There have been many times during my time studying for the DELF qualification that I have really felt like I was making progress and soon I would be talking like a native. Talking to natives whilst you are learning French in France is however a pretty different game to talking to teachers or your fellow students. The natives have a lot of almost subconscious habits that make the way they talk confusing and can knock your confidence but don’t worry! First of all your teachers at the EasyFrench Immersion School will tell you about a lot of these habits so you are prepared to use your language skills in the real world, secondly I will list here some very common habits that should unlock many more conversations for you. These are definitely not to be used in your DELF exams as they aren’t technically correct French but they are still useful to learn and will help you understand more and if you want to sound more French they are great to use when speaking.
The French Drop the ‘ne’ all the Time!
So as I have said this mostly happens in general conversations but this little quirk I have heard in formal speeches as well. It is so wide spread! It might not seem like a grand change but when you are straining to make sense out of an unusual combination of sounds the first few words are the clearest and the absence of the ‘ne’, which determines the entire sentence, can really throw you off.
This is the ‘ne’ of ‘ne pas’ which book end either side of a verb to create a negation:
E.g Je ne suis pas occupé – I am not busy
Tu ne peux pas faire ça – You can’t do that
The French will rarely put this extra slice of the sandwich in and instead only use the ‘pas’:
E.g Je suis pas occupé
Tu peux pas faire ça
Like I said it’s not a huge difference but you need to be on your toes for it. Once you have heard it a couple of times though and got used to it you will be ready for it. This is something that French people sometimes don’t even know they are doing so for people who have only just started learning French in France it can make things trickier. Even if a native is trying to speak simply for you they might not realise what they are doing.
It’s Not Just That, They Drop the ‘il’ Too!
The ‘il’ of ‘il y a’ (which translates to ‘there is/are’) is often dropped.
E.g Il y a beaucoup d’oiseux – There are a lot of birds
Il y a un train qui arrive – There is a train coming
Y a beaucoup d’oiseaux
Y a un train qui arrive
This is a little trickier than the ‘ne’ change because there you still have the helpful ‘pas’ which is quite a distinct noise and it’s easy to pick out the sharp consonant sound amongst the other words. ‘Y a’ by contrast is two vowel sounds which when said quickly can pass by without you even thinking a word (let alone two!) has been muttered. When this is sandwiched between a bit of errrrrrring that is prevalent amongst French native speakers than it is a pretty brutal test of your listening skills. Being on the lookout for it is half the battle though so now hopefully you will see it more and more.
These are not things you will want to do regularly on your French immersion course because you do need to learn the technically correct pronunciation especially if you are taking the DELF exam. However you also want to be out talking to people and understanding them as well as you can. This is a French language immersion course after all and knowing these two little things the French do can allow you to better understand them in your day to day conversations.