'How Much French Do You Need to Speak to Live in Paris?' -- funny article
I got a laugh out of this article in New York mag -- some good slang tips, too! http://nymag.com/thecut/2014/05/how-much-french-do-you-need-in-paris.html
Better start practicing now: Ah, ouais, d'accord, d'accord.
I'm an American, and I've never been to France, but I moved to what some call the "heart of separatist Québec" almost two years ago. There are many of the same stereotypes (rudeness/prejudice toward English-speakers, etc) here in Québec, especially in this region. However, I've been making a real effort to learn the language, and I find the people here to be friendly and helpful. I've had ZERO bad experiences with francophones in this region, despite many of my anglophone friends and acquaintances stating they have had many negative experiences.
My advice: TRY to speak the language. Even if you're terrible, it shows you're making an effort. Also, if the other person hears how bad your French is, it may ease their mind a bit about their own mistakes in English, haha. Go out with a good attitude instead of negative expectations. I think, if you expect people to be rude, you will fulfill that expectation. Understand that some cultural differences are easy to interpret as rudeness. People here don't tend to hold doors for each other much, and they seem...not sure how to describe it, more self-absorbed? Less keyed in to the others around them? For instance, if I leave my shopping cart and walk 6 feet away to grab something off a shelf, it's not unusual for someone to move my cart to get to an item that it was blocking. Where I lived in the US, someone would just wait for me to return. NOT rude, just different. And here, smiling goes a long way. I am a very smiley person, and my smiles are returned to me far more often than not.
Meg_in_Quebec - I think you have it right - at least try! I was the only uni-lingual (English) person in a bi-lingual office, taking support calls from across Canada. When the bilingual people were all on the phone, I occasionally fielded calls from customers calling from area codes deemed French. My co-workers taught me to answer the phone properly and gave me about 7 phrases to you to at least take a good message. (All the people that speak French are on the phone. Is you computer down? what is your first name, last name and phone number - that type of basic info.) Most often our French customers, hearing my accent switched to English and I was able to fully help them. In some cases, our customers were more uncomfortable in English than I was in French - so we muddled through enough for me to prioritize the call and get them the needed French service in a timely manner. I was never criticized, nor were any complaints ever made about me answering the French lines. Some of the customers expressed pleasure to the bilingual staff that I made the effort, even if the effort amounted to just answering the phone properly in French. (Compare this to a co-worker that thought speaking English louder made her more understandable! Sadly, not joking.) After 5 years in support, my French had expanded. I eventually moved off the phones, moved to Illinois for 8 years and lost much of my vocabulary. I'm now in Ottawa, and working to regain my vocabulary in DuoLingo and hopefully even get to the point where I can carry on a basic conversation in French. (Volunteered at a shearing festival this past Saturday and was surprised by how many French only visitors we had - definitely a motivator!) By the way - if I had of had DuoLingo and other internet resources in High School, I might have actually learned to speak French there. Such a better model for learning for me, than in the classroom with a teacher speaking only French - just never got it.
I'm definitely happy to be on this adventure in a time when I have access to wonderful resources like duolingo!
I was more than a little bit scared when we moved here (met a Canadian in my home state, and when he had to move to Québec, I had to follow my heart, which he had stolen). I had NO French when we arrived. And this is NOT Montréal (do you know the Saguenay...yeah). You can't really "get by" in English here. I also knew a little bit about the Franco/Anglo politics in Canada, and as a unilingual anglophone, I was SCARED. (Didn't help that my bilingual hubby had to leave three weeks after we moved, and I was alone here for almost 5 months right in the beginning!)
BUT...like I said, people are kind to me here. I can now carry on a conversation and don't have any trouble with normal, day-to-day stuff. I'm even pretty comfortable using the phone. But even when I had only a few words and a smile, no full sentences, and no past or future verb tenses, as long as I made the effort, pretty much everyone I encountered was patient and encouraged me to continue my French studies. My goal is to be fluently bilingual. I think it's attainable in another year or two. :)
Duolingo must include the sentence "Have you tried turning it off and on again?" :P
Very funny piece.
I just can't believe the folks who can't be bothered to learn the language. Why bother living in Paris at all if they have no interest in understanding its people?
I know, right? I was very shy about speaking to people on my one trip to France and 'outing' myself as a non-native speaker, but I can't imagine not trying at all! And actually living in Paris would be such a good opportunity to force oneself to learn quickly!
Couldn't agree more, and as I understand it Hemingway didn't learn much French either despite living there for a number of years.
When I was in Paris I couldn't help but crack a smile every time I heard someone say, "Oh la la." I still think it's so adorable that people really say that!
