Learning spoken French at home or everywhere ?

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Most of my pupils tell me “I want to speak better French Géraldine”. Yes, that’s a huge goal. That’s very good. One of the steps that is going to help you achieve that, speak better French, is to understand fast spoken French much, much, much better. Fast spoken French specifically is the way that French is spoken in France and by any french-speaking person abroad. I know that fast French sounds scary. It can be overwhelming because you don’t know what to say next and it’s a way to make French sound very difficult. So today I want you to relax. I’m going to give you a cheat sheet to help you understand fast spoken French much better so you can see wonderful improvement in the upcoming days, hours, minutes if you want to practice your French right after this course. I know that the understanding of fast spoken French will depend on your level of French obviously.

So today we have different learning goals depending on your level.

Newbie

If you’re a newbie, at the end of this course you are familiar with how French sounds in real life. You know what to aim for. You won’t understand everything obviously but at least you know that French is this way and when you’re in front of textbook French you should not rely too much on it for too long.

Intermediate

As an intermediate, you will be able to spot fast spoken French elements in French movies immediately because I will show you what to look for.

Advanced

For advanced pupils, you will be able to add fast spoken French elements to your own spoken French and that will make a huge difference in your French because your French will sound more authentic and much more fluid just like your own language is actually.

First let’s look at the oral of fast spoken French. Before we start, a warning. Fast spoken French is not slow French spoken faster. And the opposite, slow French is not fast spoken French spoken slower. When you’re speaking your own language and you want to speak more formally or clearly, you’re going to slow down. But when you’re talking to your friends, your family, your neighbors, you’re going to speak faster. You just don’t notice it because you’re not learning the language. So do not rely on software that accelerate or slow down dialogues, because the words we use in a fast language are not the words that we use in the slow language with a faster speed. So use these software very, very carefully. For example, “gotta” is the fast spoken English way to say “I have to”, “I got to”, but you will never get “gotta” if you accelerate “I have to”, “I’ve got to”. Okay ? So do not rely on that. Only use them very carefully. But don’t expect them to teach you fast French in a slower manner just because you’re using those software. So just be careful. Now let’s talk about French more specifically, because that’s my specialty.

First, one of the most obvious things that you will notice in fast spoken French is that we eat the “e”. For example no one says: We remove the E in the middle. We say : This is not new but if you’re a newbie that can make a huge difference in understanding fast spoken French and this applies to lots of words including lots of shop names in French. Another one is “petit”. We remove the E in the middle. “Petit” become “p’tit“, And this E is removed in many, many, many, many words. We don’t only cut the E in the middle of words. We also cut it in the middle of sentences. For example : I woke up at six. if we say it in fast spoken French, which is real authentic everyday French we will remove the first E and we say : So “Je me” become “J’me”. If you’re a oral nerd, personally I don’t say that because I have a different habit/regionalism. I remove the second E and I say: So don’t learn that because that’s, I think, specific to certain areas of France but most people, I think, would say “J’me suis réveillée à six heures”, so the first example. And this is what we all teach in fast spoken French.

The second element of oral of fast spoken French is a transformation of sounds. A bit like what we started seeing with “J’me suis réveillée à six heures”. But we can go much deeper on that. For example : I went to the boulangerie. We remove the first E and that makes: “J’suis” instead of “Je suis”, okay ? “Je suis” become “J’suis”. If we want to go deeper on that, we’re not going to say “J’suis” as in J and S. We’re going to say “Chuis”. The sounds change, they transform a little bit. With the sound “ch” like in “cheminée” (chimney in French). And if you noticed the end, I removed the E in boulangerie. I don’t say “boulangerie”, I say “boulang’rie”. But we just saw that before. It’s the same with others. It’s not just I “Je suis”. It’s also you. For example : That’s even difficult for me to say. “J’t’ai” becomes “Cht’ai”. It’s a bit difficult to say because it’s not supposed to be said slowly. It’s supposed to be said in everyday spoken French in real life. So saying that in front of you on my own and slowly, it’s a bit tricky. So remember that the sound evolves in spoken French.

The third and last element of the oral of fast spoken French is the transformation of words. And this is what can change a lot of your understanding because if you don’t know that, you cannot guess it. Because this is not what is taught at school. So for example you can have word changes, made of sound changes. For example “oui” which is “yes” I assume you already know that. “oui” becomes “ouais” Okay ? “non” becomes “nan”. “non”, that’s the normal way of saying it, becomes “nan”. But on top of the change of sound in these words that make the words change, we can have cuts and that’s very very common
in fast spoken French. For example instead of saying “d’accord”, we can say “d’ac”. We cut the end. “d’accord” becomes “d’ac”. Or something that you might have heard because that’s getting more and more common, instead of saying “À plus tard” (see you later), we say “À plus” and sometimes it’s written “A+”. It’s not a grade, it’s just to mean “see you later” and I think, but I’m not an expert in that, you have something similar in English with “CU”, to say “see you later”. So that’s the same, it’s just to make it faster to write. We also have “un petit-déjeuner”. “un petit-déjeuner” becomes “un petit-dej”, we cut the end. And because we cut the E in the middle as well, it makes “un ptit dej”. So we saw that at the beginning of the course and right now we add a cut and that makes “un ptit dej”. In terms of cuts, we can also cut the subject and that makes French even trickier. So we have “Il faut que”, it means it has to be done. “Il faut que” or “you have to” in a way. One has to literally. “Il faut que” becomes “Y faut que” because we cut the L in “Il”. So it’s a way of saying it. And we can cut the beginning and make it “Faut que” And it means “I have to”. For example: I should say “Il faut que je me lève à six heures demain”. I have to get up at six tomorrow. What is very very funny about fast spoken French is that oral is just a part of it.

