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.

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.

Communication Beyond Words

You can spend hours, days and weeks on end studying verb tables, revising nuanced uses of the subjunctive and rifling through vocabulary flash cards, but there is a kind of cultural language that you simply cannot learn through traditional book learning. This is the system of gestures, formalities and behaviours unique to each individual culture. How are you to know, for example, that in China a bow is a much more accepted form of greeting than a handshake without interacting with Chinese people? Admittedly you can learn the simpler aspects through reading about them, but to develop a true ‘cultural fluency’ direct experience is necessary. Here are some interesting, funny and sometimes baffling customs from across the globe:

  • Les bises

Although a kiss on the cheek as a greeting is fairly common in many cultures, this is a prospect that terrifies Brits and other Northern Europeans venturing south, who would much sooner settle for the safe distance of a handshake. The situation is particularly complicated in France, where the number of kisses you give depends on which region you find yourself in – just take a look at this map:

  • The Italian ‘squillo’

Imagine yourself in Italy and you receive a one ring phone call from an Italian friend. The natural reaction of most would be to call this person back, which is in fact the entirely wrong thing to do, and will leave your Italian friend slightly taken aback. What you just received was a squillo, Italian for ring, and a new cultural phenomenon whereby you are expected interpret the meaning of the call from the context rather than answering. This could be “I’m running a bit late” or “I got your message” or perhaps simply “I miss you”.

  • Exchanging business cards in Asia

In many East Asian cultures the business card holds an almost spiritual significance. Your card should be printed in both English and the relevant Asian language, with the host country language side presented face up. Remember to accept business cards with both hands and to spend an inordinate amount of time examining it as if you suspect it may contain explosives – proper consideration of a business card is a sign of respect.

  • Gestures

Gestures are a complete minefield when travelling internationally, so be very careful. The widely accepted ‘ok’ symbol (thumb and index finger together) is considered rude in Brazil, and curling your index finger towards you in a ‘come here’ gesture can be mistaken for a goodbye in Southern Europe. For those travelling to Bulgaria, take note that to the Bulgarians a head nod confusingly means ‘no’ and shaking the head side to side means ‘yes’.

  • English apologies

Perhaps the most vexing of all these international customs is the British tendency to apologise for absolutely everything, also shared by their Canadian cousins. Perhaps it’s just reflex, but the English will even apologise when you step on their feet on a crowded tube, leaving foreigners utterly perplexed. This apology should not be taken entirely seriously and is simply a way of diffusing an otherwise awkward situation.

As you can see, sometimes vocabulary and grammar is not enough, and some of these customs can be the hardest part of living abroad to master, given that our own are so ingrained in our psyche. Don’t worry about slipping up though, people understand that you’re a foreigner and that these things can take time, and misunderstandings like this always make for funny stories! If you enjoyed reading this, you can find more of the same here, and don’t forget to take a look at our job offers for bilingual assistants in Paris.

Pourquoi, et comment, travailler à l’étranger ?

L’idée de travailler à l’étranger est assez effrayante,  vu qu’il faut laisser son pays, sa culture et sa famille derrière et se mettre en route pour une destination inconnue. Pourtant, les avantages l’emportent sans doute sur les peurs, et dès que vous partirez à l’étranger vous commencerez à voir à quel point cette expérience peut vous bénéficier, d’une façon personnelle et également quant à votre carrière. Voici des conseils et des raisons pour lesquelles vous devez faire vos valises maintenant !

Alors, vous avez choisi votre pays d’accueil, vous connaissez peut-être un peu de la langue locale, et si vous avez la chance vous avez même trouvé un travail. Premier conseil : savoir auparavant les possibles difficultés que vous pourriez rencontrer (désolé, il y aura surement des difficultés où que vous alliez !), ainsi elles ne vous embêteront pas autant. Que ce soit une gaffe linguistique ou des difficultés à trouver un logement, vous allez franchir les obstacles avec une mentalité positive, sachant que tout fait partie de l’expérience.

