Gastronomy, Translation and Puns

“Boogie?” Surely Maxime doesn’t want to dance?

Yes – boogie! Boogie!” he laughs at my look of disgust. Then he points at the key he is holding.

Ah, BOGIE!” I smile my understanding, chew and taste again. Then grimace. Snot. And all my kids explode with delight, leaving our two French guests amused but no closer to understanding what Bogie or Boogie means. My husband (master of French Gesticulation) obliges by miming….both what a bogie and a boogie is.

Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Jelly Beans, famously appreciated by the universally popular Harry Potter, prompted this performance. Maxime and Thomas, our French guests, had brought out these colourfully challenging sweets after dinner (having visited Warner Bros. Studios that afternoon) and invited us all to guess the disgusting or delicious flavours. An excellent way to build up vocabulary in a foreign language.


This is only our second time acting as a host family to French students. I’ll admit that I embarked on this week feeling weary, and my husband was facing a heavy time workwise. But this was just a three night stay, and my children were excited about the offer of chocolat chaud every morning.

However, the pressure was upped further when I discovered that both Maxime and Thomas have parents who are chefs cooking up gourmet food in Lyon – France’s capital of gastronomy (and some might argue its global status). I decided not to ask Maxime and Thomas whether their parents are personally familiar with Michelin Stars – sometimes you can have too much information. But I did rethink my menu 😉

Maxime’s and Thomas’ brief stay is nearly over. I will miss them when they are gone, despite mild misgivings prior to their arrival.


January can be a soulless, empty excuse for a month. The bright glitter of Christmas is gone and Spring is a distant promise. Hibernation mode kicks in. But our guests have woken us up and injected a little je ne sais quoi.

No. 1 has (literally) been more awake, and has even graced us with his presence at the breakfast table (for the first time in many months). The delicious dipping of hot toast into steaming chocolat chaud is a neat treat Maxime and Thomas have shown him.

No. 4 has had a wonderful week acting the comedian, displaying his own version of the unique British sense of humour. He’s also tried very hard to master the correct pronunciation of heureux (meaning happy), having been informed by our guests that it’s not quite “ur – uh“.french, languages, travel, family, kids, travel blog, global, international, france, england

Brick walls of miscommunication have been helpfully knocked down by my husband’s replacement of outmoded French gestures with the marginally more amusing real-time voice translation facility of the Google Translate app. Brilliant and funny but not exactly encouraging hard work and application in the study of foreign languages.

For me, I have loved Maxime’s and Thomas’ little consultations before answering a question. A quick huddled whisper before one of them speaks out in their best combined English, with little confidence-boosting glances at the other for confirmation.

The bonus is that the boys are the most punctual, tidiest, neatest, and cleanest teenagers you could ever wish to have as guests. My own children’s enthusiasm for them slightly dims when I hint at how much I value these virtues.

For Maxime and Thomas, their English may not be vastly improved, but they now know that they could (in an emergency) get by using the Google Translate app. And they are also well acquainted with the words for earwax and bogie (and boogie), which might help if they ever get into a sticky situation. And thanks to No. 4 they are beginning to undertand how much the Brits love puns 😉

I’ve talked about Stephanie Heymer before. She runs the International Student Experiences, trading as Joujou Papillon Ltd and is actively seeking more families who would like to host students. If you’d like to know more you can contact Stephanie here:

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