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Grammar

Now let’s look at the grammar. The grammar of fast spoken French. So I’m going to go quickly and refer to other courses from the past. So the first element that I’ve told many many times is to drop the “ne” in negation. Something that your teacher might not tell you about or they might just acknowledge the fact that it’s used everywhere. So we drop the “ne” in negation. For example : Paris-Brest are a kind of delicious patisserie that you can find in any boulangerie, becomes : we remove the negation of the “ne”. This is extremely classic. It’s more familiar but it absolutely is not vulgar in any way. What’s tricky is that sometimes it becomes very difficult to understand what it means if you don’t know the origin of the sentence. For example let’s look at this very, very classic expression that we use in fast spoken French: “Ne t’inquiète pas” is “don’t worry”, that’s pretty simple. If you remove the “ne” at the beginning as I just said, it becomes “T’inquiète pas”. But if we add what I just said in the previous part and cut the end, we have “T’inquiète” And what’s funny is that “T’inquiète” means “Ne t’inquiète pas” but we removed the negation and we cut the end so it becomes : Don’t worry, I bought some eclairs. And that’s “T’inquiète” and yes it kinds of means the opposite of what it should mean but the real true meaning is “don’t worry”. If you’re a grammar nerd, what do you think it should be ? As in what should we say to say “please worry”. We should say “Inquiète-toi”, which means “please worry”.

The second element is no inversion in questions. Again I’ve mentioned that many many many times. We don’t say: where we can see the inversion at the beginning of the question which is “préfères-tu”. We just say: and as you can hear in my voice the tone is different. My voice is going up to indicate that this is actually a question even though the grammar says, the beginning of the phrase says that it’s an affirmation. But no, in fast spoken French it is a question. We go much deeper on this topics together. The last element of the grammar of fast spoken French are the biggest elements because we could talk about that for hours. It’s that “nous” becomes “on”. In spoken French, in modern French we never use “nous”. We always say “on” instead. It’s exactly the same meaning. For example, instead of saying: we say: We eat patisseries every Monday. Okay? So again it’s the same meaning, it’s just that instead of saying “nous” we say “on” and you use the conjugation of the third person of the singular in French. Again it’s a very interesting course to boost your understanding of fast spoken French.

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French fillers

Let’s look at the other characteristics of fast spoken French. But I want to show you the surface and show you how you can go deeper in your understanding of fast spoken French and how to make your French much much more fluent and natural and authentic. The first element of these characteristics of fast spoken French is French fillers. We can call them “tics de langage”. These are words we use without thinking about them, and they are very hard to learn in any language whether it’s Spanish, Portuguese, English, Chinese, whatever. Because no one wants to teach them because we’re not supposed to say them. They make our language ugly in a way. We try to remove them as much as we can but we’re humans, so we make mistakes and we use those anyway. So these are the “hmm”, “you see”, “you know”, “well”, that you have in English and we have similar ones in French. So we have “euh” which is “hmm” in English because in French we rely on different sounds to be hesitant so “euh”, it’s what we would say. You have “tiens” to mean “well”. It doesn’t mean “take it”, it means “well” in this way. We have “voila”. “Voila” means “you know”, “you see” or “that’s it” in a way. But again, it has so many meanings that it’s hard for me to give them to you, but when you hear them you can understand that there are fillers that don’t necessarily mean something and their meaning will depend on the context so check them out if you hear them in fast spoken French. We have “Tu vois”. “Tu vois” is literally “you see” and it’s exactly the same meaning as in English here. So same, same, same. “Tu vois” is “you see”. You can stop, you can end a sentence with that, you can start it with that. It depends on who’s using them. We have “bah” or “ben” which are coming from “bien” but in everyday spoken French we’re going to say “bah” as in I’m thinking about it and I have to come up with an answer. “bah” or “ben”, again they don’t mean anything. They’re just here to be
fillers of the conversations. And we have “quoi”. “Quoi” is something you might have heard of. Again it’s very often a filler, not a very elegant one, but something that lots of human beings actually use, like I do too. If you want a full list of them, Wikipedia did a very nice post on that. A full list of lots of fillers and extra expressions that are not necessarily meaningful but are part of French conversations and will help you understand much much better.