Bien installé dans votre nouveau pays, vous pouvez commencer à profiter des nouvelles expériences qui vous sont désormais disponibles. Si vous visez apprendre la langue ou pas, c’est le moment de connaître les gens du coin et en leur parlent vous allez vraiment  découvrir la culture du pays. Certes, ils font les choses d’une manière un peu différente, ce qui peut vous paraître bizarre, mais ces différences font intéressante la vie. Vous deviendrez beaucoup plus ouvert d’esprit en adoptant quelques coutumes locales, tout comme la sieste en Espagne ou prendre du thé en Angleterre, et en plus ça pourrait vous plaire –  qui n’aimerait pas passer une heure en dormant chaque après-midi ? S’il  s’agit d’un séjour linguistique, insistez pour parler le plus que possible, sans avoir recours à votre langue maternelle… Oui, je parle à vous les anglophones ! Vous allez découvrir que, bien qu’on ait des petites particularités, les personnes ne sont pas si différentes.

Du point du vue du travail, la barrière linguistique peut provoquer des soucis . Si vous ne vous sentez pas confiant en parlant la langue, le conseil le plus important est de restez calme – n’oubliez pas que votre patron vous a embauché en raison de vos compétences et parce que vous êtes capable d’effectuer l’emploi. Ce n’est pas grave s’il faut demander à quelqu’un de répéter 4 ou 5 fois, mieux vaut faire ainsi que mal comprendre une instruction. Peu à peu, vous trouverez que vous êtes capable de parler, et que vous apprenez le vocabulaire spécifique à votre poste. Finalement, venir travailler à l’étranger vous rend attractif auprès des recruteurs, témoignant votre détermination ainsi que votre capacité d’adaptation.

Voilà pourquoi vous devez partir à l’étranger dès que vous avez l’opportunité. Vous n’avez rien à perdre, parce que votre pays vous attendra toujours si la vie à l’étranger ne vous plait plus et qui sait, il se peut que votre pays d’accueil vous plaise encore plus que votre pays d’origine !  Si vous avez aimé ce blog, vous pouvez lire plus ici, et n’hésitez pas à consulter nos offres d’emploi.

Things You Should Know Before Moving to France

France is undoubtedly an excellent place to live, blessed with a rich cultural heritage, a beautiful language, varied and interesting landscapes and of course a world famous cuisine. What else would inspire so many Amelie-esque dreams of a new life in Paris or perhaps Provence amongst Francophiles worldwide? The romantic image of hopping on your vintage bike to a local boulangerie to pick up a fresh baguette, all the while clad in Breton stripes, is fairly prevalent. But inevitably there are hurdles to overcome when moving to any foreign country, be they cultural, linguistic or simply practical. Here are some things we think you should know so that you can truly make the most of your time in France!

  1. Don’t expect much to work on a Sunday. This naturally depends on where you live, as you probably won’t face much difficulty in Paris, but in more rural areas you may find yourself unable to buy food on a Sunday, as most shops will shut down for the entire day. Take a little time to plan ahead, buy your groceries on Saturday and see this as a blessing – in France, Sunday truly is a day of relaxation.
  2. Cast off your prejudices about French rudeness before arriving. This can actually be a self fulfilling prophecy: if you’re defensive around the French from day one then you’re unlikely to find them to be warm and fuzzy. Admittedly you’re likely to come across a few stony faced individuals behind guichets, but don’t let this get to you. The vast majority of French people are polite and accommodating in everyday situations, provided you greet them with a smile and a bonjour!
  3. This is perhaps only applicable to Paris, but if you’re coming to improve your language skills, make sure you are absolutely insistent on speaking French. Parisians, particularly in more touristic areas, will readily switch to English as soon as they spot an error in your French. The simple fact is that it’s usually a lot easier to communicate with tourists of whatever origin in English, and many will jump on an opportunity to practise English. Persist in French and most of the time they will quickly swap back.
  4. Be aware that making friends is a little different in France, and can take longer. You might find the French to be a little overly formal with their acquaintances at first; you just have to have a little patience. Once a French person has warmed to you, you will struggle to find a more loyal friend.
  5. Prepare yourself for French bureaucracy. This one is unavoidable, and there’s no sugar coating the fact that French paperwork is a bit of a nightmare, with what feels like endless signatures and attestations to provide. Remember that France also offers some of the world’s best social care, and that jumping through these loops is simply part and parcel of that. Take a deep breath and laisse tomber!

So now you’re prepared to live out your Francophile dreams! France is a wonderful country that, like any other, presents a unique set of challenges. An awareness of the challenges you may face will allow you to better enjoy those moments sipping a café au lait en terrasse. If you enjoyed this blog, you can see more of the same here, and don’t forget to consult our job offers for bilingual assistants in Paris.

