Sunday, September 04, 2005

Hints for French Linguists

When you come to France, it is extremely important to have French lessons, even if just a few to help you cope with understanding the bills that will, inevitably, one day start falling on your mat.

The problem with the French you get taught is that it is not the same language people speak. Forget about the imperfect tense, the conditional etc. and concentrate on the 'future proche'. If you don't know what that is, find out quick, because that is what you will be using most of the time. An example would be: "Est ce que tu vas manger?" which translates as "Are you going to eat?" Basically, it's the present tense of the verb 'aller' teamed with the infinite of the verb 'manger'. It's absolutely essential in conversational French and I don't remember ever being taught about it in all the eight years of lessons that I had before I came to France.

If you're arriving in France, what you don't really need is a huge dictionary. You can't carry it around with you after all. Much better is a small phrase book such as Essential French published by Usborne. The phrases are grouped into various situations you might find youself in, and the cartoon book design makes it easier to study when you've got a few minutes to spare on the train.

Another useful book I found is called: Vocabulaire Anglais Courant by Jean-Bernard Piat, which is published by Librio and costs a mere 2 Euros. This book is similar to the first one I mentioned, since the words and phrases are grouped by subject matter. However, it is aimed more at the kind of vocabulary you might need for reading about current affairs in a newspaper. It was actually designed for French people wanting to understand English, but it works just as well in reverse.

Finally, when you're really getting to understand what's going on around you, there is a French popular dictionary called: Le Dico Français/Français by Philippe Vandel and published by Le Livre de Poche. Unfortunately, this one doesn't seem to be current anymore, but it is a really good guide to all the 'unofficial' French words. As the name suggests, it's a book that defines French words for French people. Just goes to show what a complex, codified language French is.

This is a book, of course, for people who already have a basic grasp of French. It is divided into sections with titles like: 'Comment parler le Langage de l'Entreprise', 'Comment parler comme à Neuilly, Auteuil and Passy' (i.e. like a rich Parisian), or 'Comment parler comme un flic'. A 'flic', as everyone knows, is a cop.

This is the book you need for starting to understand that language is not a universal blueprint, but a means for segregating people into the various groups of: those who will get on really well, those who will get on averagely, and those who will not get anywhere at all.

1 comment:

Ludivine said...

Only flocks of choirboys can incite that reaction in me. :>

p.s. I'm not Michael Jackson.

p.p.s. OR AM I!