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The 6th Day of Christmas

Le sixième jour de Noël, mon amour m’a donné : six oies pondeuses…

(On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: six geese a-laying…)

This is a Christmas hit in the making, I tell you.

Le sixième jour - The Twelve Days of Christmas in French

six oies pondeuses
(six geese a-laying)

1. une oie / l’oie / les oies (goose/geese) – be aware that because oies (pronounced “wah”) begins with a vowel, we need to “liaise” it with les or six, meaning the words get pronounced together by turning the ‘s’ or ‘x’ into ‘z’: les_oies (“lay-zwah“) and six_oies (“see-zwah”).

From now on, it gets really tricky to translate this song. Pay attention, class!

2. pondeuses – the verb is pondre (to lay [eggs]) and “pondeuses” roughly means female “layers [of eggs]” (if male geese could lay eggs, they’d be “pondeurs” but the word oie is feminine and so it must agree in gender with that). I’ve seen both pondant and couvant (couver: to sit on / incubate) in translation efforts (I admit “pondant” was my first guess) but having consulted no fewer than four French natives, this was universally rejected as terrible French. We have to accept that “pondeuses” doesn’t quite capture “geese a-laying” but we’ll come to this later in line eight when we have no better option because we need to consider the poetry of the line as well as the sense. Which brings me to the next lesson:

3. -ant endings for -ing. French present participles (les participes présents) are usually formed by taking the verb’s stem and adding –ant in the same way you add -ing in English (to lay => laying). However, danger! beware! present participles are almost never used in the way we use them in English. The full rules are a little too complex to explain in this post, so if you want to learn them, sign up! Notice a present tense sentence like “L’oie pond des oeufs” (the goose is laying eggs) just uses the present tense conjugation of pondrem and if you wanted “the geese were laying” you’d probably want the imperfect tense (l’imparfait).

The real lesson: never translate single words: translate a sentence’s meaning!

It’s so much easier to learn French by doing.

More: 5th Day | The 12 Days of Christmas | 7th Day

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Author info

Gruff Davies

Despite the very Welsh name, Gruff is actually half French. Nowadays, he's a tech entrepreneur (and some-time novelist) but he used to be a physicist at Imperial College before getting hooked on inventing things. He has a special interest in language learning, speaks five languages to varying degrees of fluency and he often blogs about language learning, science, and technology. As well as co-founding Kwiziq, he is the author the Amazon best-selling SF thriller, The Looking Glass Club and the inventor of the Exertris gaming exercise-bike and Pidgin, a free online tool that makes drawing flow charts and relationship diagrams as quick and easy as describing them in pidgin English.

Laura K Lawless

Laura is Kwiziq's Language and Marketing Coordinator. Online educator since '99, Laura is passionate about language, travel, and cooking. She's American by birth and a permanent ex-pat by choice - freelancing made it possible for her to travel extensively and live in several countries before settling permanently in Guadeloupe. Laura is the author of Lawless French, Lawless Spanish, and other websites and books on French, Spanish, English, and vegetarianism. She spends most of her spare time reading, playing with food, and enjoying water sports.

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