Where Could French Take You?

You might be tempted to believe that French is just spoken dans l’Hexagone, but in fact French is your passport to some of the world’s most exciting and interesting locations. Second only to English as the world’s most widely spoken language, French is an official language in 29 countries as diverse as Canada and the Seychelles. So with that in mind let us give you a tour of some of our top Francophone destinations:

Montreal, Canada

Canada’s second city is an eclectic mix of old meets new, where a flourishing arts and restaurant scene buzzes against a backdrop of charming colonial architecture and soaring skyscrapers. Whilst this is a truly bilingual city, French is generally the preferred language and speaking it will go a long way towards winning the locals’ favour.

Top three:

  • Stroll through Old Montreal’s quaint cobbled streets, soak up the colonial atmosphere and visit Montreal’s very own Notre Dame!

  • Montreal has everything you could possibly want in terms of restaurants, but perhaps the most emblematic dish is poutine. This slightly questionable sounding dish of chips with cheese and gravy is so popular that it has sparked its own festival in February, where restaurants each provide their own spin on the classic dish. Trust us, it’s delicious.
  • Montréal’s music scene is unrivalled in Canada, and in particular you should take a look at the International Jazz Festival which takes place place from the 26th June to 5th July in 2015.

Speak the local lingo:

To speak true québécois you must learn to scatter your French with anglicisms; which should be ‘pas de troubles’ for our largely bilingual readership! On top of that there is a wealth of idiomatic phrases, here are just a few:

Ca a pas d’allure : Meaning something makes no sense at all, or that it’s crazy. Ironically this one makes no sense to metropolitan French speakers.

J’suis tanné : I’m fed up, I’ve had enough. (NB This has nothing to do with leatherwork!)

Chum/Blonde : Boyfriend/girlfriend, regardless of hair colour!

Nosy Be Island, Madagascar

This island, whose slightly unimaginative name (literally translated from Malagasy as ‘big island’) does little justice to its beauty, is Madagascar’s number one tourist destination and the perfect excuse for you to go and practise your French. Think rustic, unspoiled beaches, beautiful sunsets and an atmosphere so laid back that you’ll never want to be vertical again. Add this to the fact that the Madagascans are renowned for their smiles and friendly disposition and you have an ideal holiday destination.

 

Top three:

  • Every year, Nosy Be hosts the Donia Music Festival, where you can enjoy parades, music and immerse yourself in the fascinating and beautiful Malagasy culture.
  • Take the time to explore the local flora and fauna. Just off the island is Nosy Tanikely, a stunning marine reserve where you can snorkel with sea turtles, or alternatively you can visit the Lokobe nature reserve, where you’re likely to bump into lemurs and colourful reptiles.

  • In terms of culinary offerings, you would be mad to miss the fresh fruit in Madagascar, and it all tastes so much better whilst sitting on the pristine beaches of Nosy Be.

Marrakech, Morocco

Enchanting and bewildering in equal measure, Marrakech is brimming with life and boasts some of the world’s most beautiful Islamic architecture. The labyrinthine souks that run through the heart of the city offer an ideal opportunity to barter for anything from jewellery to spices, en français, bien sûr! Although the locals are generally native Arabic or Berber language speakers, colonial influence means that French is preferred as a lingua franca over English.

Top three:

  • The striking Jardin Majorelle was gifted to Marrakech by Yves Saint Laurent in 1964 and is not to be missed. Take a relaxed afternoon to escape from the heat and explore this leafy oasis in the middle of bustling Marrakech, and whilst you’re there enjoy a traditional mint tea in the charming café. For the culturally inclined there is also a museum showcasing Berber art.

  • In the centre of Marrakech’s old quarter (or medina) is the impressive Jemaa el-Fna square where you can sample the local delicacies against the backdrop of the towering Koutoubia mosque. Try a lamb tagine with cous-cous, or if you’re feeling a little more daring many places serve a delicious spiced snail soup.
  • The star feature of Marrakech is, without a doubt, its maze of covered markets (souks). You can quite literally lose yourself for hours browsing this Aladdin’s cave, and haggling with the vendors is all part of the experience! Set yourself a challenge and see what you can buy with 50 dirham (approximately 5 euros)

So there you have it! French can take you to places far beyond Europe. Which of these destinations would you most like to visit? Let us know in the comments below, and if you enjoyed this post look out for more here. For those searching for jobs in the Paris area, consult our offers here.

