Picture this: You're in Paris for the 2024 Summer Olympics, and a friendly French family sitting next to you at the gymnastics competition strikes up a conversation, when Simone Biles lands a particularly impressive dismount. You want to comment on it, but—gasp!—you realize you don’t know how to say “double salto” in French!

If you’re a French learner planning to attend this year’s Olympics in Paris (or even if you just want to watch the Games from your couch), read on to learn essential French vocabulary for the Olympics.

 (By the way, “double salto” is a freebie—it’s double salto in French, too!)

Les JO : the Olympics

First things first: In English, we shorten the Olympic Games to the Olympics in conversation, but in French, you'll say les JO! It’s an acronym for les Jeux Olympiques, or “the Olympic Games.”

French Translation
Zari: Lily, j’ai hâte d’être aux JO !
Lily: Moi, j’ai hâte de me rendormir.
Zari: Lily, I can’t wait for the Olympics!
Lily: I can’t wait to go back to sleep.

L’athlétisme : Track and field

Dating back to the first-ever Olympic Games in 776 BCE, track and field events are not only some of the most popular, they’re also the oldest! You’ll be happy to know that sprint is the same in both English and French, but you might not know haies (hurdles, and also hedges!), saut à la perche (pole vault), and lancer du poids (shot put, or literally “throw weight”). The different events that comprise track and field as a whole are often called épreuves.

Bonus: If you’re lucky, you’ll also see someone battre un record du monde (beat a world record)!

French Translation
Lin: Quelle est ton épreuve préférée de l'athlétisme ?
Lucy: Je suis une grande fan du saut à la perche, mais je n’ai battu le record du monde qu’au lancer du poids.
Lin: Quoi ?!
Lin: What’s your favorite track and field event?
Lucy: I’m a big fan of the pole vault, but I only beat a world record for the shot put.
Lin: What?!

La natation : Swimming

Swimming is one of the most anticipated events in Paris this year, partially because the open-water events are scheduled to take place in the Seine, and many Parisians are wondering if the urban river will be clean enough to swim in. However, if you’re attending an indoor swimming event, you’ll be at La Défense Arena, where you’ll be watching nage libre (freestyle), brasse (breaststroke), dos (backstroke), or papillon (butterfly stroke).

Bonus: You might also say that someone has remporté l’épreuve (won the event).

French Translation
Eddy: Ce serait super de remporter une épreuve de natation aux JO ! Toi, tu préférerais participer à la nage libre ou au papillon ?
Junior: Il y a une épreuve pour manger de la glace au chocolat ?
Eddy: It would be amazing to win a swimming event at the Olympics! Would you rather compete in freestyle or butterfly stroke?
Junior: Is there an event for eating chocolate ice cream?

La gymnastique : Gymnastics

If you’re attending an artistic gymnastics competition, you might talk about an agrès, which is the name for the different events that a gymnast might perform, such as sol (floor), poutre (balance beam), and saut de cheval (vault, or literally “horse jump”).

Bonus: You’ll probably also hear people talk about médailles (medals), which can be d’or (gold), d’argent (silver), or de bronze (bronze).

French Translation
Vikram: Elle va remporter la médaille d’or au saut de cheval cette année, j’en suis sûr ! C’est mon agrès préféré ! Et toi, Oscar ?
Oscar: Je pensais que c’était de la gymnastique artistique ! Ils sont où les peintres ?
Vikram: She’s going to win the gold medal for the vault this year, I’m sure of it! This is my favorite event! What about you, Oscar?
Oscar: I thought this was artistic gymnastics! Where are the painters?

Go for the gold and practice your French!

No matter whether you'll be watching the Olympics from your own home or visiting France for the occasion, you can use les JO as an opportunity to practice French!