Two Countries Separated by One Language

For those looking to achieve complete fluency in a foreign language, there really is only one option and that is to move abroad. For some languages this is fairly straight forward; if you’re learning Italian, clearly you’ll be headed to Italy and the choice lies simply in which city to live in. For English, the options are decidedly more complex, with 65 countries and territories across the world having English as an official language, but two of the major options that emerge are the UK and the US. Having been frequently described as ‘two countries separated by one language’, you would do well to consider the relative cultural and linguistic differences between the two when planning a move, and so we have compiled some of the most important ones for you here:

  • Linguistic differences

Color or colour? Sidewalk or pavement? Elevator or lift? The vocabulary, spelling, style of speech, and accent differ greatly between these two countries. Americans tend to see British speech as quaint; conjuring up images of afternoon tea and crumpets with the queen, whereas Brits are fairly used to American English due to the prevalence of US media in the cinemas and on TV. This one will depend more on your personal preferences and what you’re accustomed to.

  • Humour

Differences here lie well beyond the spelling of the word (Americans carelessly omit the u!) with British humour tending to be darker and more sarcastic than its American counterpart, leading many Americans to perceive us as mean-spirited. Honestly, we’re nicer than we seem! American humour, on the other hand, is direct and seems too ‘obvious’ to the British.

  • Positivity

You can expect a lot more outward positivity should you decide to cross the pond, whereas the British like a good moan. This all makes up part of the British humour, which is known for its self-deprecatory nature, so don’t take grumbles about the weather too seriously, we’re actually quite happy with life and this is just a way of making conversation!

  • Openness

Americans are very open to sharing personal details about themselves from the outset, whereas the British are arguably calmer and more reserved on first meeting. Of course you will be able to make close friendships in both countries; just the approach to social situations and relationships varies; the British do open up, just give it a little time.

  • Tipping

Certainly one you should consider if you like eating out; the tipping culture in America is strong, with a tip of around 10% being considered the absolute minimum. Waiting staff depend on these tips due to low wages, whereas in the UK minimum wages are higher, which means that you’re not always obliged to tip, especially as a young person or student.

  • Size

In the US, bigger is better, and that goes for just about everything. Cars, houses, streets, food… Whatever you can think of, it’s probably double the size in the states. This means you’ll have more space at home of course, but it also means that the distance you travel to work or school is likely to be longer… And you can forget walking; it’s just not something you do in America!

It can be difficult to generalise with any country, particularly one as large as the US, where attitudes can vary drastically from one area to the next, but hopefully some of these overriding tendencies can help you to decide which would be a better fit for your personality. Then again, maybe you’ll choose to go for another Anglophone country like Ireland, Australia or even New Zealand! If you enjoyed reading this, you can find more of the same here, and if you’re looking for a job as a bilingual assistant in Paris, take a look at our offers now!

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Learning a Language the Fun Way

When learning a foreign language, it’s all too easy to get bogged down in tired, traditional learning methods such as flashcards or dusty grammar books. Of course, vocabulary and grammar are integral to language learning, and you’ll undoubtedly have to put in some hard work in these areas, but that doesn’t mean it has to be endless drudgery. Language learning can, and should, be fun. You’re much more likely to retain information that you learnt whilst enjoying yourself. There are a whole host of methods you can try; here are just a few of them:

  • Dubs and translations of familiar material

Strictly speaking, it’s probably best for you to watch and read content produced in your target language to further your cultural understanding. That being said, a dub of your favourite film or TV series can be a really effective way to boost your language skills. Think about it; you already know the story and therefore don’t need to worry about missing crucial plot details due to gaps in your language, and you’re bound to pick up new vocabulary naturally and effortlessly as you already know what everyone is talking about.

  • Browse the internet in your target language

How long do you spend each day procrastinating online? Why not turn this time into a valuable learning opportunity by visiting your favourite sites in the language you’re learning? Buzzfeed, for example, offers a version of its site in a variety of languages, so now you can take personality tests in French and call it productive!

  • Sticky notes

People might think that you’re a little insane when they come to visit a house plastered with sticky notes, but labelling household objects in your target language is a great way to learn vocabulary. You’ll see the word again and again without any conscious effort on your part, allowing you to avoid endless piles of flashcards.

  • Make friends with native speakers

This is the perfect solution, you get to relax and have fun with your friends all the while practising your language! It might seem a little daunting, and at first it can be exhausting to have to express yourself in a foreign language all the time, but if you manage to meet kind (and patient!) people you can build lasting friendships and will have a more concrete motivation for learning the language.

  • Keep a journal in the language

If you already keep a journal, why not switch it to the language you’re learning? You don’t have to feel embarrassed about mistakes you’re making as it’s strictly private, and you’ll find yourself needing to look up new words all the time, thus expanding your vocabulary. What’s more, you can look back on earlier entries and cringe at your old mistakes, whilst feeling smug about how far you’ve come!

  • Foreign language music

Take a look at the top charts in a country that speaks your target language, there’s sure to be something that suits your taste. You’ll learn to associate the words to the tunes and will be much more likely to remember them as a result, and it’ll give you common ground to talk about with natives.  Even if you’re struggling to distinguish words, it’s a good way of familiarising yourself to the sounds of the language.

So don’t despair, learning a language can actually be quite enjoyable. Mix up some of your more traditional study methods with these fun techniques and you’ll find yourself progressing without even noticing. If you enjoyed reading this blog, you can find more of the same here, and don’t forget to consult our job offers for bilingual secretaries in Paris.