Des particularités très anglaises

Toutes les langues du monde possèdent leurs particularités bien distinctives, et entre ces particularités les plus amusantes sont peut-être les phrases idiomatiques. Avez-vous déjà réfléchi au sens littéral de l’expression bien bizarre « avoir un chat dans la gorge », par exemple ? C’est parfois difficile de reconnaître ces excentricités dans sa langue maternelle, alors voici

  • It’s raining cats and dogs

Une phrase assez célèbre qui veut simplement dire qu’il pleut beaucoup. Ne vous inquiétez pas, vos animaux ne tombent pas du ciel.

  • To be under the weather

En parlant du temps qu’il fait (le sujet préféré des anglais), cette expression explique que l’on est un peu malade et non mouillé par la pluie.

  • Pardon my French

Curieusement, les anglais s’excusent de dire des gros mots en disant cette phrase. Il paraît que le français est quelque chose de vulgaire pour les anglais !

une liste d’expressions anglaises qui vous seront à la fois drôles et utiles :

  • To cost an arm and a leg

Pourquoi en français quelque chose peut coûter les yeux de la tête, alors qu’en anglais ça va vous coûte un bras et une jambe ? Peu importe, mais n’oubliez pas cette expression pour éviter une situation inconfortable où un anglophone croit que vous voulez lui arracher les yeux de la tête !

  • To split hairs

C’est à dire « chercher la petite bête », être maniaque quant aux petits détails sans importance.

  • When pigs fly

Cette phrase se dit pour décrire quelque chose d’impossible. Une autre différence culturelle à noter : en anglais le plus improbable serait qu’un cochon vole, alors qu’en français on dirait « quand les poules auront des dents ». C’est peut-être lié au fait que les anglais sont obsédés par le bacon…

  • To drink like a fish

Cela s’explique assez facilement, non ? Pendant qu’un français boit comme un trou, un anglais boit comme un poisson. La vraie question : entre un trou et un poisson, qui boit le plus ?!

  • Cat got your tongue ?

Aux pays anglophones, il existe des chats fantômes qui vous volent la langue et qui vous empêchent de parler.  Cette question se pose si votre interlocuteur trouve difficilement la réponse à votre question.

  • The world is your oyster

Une bien jolie phrase formulée originellement par Shakespeare. Si le monde est votre huître, il vous est totalement ouvert, tout est possible et votre perle vous attend !

  • Chin wag

Cette expression britannique, littéralement ‘frétillement de menton’  est une façon informelle de désigner une conversation. Cela vous paraît bizarre ? Regardez comment vous bougez la bouche en parlant !

Et voilà ! Maintenant vous êtes capables de parler anglais comme un fou, comme les anglophones !

Si vous avez aimé cet article, prenez le temps de lire nos autres blogs (en anglais et en français), et n’oubliez pas de profiter de nos offres de travail.

A Tale of Two Cities

 london-paris

Perhaps simply due to geographical proximity, or maybe age old Franco-British rivalry, Paris and London seem to be intrinsically linked by more than just the cross-channel Eurostar service; a relationship that has captured the imagination of authors from Charles Dickens to George Orwell. So how do these two European capitals measure up to each other nowadays? Is there a better quality of life in the ville des lumières or would you be happier in the big smoke? Here’s our list of reasons why each of these cities is better:

Paris is Better

  • The Food

You simply have to look at the number of 3 Michelin starred restaurants in each city (11 in Paris, 2 in London) to see that, when it comes to food, Paris undoubtedly has the upper hand. This is not only true for high end dining; whereas you’d be hard pressed to walk for 5 minutes in London without coming across a Nando’s or Pizza Express, Paris tends towards small, independent restaurants with a much more personal feel.

  • The Architecture

Paris is, undeniably, breathtaking. Its architectural consistency lends it an unmistakeable elegance such that Parisian buildings could not possibly be imagined anywhere else. That’s not to say that London is ugly! Of course the British capital has some gems of its own, but as a whole it simply cannot compare to Paris.

  • Manageability

Central Paris is conveniently contained within le boulevard périphérique, a ring road that wraps around the city’s 20 bite-sized arrondissements.This set up lends a kind of friendly ‘neighbourhood’ feel; although you live in Paris, first and foremost you live in an arrondissement, where you know your local boulangerie and fromagerie (Did we mention that bread and cheese are excellent in Paris?). This can feel a lot easier to handle than the sprawl of London, where you can spend an age moving from one place to the next.

