What they don’t tell you in French Class!

Things they don’t tell you in French class!!

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I’ve noticed many (linguistic) things that are different living in France from the atmosphere of a French class.

  • “comme ci, comme ça” … no one says it.  A familiar way of saying it is “bof”
  • “nous” as a subject is rarely used in casual / spoken French… nous conjugations of verbs aren’t even in my phone’s french t9!! Generally people use “on” instead.  For example when it’s time for all of us to eat, they say “on mange” for we are eating
  • “Du coup” is a familiar way of saying “par conséquent”; I hear this EVERYWHERE in France and I’d never heard it my six years of French classes.
  • When talking one on one with someone, they will casually say “tu vois?” continually… kind of like “do you follow” or “you know”
  • The “ne” for verb negations is sometimes optional:  “j’arrive pas!”
  • Saying “je ne sais pas” is the easiest way to be spotted as a foreigner…. here it’s simply “shay-pas”
  • “tu as” gets shortened to “t’as” in spoken french
  • “You don’t need to learn the passé simple” is the biggest lie they tell you in French class…. It’s in the daily newspapers!! Also, I’ve heard that some professors speak in passé simple if they’re super intellectual or if they’re speaking about something in distant past (for example, my host sister’s greek teacher).
  • “soit” has a meaning in addition to a subjunctive conjugation!!!
  • Sentences with the construction ” … ce qu(e/i) … ” gets slurred in a funny way. I can’t even think of a way to describe it.
  • The phrase “à partir de” is essential! I don’t remember ever learning it ( starting from ).
  • “Salut” is super familiar… you can’t say “salut” to someone you “vous”
  • The politeness required for professors is crazy.  My profs generally let me use “tu” whereas here you would get in serious serious trouble for doing that
  • The verb “râper” … I had an embarrassing first night when I saw the cheese on the table said “RAPE” in big bold letters.. turns out it was grated cheese!
  • How to order a drink… generally you’re trained in how to ask for a meal at a nice restaurant or café “Excusez-moi monsieur, je voudrais …., s’il vous plaît, merci beaucoup” … but that formality is awkward and makes you look weird in certain ordering situations.
  • phonetics! Just as a general thing, Cornell doesn’t stress the importance of phonetics enough! I’m learning everyday about how poorly I pronounce my vowel sounds.
  • The importance of random vocabulary… I feel like the higher I got in my language level, the more focus was put on elegant grammatical constructions and such instead of vocabulary.  Just this past week I found myself lost in my psychology class because I didn’t understand that the professor was talking about an “eel” …. who would have thought to make that a vocabulary word?!? btw it’s “anguille”
  • Methodologie… french classes in america (from my experience) never even try to teach the methodologie required in France… I’m talking NO THESIS… their entire mentality for writing a paper is different… they literally spell out “first we will study …, then we will examine …., and in conclusion we wil look at …. ” Furthermore, the closest thing they have to a thesis is IN THE CONCLUSION… The American style of “don’t introduce any new material in the conclusion” is thrown out the window as French students are trained to open up their topic and look at it in a new perspective in the conclusion… it’s crazy… I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.

As a disclaimer, these are my personal experiences in Paris… in other cities in France or Francophone countries some of these claims may not be valid.

Hmmm, I’m sure there are more.  Maybe I’ll edit and add in some more if I think of them later on!

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