L’importance des réseaux sociaux

On parle beaucoup en ce moment de la nocivité des réseaux sociaux, de comment les jeunes se montrent de plus en plus dépendants de ces monstres de l’âge moderne, alimentant leurs egos avec des ‘likes’ ou des ‘shares’.  Pourtant, jusqu’à quel point ces affirmations sont-elles vraies ? Sont-elles, en fait, seulement une manière de diaboliser une génération, tout en rejetant les outils aussi efficaces qui sont les réseaux sociaux ?

Sites tels que Facebook et Twitter nous permettent de garder contact avec nos proches, sans avoir recours à envoyer ses photos et ses petites pensées à chaque personne individuellement. Certes, des images sans fin du petit-déjeuner d’un ancien ami de la fac ou de son chien si mignon peuvent embêter, mais sans doute sa mère est heureuse de partager un petit moment dans la vie de son fils. Il suffit de bloquer ceux qui t’énervent ainsi, pour que vous ne puissiez rester en contact qu’avec ceux qui comptent dans votre vie. Bien qu’il existe un degré d’égoïsme autour des ‘likes’,  l’important pour la plupart des gens est de se sentir plus proche à ceux qui sont peut-être physiquement éloignés.

Qui plus est, les réseaux sociaux peuvent se servir comme moyen de faire de nouvelles connaissances. Par exemple, des étudiants qui viennent d’arriver dans une nouvelle ville peuvent s’inscrire aux groupes Erasmus sur Facebook pour rencontre des amis, rester informés quant aux événements ou même pour faire des échanges linguistiques, ainsi rendant sa vie plus facile.

Tout cela sans parler des avantages au sein des entreprises, qui sont aussi nombreux. Le facebook d’une entreprise est maintenant le centre de sa présence en ligne, et c’est par ce moyen que ses clients choisissent de lui communiquer, qu’il soit pour exprimer leurs plaintes ou pour faire l’éloge. Les entreprises peuvent également se servir des réseaux plutôt stylés, tels que Instagram ou Pinterest, comme outil de publicité, puisqu’il y a tout un monde de blogueurs qui sont prêts à publiciser n’importe quel produit. Donner un produit gratuit à un blogueur  est beaucoup moins cher que payer une campagne publicitaire, et en fait les clients se sentent beaucoup plus proches à eux, fessant plus confiance à son blogueur préféré qu’à une pub à la télé. Même le réseau assez jeune ‘Snapchat’ commence à être utilisé pour diffuser événements avec ses ‘histoires’ publiques, auxquelles les utilisateurs peuvent soumettre leurs photos et vidéos et ainsi fournir de la publicité gratuite. Et n’oublions pas l’importance du géant Linkedin qui compte maintenant 160 millions de membres autour du monde et qui agit comme outil important chez les chasseurs de têtes, de même qu’une plateforme pour construire les relations professionnelles.

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Voilà pourquoi les réseaux sociaux ne sont pas les diables que vous les croyez ! À condition que vous soyez prudent avec leur utilisation, ils peuvent vous offrir un monde d’opportunités dans votre vie professionnelle aussi bien que dans votre vie privée. Si vous avez aimé ce blog, vous pouvez lire plus ici, et n’oubliez pas de consulter nos offres d’emploi pour les assistants bilingues à Paris !

The Dos and Don’ts of Paris

Paris itself may always be a good idea, but not all ideas in Paris are good ones! Whether you’re planning on moving to Paris or simply visiting for the weekend, there are certain things you should be aware of in order to fully enjoy your experience. Here are some of our ‘dos and don’ts’ when you’re in the French capital:

Don’t fall into the trap of taking the métro everywhere. Of course, the métro is a wonderful invention that makes everyone’s lives a lot easier, and on a day to day basis it is indispensible. However, this doesn’t stop it being quite an unpleasant place to spend your time, what with the throngs of stressed commuters and confused tourists, and the questionable lingering odours. Do make the most of Paris and stroll through its picturesque streets. This is such a famous activity that it sprouted its own verb ‘flâner’, meaning to wander aimlessly, which is intrinsically tied up with images of Parisian boulevards.

Don’t set your heart on one location when house hunting. Sure, you’ve always imagined yourself in a little Haussmannien flat nestled in Saint-Germain, but depending on your budget and availability the reality might be quite different.  Do be open minded and explore some different areas, for each corner of Paris has its own charms, be it the shabby chic of Belleville or the polished façades of the 16th arrondissement.

Do take advantage of Paris’ café culture, where your espresso buys you the right to linger for as long as you please whilst taking in the scenes around you. After all, there is no better place to people watch than in Paris. But don’t forget your basic politesse with those serving you, a simple bonjour and s’il vous plait goes a long way with the Parisians, who will return the favour and maybe even treat you with a smile!

Do make sure you visit the typical tourist spots; they are famous for a reason, after all. Notre dame is undeniably impressive, and few things compare to the view from the steps of le Sacré Coeur. However, don’t spend absolutely all of your time hanging around Montmartre and the Champs Elysées – Paris has a wealth of hidden gems just waiting to be discovered in its more offbeat neighbourhoods such as the Canal St. Martin.

Don’t buy everything in supermarkets; you’d be insane to miss out on Paris’ many food markets, which, on top of providing delicious fresh produce, are much kinder on your wallet. What’s more, they’re a perfect opportunity to practise your French whilst discovering a little more about French gastronomie by having a chat with your fromager. Le marché des enfants rouges, tucked away in a quiet corner of le marais, comes highly recommended for groceries and street food alike.

Speaking of food, do enjoy being in the culinary capital of the world! From haute cuisine in one of Paris’ many Michelin starred restaurants to a simple yet delicious baguette from the humble boulangerie, you’ll never go hungry in this foodie’s haven.

So now you know how to go about your Parisian adventure! It’s not hard to enjoy yourself in this wonderful city if you keep your wits about you. If you enjoyed reading this, you can find more of the same here, and don’t forget to consult our job offers for bilingual assistants in the Paris area.