  • Living Costs

With housing costs coming in at 27% cheaper in the French capital and transport a whopping 50% cheaper, for your wallet the choice is a no brainer. Paris is without a doubt the more affordable of the two cities.

  • ‘Je ne sais quoi’

Paris has a certain something that is difficult to articulate, a product of its early 20th Century glory days. The films would have you believe that the whole city is bathed in a warm toned Instagram filter, and for many this romantic view of Paris does ring true. Then again, for some this ideal can lead to disappointment with the reality (See ‘Paris syndrome’, a comical but altogether real condition that befalls poor Japanese tourists whose experience of Paris does not live up to their expectations)

 

London is Better

  • Culture

Paris has an excellent cultural offering, with world class museums like the Louvre giving it a real edge in this domain. However, it’s hard to match up to museums like The British Museum and the Tate, which are, by the way, all free.

  • Size

Although Paris being manageable was stated as an advantage, depending on your perspective you can view London’s immensity as a good thing. You’re sure to find something to do in one of London’s many boroughs at any time, whatever your interests, provided you’re willing to spend some time on the tube of course!

  • Job Opportunities

London is certainly the place to be in Europe when it comes to work, especially in the finance sector. Add this to the higher average salary in London and you might actually be able to afford to live there!

  • Internationality

London has a significantly larger international population than Paris, and with this comes all kinds of benefits, from interesting foods to try (head down to Brick Lane’s Sunday food market and you’ll understand) to diverse cultural events. Furthermore, if so many people are flocking to a place, this suggests it’s an attractive place to live, which brings us on to the final point…

  • French Migration

In 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy gave a campaign speech, somewhat unexpectedly, in London. He praised its vitality and labelled it ‘one of the biggest French cities’, and he wasn’t wrong – an estimated 200,000 French people are now living in London. This gives us some food for thought, isn’t it rather telling that French people are choosing to cross the channel to their neighbouring capital rather than staying in their own?

Overall, it’s near impossible to definitively state that one of these great cities is better than the other, as it depends so much on what you’re looking for. When it comes to beauty and ambiance, Paris is a clear winner, whereas London has the edge in diversity and excitement. Which do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below, and if you liked this post you can check out the other entries here, or if you’re looking for work you can consult our job offers for bilingual assistants here.

Langues sans frontières

Si vous lisez ce blog, vous êtes probablement bilingue. Mais pourquoi avez-vous choisi d’apprendre votre deuxième langue ? Certains vantent la beauté d’une langue comme leur raison de l’apprendre, tandis que d’autres disent que l’important pour eux, c’est la culture associée. Cependant, dans beaucoup de cas  la motivation est plutôt pratique, soit reliée au travail ou aux voyages, et pour eux la question se pose : qu’est-ce qui rend une langue importante ? C’est-à -dire : qu’est-ce qu’une langue internationale ?

Historiquement on peut se tourner vers le latin comme l’exemple par excellence d’une langue internationale. A la suite de l’expansion romaine, la latin s’est répandu à travers le continent européen et s’est avéré comme moyen de communication international de l’église, de l’administration et de l’éducation, et il a gardé cette position pendant à peu près dix siècles. Elle cède le passage au français, qui est reconnu comme la langue la plus importante au niveau de la diplomatie et des relations internationales jusqu’à l’émergence des Etats-Unis comme le principal pouvoir mondial suite à la deuxième guerre mondiale et du coup la dominance de l’anglais.

Toute cette histoire est bien belle, mais il y a sans doute plus de sens de parler du monde actuel et de ce qui rend une langue “internationale” de nos jours. Ces langues seraient donc les langues qui se répandent entre plusieurs nations, mais quelles autres caractéristiques ont-elles ? On a suggéré qu’une langue internationale a forcement pour rôle une fonction intermédiaire ; c’est-à-dire un rôle de  « lingua franca » ou de  langue véhiculaire, une langue utilisée par des personnes dont ce n’est pas la langue maternelle. C’est tout à fait le cas aujourd’hui avec l’anglais, qui est utilisé comme une espèce de terrain d’entente entre les gens des divers pays à travers le monde. Un suédois et un espagnol ne discuteraient ni en suédois ni en espagnol  – ils parleraient sans doute en anglais.

