December 31, 2013, by Guest blog

My extra attempts to hang out with French people are really starting to pay off

A lot has changed since my last blog post – I have decided to stay here in Bordeaux but I have been offered an internship so I sadly left KEDGE last week. It does mean that I get the best of both worlds however as I get to improve my French in a working environment and hang out with all my cool friends.

Since I’ve been home for Christmas, it has been nice to reflect over how much my French has improved. I was thrown into a situation at Sunday lunch time where I and a family friend has a full conversation and I didn’t even sweat once. It’s moments like that where I have switched without batting an eyelid which make me think that all my extra attempts to hang out with French people are really starting to pay off.

Hanging around with young French people at KEDGE has exposed me to a lot of slang and verlan (which is backslang – syllables are swapped around). Take the word ‘merci’ meaning thank you for example, lots of young people will say ‘cimer’ which is like thanks or an informal thank you. One of my French friends was surprised that I even knew bits of verlan (mainly as I was copying things that I had heard them say!) but verlan actually comes from poor areas and banlieues of Paris where there are lot of immigrants from Francophone countries.  There is a lot of hostility between the state and the police and these people and verlan is spoken by the young people so the police do not understand the young people. As such, there is a little bit of a stigma when speaking ‘argot’ or ‘verlan’ and I was warned NEVER to use verlan to adults or people older than myself. A lot of French slang is also just English words with a French twist, for example to like a post on Facebook is ‘liker’. In return for my lessons in verlan, the French were curious to hear some cockney and the differences between English slang and American slang.

I have also found myself trying to learn more technical vocabulary and this has been helped by some of the modules that I have chosen at KEDGE. My first module for example was on the European Union. Apart from the sly digs about how the English hate the EU, I managed to learn a lot technical words – a lot of the module was looking at treaties and how they are enacted but I also learnt more simple things such as the fact the union is feminine! My marketing module was a little different as a lot of the same models that I had learnt last year at Nottingham has been adapted into French or left in English. The most useful module (and the most difficult I found) was my module on Investment Banking. As I am considering a career in Finance, it was nice to learn the correct terminology and vocabulary for ‘equities’ and ‘derivatives’ which are not too far from the English but it really was a challenge when looking at financial statements to understand what was going on.

Although I always carry around a dictionary in my bag, there have been some situations where I have just been unable to prepare for. I have had several interviews for internships in French which have proved invaluable, not only just for my French but general interviewing skills but the interview that I had felt had been the worst was the one that actually offered me the job. I was so nervous that I was not listening properly to what my interviewer had asked and in a panic (or what I do most of the time) answered ‘YES.’ Unfortunately for me, her question had been a definite no – she had asked me if I had anything to hide, as she had tried Facebook stalking me/googling my name. Awkward.

Situations in the supermarket and ordering things in shops also comes with much more ease, and I have found myself often having random conversations in queues and the laundrette. People in Bordeaux are always willing to speak to you, especially if you try and make an effort in French. I have also surprised myself in situations where I thought I would panic: I have had to sign housing contracts, and insurance forms and even argue a refund on a ticket for myself. As such my spoken French has improved a lot, it is useful as when I’ve had to write things I am now able to sound them out.

Posted in Language acquisition