There are lots of different reasons people have for wanting to learn French in France. In our immersion classes, every day we see how people are interested in different aspects of the language depending on what their goals and ambitions are. Some of the students at the Easy French Language School have come because they are learning for the pleasure and hope to maybe use it for something like travelling. These students tend to less interested in the more formal elements of the language. The inverse is true and those with specific professional goals for the language make less of an effort to memorise the clang language as it’s just not the priority. In this article I will discuss my personal experiences relating to colloquial language as in my position I get an interesting perspective. I have specific professional goals for learning French but I’m also working in a bar whilst I’m studying French in Montpellier and the language is as familiar as it gets and has been that way since day one.
In this article I’m distinctly talking about colloquial habits rather than slang. So this includes the tendancy to drop words and make more contractions:
Je suis – pronounced as one sound – ‘schwee’
Tu es prêt – extra contraction – T’es prêt
Je ne sais pas – drop the ‘ne’ – Je sais pas
Oral comprehension is the first and major benefit I have drawn from learning French colloquial language. Obviously learning the sub-language is going to help you when talking to the locals but it’s not just in the street you will hear these things. I have heard them in interviews, lectures and on the radio. If you are using any form of media to help you with your French course in Montpellier you are likely to come across them. Unfortunately, these little changes can completely change the sentence to the opposite of what you think you have heard and so it has the potential for a huge misunderstanding. Also as you are most likely learning from text books and your teachers have to mostly practice the formal language with you your ears are not trained for the combination of sounds that are commonly used so although it’s not hugely complicated it can be off putting. This little spin bowl is more profound when you are just starting out and you are doing all you can to pick out a word or two, the start of the sentence is the easiest to pick out and if you hear something said in the familiar form it can trip you up. Add this on to the all common habit of not wanting to ask someone to repeat themselves too much can lead to a lot of miscommunication.
Something that will be hugely important to you during your time learning French in France is your confidence. This is a precious fuel that can at times feel irretrievable and a common cause for its depletion is feeling like your course is going well but when you talk to locals you understand nothing. These colloquial habits often play a part as like I said your ears are not trained for the sequence of sounds. Your teachers are professionals and they are giving you the immersion experience but they still need to talk in a particular way to make it feasible for you to progress. The general public are not like that, a lot of people don’t have much experience of how to talk to French students in order for them to understand. Also they might not even know what they are doing.
Why will learning colloquial habits give you more confidence? Because it will unlock your huge potential, what you are learning in your French classes is directly applicable in everyday life. The bulk of what people use in everyday French is exactly what you learning but they season it with these colloquial traits to the point that teaching just that would only be useful if you want to speak casually and nothing else. The problem is that these traits muddy the waters and make it harder to see what lies beneath so understanding them will mean when you hear something you are familiar with you won’t be held back if the speaker has contracted some extra words.
Just being aware of these aspects of the spoken language is half the battle and will open up a lot to you whilst you are learning French in France. If you combine these with what you are learning at the EasyFrench Immersion school or wherever you are doing your language course you will see a dramatic improvement in your oral comprehension.