Maman/papa vs mère/père
When I took French in college, we were taught that maman and papa are only used by little children, and that adults should use mère and père. Is that correct?
Je suis adulte et quand je vais chez mes parents, je les appelle "papa " et "maman". Quand je parle de mes parents à mes enfants, je dis "papy" et "mamie" (parce que mes enfants les appelle papy et mamie).
Les appellations "père" et "mère" se faisaient autrefois, dans les milieux bourgeois et aristocratiques.
:-) Oui Tanguy a raison : quand je parle de mes parents à une personne extérieure à la famille, je dis "mon père" "ma mère"...
In short, in most families :
-If you talk to them and have a good relationship use 'papa' and 'maman'
-If you talk to them and want to distance yourself use their names
-If you talk about them to someone use 'père' et 'mère' like 'my father is in the kitchen' = 'mon père est dans la cuisine'
-If you talk about 'his mother/father' for example use 'sa mère/son père'
Good luck with that
Thank you! That's very helpful. I now think my professor was probably talking about the third and fourth situations you described. I only took 2 semesters of the language so we didn't go in depth with these things.
Maman and papa are like 'mum' (mom for Americans) and dad. Mere and pere are like 'mother' and 'father'.
It depends on your personal relationship, but mum and dad are the norm even for adults. If your relationship, or the situation, is more formal, then 'mother' and 'father' may be appropriate.
In my own situation we even use the parents' names, because our parents were divorced when we were quite young and both married again, so names are easier than 'titles' for parents and step-parents. That may be unusual.
In France it seems to be the same.
"Mère" and "père" also imply some distance—not necessarily in feelings, of course. Calling your parents directly "mère" or "père" means respect but also a slight distance (the thing that immediately comes to mind is noble/wealthy families of old, with children left to a nanny's care), whereas "maman" and "papa" are more affectionate (and why they're most often used when addressing your parents directly).
Interestingly, while young children tell other people about their parents by using "maman" and "papa" ("ma maman a une super voiture"), when they become teenagers, this almost always switches to "ma mère", "mon père" (and other very familiar forms, "ma reum", etc.), as if to mark some distance and show that "look, I'm Mature and An Adult now".
As an adult, I tell other people about my parents by using "mon père", "ma mère", but I always call my parents "maman" and "papa" when speaking to them directly. My sister, my cousins, lots of my friends etc. all do that as well.