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Dealing with the French language (2/2)

August 5, 2013
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To further your knowledge of French, there is no better way than practice. It may be scary at first, but it just takes  patience and time to be able to talk to French people and understand what they say. First of all, the French vocabulary is not that important. French dictionaries usually contain about 10.000 words  but you will need only ~500 of them to face most situations during your stay in Paris. Even though they are proud of their language, the French now use more and more English nouns in their vocabulary. Back in the 1990s,  politicians tried to limit this trend but the “Loi Toubon” which recommendaded the translation of English names into French seems quite outdated today…

Among some of the most famous of“anglicismes”, you will find the words “parking”, “talk-shows”, “all-inclusive”, “check-in” or “coach.” Moreover, thanks to the development of the internet, most teenagers and young adults now like to include English words in their sentences to sound “cool” (Cool being another “anglicisme” commonly used…). The pronunciation often leaves a lot to be desired but they should be able to understand these words when properly pronounced. It is important to note that most of these words refer to the IT world and have no French translation so feel free to use the words “upload”, “download”, “scroll”, “refresh”, “laptop”, “geek”, “screenshot”, “hotline”, “follower”.

Once you have learned some basic words, idioms and sentences, the most difficult part will be to say them out loud and to get understood. This is particularly hard for English speakers as there is no tonic accent in French… Each syllabus has to be pronounced with the same emphasis, vowels are pronounced without any diphthongs, H are always silent…

Once you master this part, you’ll be able to reach the next level and try to use the proper possessive adjective, a tricky subject as all French words have a gender… In a country as sexist as France, this comes as  no surprise and your interlocutor will frown at you if you start saying “ton voiture” or “ta scooter”… But more on this later!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 11, 2013 11:55 am

    20 years ago you needed quite a bit of French to be comfortable in Paris. Today I find that many conversations easily slip into a mixture of French and English once you have established that you have some basic knowledge of French. I think it is because it becomes possible to express ideas in the language best suited to the idea. I think of it as being semi-bi-lingual. I also find that once you have mastered a few basics it is easier to find a way to converse using only those basics to build more complex interactions.

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