Thank you for providing the link. Enjoyed the article but the 67 comments below it were just as enlightening, and in some cases just as funny.
Thanks, amusing article & comment section.
It was only after reading Pierre75's comments there I realised some people might take the article seriously. I'd just assumed points 3-6 were a bit tongue-in-cheek especially when 4 suggested swearing while exhaling cigarette smoke.
I was reminded of a Frenchman on TV recently with a slight French accent saying "Bluddy 'ell" every few sentences. He was using a strong, fake London accent that didn't match the rest of his speech, his dress, or his obvious social class. It was almost cute and funny the first time, and then as he repeated it it became clear he wasn't meaning it as a joke.
The links from there were entertaining (but more challenging) too, http://etudiant.lefigaro.fr/les-news/actu/detail/article/les-francais-toujours-aussi-faibles-en-anglais-352/
Ha! Glad you mentioned the comments section, just went back and read them. Lots of good stuff there.
But to be fair, the Parisians will immensely appreciate you trying to speak French, immediately pulling you out of the "stupid foreigner" category, even if they do laugh at all your mistakes. Go with it :) And it really is true how much less English there is once you step out of the capital, another important point to keep in mind.
That is very impressive in being able to hold conversations in French. How long have you been learning and what level (as in DELF) do you think you are?
I am planning on going to Paris again in April next year and was hoping B1 would be good enough. I think I am about halfway through A2 now so I think getting to B1 is achievable, it's whether that's suffificient for my expactations of communicating. Thanks and congratulations again.
Props to you! If she started full-on laughing at me I would have given her the completely wrong directions, albeit in passable French. But great job navigating Paris en francais :)
I'm not sure what kind of background the writer has, but:
"Est-ce que" really isn't all that formal. In fact, I've heard it used more often in informal conversation than formal conversation. I used to know a guy from Haiti who would start every question that way.
The decision of whether to use "on" or "nous" is really a matter of personal preference. Personally, I find Parisians who overuse "on" to be pretentious and annoying. I only use "on" if it's clear that I'm talking about no one in particular.
I have NEVER heard a native French speaker say "Excusez-moi". It's alaways "Pardon" or "Je m'excuse".
Hello, as a native French speaker, I can assure you I often (well, when I need to) say "Excusez-moi" : Excusez-moi = excuse me (for example, when asking a stranger/teacher/etc. for information, a waiter/etc. for the bill) ; Pardon and Je m'excuse mean I'm sorry, even though pardon can be used (and is used) to say excuse-me (it's more informal, I wouldn't say that to a teacher or a stranger, maybe when I'm trying to exit a subway car and someone's blocking my way out, but in that case it's kind of mixing both meanings, otherwise I always use it to ask a question or a pen to a fellow classmate). Plus, Je m'excuse is usually alright but the literal meaning being 'I excuse myself', my teachers used to say every now and then, that it was better to use Je suis désolé, or the original sentences (quite formal, you don't hear them often) Je vous présente mes excuses/Je vous prie de bien vouloir m'excuser.
Haha, I tried to be clear enough, if it's too much of a cluster, please forgive me. Good learning :)
I live in Québec, and what I most often hear, if a stranger needs to get past you in a grocery store aisle or something, is a kind of slangy, shortened form of "Excusez-moi." What I hear most often is, "Scusez."
The better way to begin a conversation, if you want an answer, is to say : s'il vous plaît. Pardon is used when you don't understand something or you want to pass when a lot of people are in front of you for instance, or when you have made a fault towards somebody...
Thanks for leaving this comment! It's really useful to hear another perspective; the slang/idiomatic usage/tone stuff is the hardest to learn, at least for me.
Like some commenters in the link suggested, I'd also steer away from using slang expressions myself because they are tricky (but of course it is good to know them when you hear them). It's not like I will fool anyone thinking I am a native any time soon so it is safer to stick to speaking more formally.
But indeed from my experiences when visiting France, it was quite common that when I had started saying at least something in French I got often answers in English, with none of this alleged rudeness...(of course not everyone spoke English, but quite many do). So knowing the bonjours at least is essential :)
I agree. I think it would be better to speaking "properly" even amongst people talking in slang, rather than trying to talk slang when everyone around you is talking formally. And it's worse if you don't know the difference.
Thanks so much for sharing. We're off to Paris next year and my school boy French was never going to do it. This article was an interesting insight.
Loved the article/link! I actually did some of the things in there when I was in Paris, and it made me smile and laugh out loud!
Loved the article….MUCHO MERCI…So true about the very tough French school system.