Many of my French language students have studied for years, yet, they still find it a challenge to communicate effectively when in Paris. What is it that makes „Parisian French” so different from what English-speaking Francophiles learn in class? Are there ways to learn faster? How can big faux-pas be avoided? How can students of French better fit into the Paris lifestyle?
I lived most of my life in Paris, and Paris is where all my family comes from. I know there is so much more to speaking Parisian than perfect grammar and good pronunciation. Parisians expect you to know certain things, but won’t mind common mistakes — as long as you are making an effort. That said, there are good mistakes and, well, less good mistakes.
The problem is that language books cover only the language (and obsess on the tenses part of learning a language) and overlook the most important thing about learning French: the cultural differences, and the things Parisians really expect you to know. Mess up saying „Champs-Elysées” and they will shrug with disdain. Shower them with all the cool idioms you spent too much time studying, and you’ll come off as pompous. Parisians are not easily impressed, but fast to judge.
It is however rather simple to handle a friendly conversation — if you can overlook the fact that they’ll switch to English as soon as you open your mouth. Stay calm, and with a nice smile, say „Je préfère parler français.” They’ll cooperate. Then, use simple words, in simple constructions, and go to the point. My first audiobook — 90 pages, 3 hours of audio — is free to read, hear and download on my site, and written entirely in the present tense. Yes, sometimes it is not grammatically perfect, but why care — Parisians don’t. If you can learn to speak as I do in my audiobook, most Parisians will be happy to have nice, long conversations with you.
But speaking is not everything. There are lots of intricate „politeness” rules, which go far beyond the correct use of „tu” and „vous.” Did you know that in Paris, women seldom help themselves to wine, or, that you should never hug any French person (on some occasions, you may very well kiss them on only the second meeting).
On this page, I’m going to let you in on some very useful inside information on communicating with Parisians — both language tips as well as cultural insight. I offer this perspective to save you hours of studying things you will never use while in Paris. If you like what’s below, I invite you to find even more detailed information in the form of free lessons with audio files at my website.
Questions? If you have some simple questions about Speaking Parisian, I’d be glad to try and answer them. Just send me an e-mail here.