La langue française… en France

Rebonjour tout le monde ! J’espère que vous allez tous bien !

Since my time in France is almost coming to an end (I can’t believe how fast it’s gone!), I thought I would write this next blog post on the language that I’ve learned while being here. It is the main reason behind this year abroad after all!

Before coming to France I had studied French for around 7 years. Some of the phrases in this post might seem obvious to you, and it might seem crazy that I didn’t know these things before moving here. However, the French I learned at school, and then university, is quite different to the language I hear everyday here. Especially considering the fact I spent the year before coming to France learning French only online due to Covid. It is true what they say, the only way to learn a language fully is to be surrounded by it in everyday life. See this post as a ‘cheat sheet’ to the language I hear most often in my everyday life in France. I hope that you’ll pick up some everyday phrases that could help you if you ever decide to go to France!

Au café/restaurant ou dans une boulangerie… a typical conversation

Vous avez choisi ? / Vous voulez commander ? – Have you chosen? / Do you want to order?

Je prends / je vais prendre / je prendrai / est-ce que je peux avoir/prendre … ? – different ways of ordering/asking for something in restaurants/bars/cafes/bakeries etc

Avec ceci ? – anything else ? (It might seem simple but I heard this all the time in the boulangeries when I first came here and I had no clue what I meant!)

Ce sera tout – that will be all

Vous voulez régler comment ? – How do you want to pay? (régler = payer – another thing that confused me when I first heard it!)

Voulez-vous le ticket ? – Do you want the receipt? (ticket = ticket de caisse)

Non c’est bon merci ! Bonne soirée/journee – No it’s ok thanks! Have a nice evening/day

À l’école

Another place I have learned some very specific phrases is during my work as an English Language Assistant in my three primary schools…

J’arrive pas – I hear this all the time amongst the children, and even in adults too. When I first heard it I was so confused for a while because of course arriver = to arrive/come but what I didn’t know is that arriver à faire quelque chose = manage to do/be able to do/can’t do so when the school children are saying j’arrive pas, what they meant is je ne peux pas ! I hear j’arrive pas much more commonly than je peux pas. (Little side note: in everyday French I’ve found that hardly anyone uses both parts of the negative, people usually drop the ne and use only the pas/que/rien etc…)

Ça suffit ! – that’s enough!

(C’est) n’importe quoi – (It’s/that’s) nonsense

C’est nul – It’s rubbish (unfortunately heard this one more than I would have liked to…)

C’est pas grave – it’s not serious/it’s no big deal

And a final thing I have heard quite a few times in my primary schools…

J’ai pété – I farted (important to know?!)

Working in schools hasn’t just added to my knowledge of the language, it has also added to my knowledge of French culture. Par exemple, on the 1st of April after I had finished my morning at work, I got home to find lots of paper fish stuck to my back… It turns out April Fools’ Day in France is called Poisson d’avril and for primary school aged children, the joke is to try stick paper fish on people’s backs without them noticing!

Je pense que la langue et la culture are linked in many ways. Je crois que this is why actually spending time living in the country where the language you are learning is spoken, whatever language or country it may be, is so important. À mon avis, one of the ways this link is most evident is in the way the language changes over time with new generations contributing to, and changing, the culture. Je trouve que one of the ways my French has improved the most has been through speaking to French speakers who are the same age as me. To give you a taste of this while you’re still in Scotland, I asked my Francophone friend Charlotte to create a list of everyday language she uses that is common amongst young people, but different to the language taught at school and university. Can you try to match up the English meaning to the French phrases?! Bon courage !

This is just a small list my friend made for me. There is loads more colloquial language that I probably haven’t even heard, and could mean different things, for different people, in different places!

Et voilà ! C’est tout. I hope you have picked up some useful words or phrases from this post. Let me know in the comments how you got on with finding the meanings for the words/phrases, I have sent the answers to your teacher! Bonne journée et à bientôt !

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