Here is a question I am often asked in my French classes when we work on French spelling:
“Do you spell balade / ballade with one or two Ls?”
The answer will always begin with “It depends…”
Right, but what does it depend on? Well, it depends on what you actually want to say. Indeed, balade and ballade are two correct spellings but the words have a different meaning. They are what we call homonyms. They are even homophones (the pronunciation is exactly the same).
So, let’s clarify this question and don’t worry, it’s not complicated:
The word balade with only one L means a walk, or a stroll (or a drive or a ride depending on how you travel course!). The verb se balader means to go for a walk or for a ride or a drive, to stroll.
– Tu viens ? On part en balade ? (Are you coming? Shall we go for a walk?)
– J’ai envie de me balader un peu en ville. (I could do with a little walk in town)
– Nous allons nous balader au bord de la mer demain matin. Qui nous accompagne ? (We’re going for a walk along the seashore tomorrow morning. Who wants to come with us?)
There is also a common French phrase “envoyer balader” that means to get rid of someone, to send somebody about their business, to send someone packing.
– Quand je lui ai demandé s’il avait besoin de quelque chose, il m’a envoyé balader. Je ne lui demanderai plus ! (When I asked him if he needed anything, he sent me packing. I won’t ask him again!)
On the other hand, ballade with two Ls is a poem with a chorus or a piece of music to accompany a poem. So it’s a ballade, or a ballad if you translate it from the French.
– Victor Hugo est l’auteur d’un recueil de poèmes intitulé Odes et Ballades. (Victor Hugo is the author of a collection of poems entitled Odes and Ballads.)
– Avez-vous déjà écouté les ballades de Chopin ? (Have you ever listened to Chopin’s ballades?)
So, how can you remember the difference?
Well, if you remember that une balade (with one L) mean a walk (with one L), I think you’ll be safe! The other word ballade with two Ls, in English, is a ballade or a ballad, with two Ls, too.
There you are! Now you know the difference between the French words balade and ballade and you will know how to spell the word according to the meaning of the word you want to write! The French language has one less secret for you, congratulations! 😉