My Silly Technique for Storing New French Vocabulary

We’re going to try to learn a little more French while living in Morocco. We have plans to to find a private tutor through the local Alliance Francaise.

In the meantime, I’m learning new French words. In order to cement them in my limited vocabulary, I wait until I’m home, and then use them in simple declarative sentences with a bad, Clouseauesque accent.

For example, I recently acquired a power bar, which I learned is known as un relange (or was it une?) I’m not spelling that correctly (French speakers, aidez-moi!), but that’s what it sounded like. I even said it back to the guy, so I think I got it approximately right. So when I get home, I might say, to no one in particular:

Où est mon relange?

Votre relange est dans la bureau!

Ah, j’ai trouvé mon relange!

And so forth. Goofy, but I find it works. I’m pretty sure I have this tremendous Flight of the Conchords sketch (careful, earworm ahead) to thank:

UPDATE: A commenter provides the right spelling as ‘une rallonge’. I was rather off on the spelling.


  1. Relange? You mean a “surge protector”? I’ve never heard the word relange… We call it “une multiprise”, ou une “barre d’alimentation”.

    The sketch is hilarious!

  2. Martine: I’ve never really understood the precise difference between a surge protector and a power bar. Are all surge protectors also power bars? I don’t think all power bars are surge protectors, but I’m not sure.

    There was a French woman in the shop, and I think she called it a ‘triplique’. She may have been simply referring to an extension cord with three, uh, ports.

  3. an extension cord is a « rallonge » (and it’s a female so it’s « une rallonge »). We also use this word when there’s more than one port.

    Good luck

  4. NBC: Thanks for that. Coincidentally, when I saw your comment, I was listening to a radio report about the potential of Belgium becoming divided:

    [audio src="" /]

    Apparently it’s not likely, but it was news to me.

  5. sadly, the best way to pick up this kind of quotidian vocabulary is to live in a bilingual country like Canada, in which all the labels are printed in both official languages.
    Of course, unless you’re in Quebec or in the Ottawa-Carlton region you don’t really learn French, so it’s probably better that you’re in Morocco. But seriously, you wouldn’t believe how many words I learned by reading cereal boxes.

  6. Just to prove how confusing one language can be, I thought you bought an energy bar (you know, those glorified granola bars with whey extract and guarana or whatever), and then I tried to think of what linguistic process would lead to them being called “rallonges” in the local version of French (maybe some local brand or advert, just like Power Bar is a brand I think). All is clear now, and I can practice my new Canadian vocabulary: “I plug my computer into my power bar.”

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