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Familiar lexicon

The second element of these characteristics of fast spoken French is familiar lexicon and certain use of lexicon. So the first one is French slang. Be very, very careful with the use of those. I think I’ve overtalked about them and lots of pupils are trying to use them in a fantastic way but be careful not to use them too much because very often, what I see is pupils having a very formal writing in French and they try to drop French slang and that makes it awkward. So my advice is learn them to understand it but just use it as soon as you’re very comfortable with French and in speaking more than writing, because very often your written French is still very very formal and that makes it awkward in the middle of a sentence. But learn them because you will hear them everywhere. So for example, instead of saying “une femme” we might say “une nana” That’s slang for “une femme”. This is not necessarily pejorative. I was just checking my texts with my best friend and I saw that I was using that so I took only words that I actually use, and this is not vulgar, this is not necessarily pejorative. This is just French slang for une femme. “Une femme” becomes “une nana”. We have loads of other words for women but I’m just going to mention this one. For “un homme” we don’t say necessarily “un homme”, we might say “un mec”. Instead of saying “comment ?” which is the elegant way to say “What ?”, “I’m sorry”, “excuse me”. We might say “quoi ?”. Again, maybe your mum taught you not to say that as a kid but as adults we very often say it. “Quoi” instead of “comment ?” Just on its own. Not at the beginning of a sentence, okay ? And something that I’ve already taught before, again, is instead of saying “beaucoup” which is “a lot” we might say “vachement” in everyday spoken French My grandmother hated this word but it’s not necessarily vulgar. It’s just familiar French. I’m just saying that in formal settings or with older people who want you to have a very, very formal French, don’t use that, but it’s used a lot. “Vachement”, yes like a cow, “une vache”, instead of beaucoup. I talked about familiar French but there is also a use of lexicon that is specific to fast spoken French. For example, there is a use of French lexicon in a familiar way. Here, this is more for advanced pupils so I’m just going to give you one example to show you. For example instead of saying “dire” which is “to say”, we might say “faire” which is “to do”. So for example, instead of saying: I would say: So I’m using the word “faire” instead of “to say” which is “dire” because this is more a familiar French and as a little tip to show you a little extra things in fast spoken French, when you’re saying “faire” here, you’re going to usually mimic the voice or the expression of the person saying that. So that gives a little bit more context on the use, but again don’t worry too much about that unless you’re an advanced pupil.

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Mistakes

The last element of the course today is that I want to insist on the fact that fast spoken French just like any other fast spoken language, has plenty of mistakes. Not mistakes in grammar like big ones or of gender. This is something you would almost never do as a French person. But mistakes in the way that the language is spoken. For example, you’re not finishing sentences because your neighbor, friend, daughter, father, already knows what you’re talking about. You have habits of saying the same things over and over using certain expressions over others. You have hesitations, you’re going to start your sentence several times and you have regionalisms. And to me, that’s the beauty of any language. And because I teach French, to me that’s the beauty of spoken French and that’s what I love teaching the most. It’s this imperfect everyday real spoken French and that what I hope I’m going to help you understand better today. And what I teach in other courses as well but to me that’s what you should aim for, understanding that, because if you just focus on textbook French, that’s nice but no one speaks this way. When you’re talking in your own language, you make all these mistakes, you don’t think about them but when you’re trying to understand this kind of French, it makes it much more difficult because you’re not expecting it and you’re not used to it. So embrace it, try to use what I just taught you and your understanding of fast spoken French will be boosted like never before. Now let’s test ourselves with a little quizz.

How would this sound in fast spoken French? Focus on what I just taught you in this course. So first for newbies: Think about it. How would you say that in fast spoken French? So in fast spoken French we would remove the E and say: So check the writing of the answer so you can hear me actually remove the E: I also added the cut at the end of “après-midi” because this is a very very common way of saying it and even as a newbie you can actually embrace it. “Cet aprem” would be “cet après-midi” in fast spoken French. Now let’s look at something a bit more difficult for intermediate pupils: So how would you say that in fast spoken French. Remember the second part of the course where we talked about the grammar of fast spoken French ? This is what we’re applying here so we would say: So you can see here that we didn’t do the inversion and I replaced the “nous” by “on”. Note that “on aime” sounds like “on n’aime” which is the negation of it but the “ne” was dropped just because of “la liaison” we happen to think that there is the “n” still but there isn’t For the advanced pupils, it’s a little bit difficult for me to do it in the exact way so I’m going to read you a phrase as I would say it in real life and you have to understand what’s going on. I’ll read that again for you. Okay, so what did you understand from there? I put everything that happens in fast spoken French. I’m going to do a kind of a translation of formal slow French. It’s not exactly the same because obviously there’s no direct translation but that shows you the intention of everything that is mentioned in the phrase: “Ah bah bien” is a way to say “well, congratulations, fantastic”, okay ? I wanted to notice something for you. Yes, “une boîte” is slang for “une entreprise” and I used “mec” and I translated it to “mari” just because you probably already know the word but here a “mec” does not imply marriage. It just implies life partner or partner or boyfriend, okay? “Abuser” also means “exagérer” in slang. That’s it, I hope you did well. Tell me in French if you dare or in English if you can’t. I highly encourage you share because your recommendations are very very useful for other pupils and for me as well so I can see how you like to improve your French best.

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Thomas 😀

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