Ma soeur joue du piano.
mah suhr zhoo dew pee-yah-NO. Click below to hear this.*
My sister is playing / plays the piano.
When I started writing this post, on Monday evening, we were sitting in Maman’s apartment, and my sister really was playing the piano. Clearly I didn’t get very far with my post. Now, as I finish it up, the French sentence is still true. My sister has gone off to the guest house where she is staying, but that doesn’t change the fact that Ma soeur joue du piano: My sister plays the piano.
Any verb in the present tense in French has several meanings in English, which the French doesn’t distinguish one from another. So elle joue means she plays, she is playing, she does play.
If you really need to convey one of those nuances in French, you will need to use more words: For example, she is playing (right now) can be rendered by saying elle est en train de jouer. For she does play, you might say En effet, elle joue…
Don’t forget that jouer de means to play (an instrument), while jouer à means to play (a game or sport). You’ll need the article (le, la, les) after the verb, so you’ll have to modify the à or de accordingly.
*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file: