscope numérique — DVR (digital video recorder)
The word magnétoscope was used for videotape, back in the day. The addition of numérique (digital) to the term brings it into the 21st century.
A DVR may also be called un enregistreur vidéo numérique, which is a much more literal translation of “digital video recorder.”
- le récepteur — AV receiver
- l’ambiophonie (f) — surround sound
- l’haut-parleur (m) — speaker (equipment)
- le format de l’image — aspect ratio
- les sous-titres (m pl) — subtitles
- être sous-titré — to be subtitled
- le sous-titrage – subtitling
- l’étalonnage (m) — calibration
However you like to spend your free time, make sure you spend some of it discussing your leisure pursuits in French.
After all, language learning is a very satisfying hobby.