Ceci dit, des nouveaux genres de langues plutôt « hybrides » pourraient-ils émerger comme résultat de l’interaction entre nations ? On peut parler du ‘franglais’, le fruit d’une histoire longue et riche entre les deux nations séparées par la manche, ou de ‘Spanglish’ qui croît aux Etats-Unis en raison de la population importante des hispanophones. Certes, il n’est pas logique de parler de ces phénomènes comme de nouvelles langues, mais on ne peut pas nier l’influence, par exemple, de l’anglais sur le vocabulaire français (Qui d’entre vous dites ‘fin de semaine’ au lieu de « weekend » ? A moins que vous soyez canadien, bien sûr !). La communication internationale peut en fait s’effectuer en deux langues au même temps, avec des changements de langue au milieu d’une phrase.

Si vous êtes bilingue en anglais et français, vous avez la chance de maîtriser deux langues aussi importantes l’une que l’autre. Bien que l’importance du français ait diminuée pendant les derniers siècles, il garde un certain prestige grâce à son histoire riche dans les domaines de la diplomatie, du commerce et de la littérature. Il est important de constater que le français a été nommé comme la troisième langue la plus utile dans les affaires par Bloomsberg Business Week, après l’anglais et le mandarin. L’importance actuelle de l’anglais est évidente si vous n’habitez pas sur une autre planète ! Avez-vous choisi d’apprendre soit le français ou l’anglais en raison de sa position internationale ? Ou peut-être parce que vous êtes franco/anglophile ? Dites-nous, et n’oubliez pas de consulter notre site pour découvrir toutes nos offres d’actualité pour les assistants bilingues.

What Does Fluency Mean to You?

As a company specialising in the recruitment of bilingual secretaries, it’s important to examine exactly what we mean by ‘bilingual’, or rather what is implied by fluency. The word is bandied around, laden with implicit meaning, in questions to language learners and expats alike (“But are you fluent yet?”) and as anyone with any experience in this area can tell you, the answer is far from simple.

Most would suggest a definition along the lines of ‘conversing accurately and with ease’, and indeed this seems to be the consensus amongst dictionaries. Does this mean that a fluent speaker must have a perfect mastery of the language? Certainly not. The myriad aspects of language are almost impossible to list, let alone to master. To any native English speakers: how many of you can provide a definition of the verb ‘to jargogle’? Does your likely inability to define this obscure word as the act of confusing or mixing things up demonstrate that you are not, as you had previously thought, a fluent English speaker? It seems that rather than demanding absolute lexical knowledge of a language as proof of fluency, we should look more towards contextual understanding of unknown words and the ability to use the target language to fill gaps in vocabulary. For example: the ability to describe a coaster as a small mat for a drink without knowing the word itself. Of course, excellent and consistent grammatical knowledge is necessary, but fluent second language speakers and natives alike will occasionally slip up in this regard; what matters is that communication is not impeded.

As far as accents go, some will go very far towards perfecting theirs in a foreign language, but only a handful will rid themselves completely of their native language accent – and should this really be the goal? A (slight!) accent should be worn as a badge of honour, as proof of the hard work put in to acquire your second language, rather than seen as something to be ashamed of. Few would claim that Marion Cotillard, for example, does not speak English fluently due to her slight French accent.

Then there is the romantic idea that dreaming in a foreign language is the ultimate indicator of fluency. The trouble with dreams is that they are particularly hard to measure and do not necessarily accompany fluency, although they are certainly a good sign of mental immersion. Furthermore, many beginners have been known to dream in their second language without understanding what is being spoken around them, which is quite probably gibberish!

Perhaps the most sensible way to view fluency is as the ability to function in your second language in the same capacities as your native one. Evidently this will mean different things for different people and therefore adds a personal aspect lacking from the ‘accurately and with ease’ definition. For example: the ability to discuss astrophysics would be irrelevant for most, whereas for a German scientist working in an Anglophone environment this might be an integral part of bilingualism.

What does fluency mean to you, and would you classify yourself as fluent in any languages you’ve learnt? Do any of these definitions really matter? Maybe you think we’d do best to get rid of the label completely and simply focus on being able to communicate with one another!

If you enjoyed reading this, you can look at our blog for more of the same. Also if you’re searching for a job, don’t hesitate to look at our offers.