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.

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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.

Making the Most of Your Commute

The average Parisian commute is 33.7 minutes long, which totals up to over an hour return journey every day. I think we can all agree that this is not the most enjoyable part of our lives, what with the noise, smells and constant warfare over seating arrangements, but that doesn’t mean to say that this should be ‘dead time’ – there are plenty of things you can do to profit from this otherwise lost hour:

  • Use apps to expand your knowledge. A wealth of apps are waiting to help you learn a language on the go; Duolingo and Memrise are particularly recommended thanks to their simple interface and a progression based structure that makes language learning feel like a game. If you’d rather, you can dabble in ‘brain training’ apps such as Lumosity and hone your mental agility as you’re shuttled across the city, and if brain training isn’t your thing, there’s always Candy Crush…
  • Subscribe to a podcast. Whether it’s current affairs or comedy, podcasts can be a great way to unwind and remove yourself mentally from the hustle and bustle of rush hour. What’s more, if you really get hooked on a podcast you might even find yourself looking forward to your commute so you can get your next fix!
  • Get a head start on work. Why not take advantage of this daily window and take a few simple steps to set you up for the working day? Admittedly you’re not going to make dramatic progress on your projects whilst sandwiched between the masses and clinging to a rail for balance, but you could do something as simple as clearing out your inbox, or make some of those short phone calls you’ve been putting off, provided it’s not too noisy.
  • Read a book. As obvious as it sounds, books can be overlooked in our age of smartphones and iPods. Reading a book can be the perfect way to relax during your commute, and with the advent of e-readers you can now carry a digitalised library around in your coat pocket.
  • Turn your commute into a workout. Have you considered giving the subterranean passages a miss and walking or cycling to work instead? It doesn’t have to be every day, but you can really make a difference to your fitness and energy levels by commuting in a more active way two or three times a week. You’ll arrive at the office feeling energised by the endorphins released during exercise, and it couldn’t be simpler with vélib stations on every street in Paris.

  And finally, having said all of this, sometimes the best thing to do can be:

  • Nothing. Although it might feel like a waste of time, it is sometimes necessary to unplug those headphones, close the newspaper and have a little meditation time. After some mental rest you’ll be thinking much more creatively and will be ready to tackle complex problems at work.

If you found this advice useful, you can take a look at some of our other articles. If you’re looking for a job, take a look at our offers!

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.

The French vs. the British

Talk of cultural differences has fuelled the love-hate relationship between the French and British for centuries.  Yet, for the first time, some groundbreaking research in the name of LinkedIn buzzwords could distinguish the French frogs from the British rosbifs.  The largest professional networking site has released the top ten most common words to feature on its users’ profiles in 2014 in both France and Britain.  So, in light of this, how differently do the French and British describe themselves in a professional context?

Firstly, here’s a copy of the top 10 buzzwords or mots clés for both countries:


Interestingly, both the French and the British overwhelmingly described themselves as “creative”, “motivated”, “passionate” and “strategic” in the workplace.  So far then, so much in common.

Yet after this, slight differences between the two nationalities begin to surface.  According to LinkedIn, the French are self-declared “experts” with a “specialist” skill set.  The British, on the other hand, believe themselves to have a “wide range” of abilities.

Contextually, this doesn’t really come as a surprise.  Hierarchy in France is very much respected and getting to the top requires years of studying, so to call oneself an expert in a certain field is to be held in the highest esteem.  The majority of professions require a corresponding Masters degree and a considerable change in career is notably harder to achieve in France.  The British, on the other hand, are relatively more lax about degree titles and regard professional experience as more important.  What they lack in educational expertise, they make up for with a proven “track record” of “extensive experience” as well as “drive” and “enthusiasm” (or so they claim)!

The critical difference, however, is that the French declare themselves to possess “international experience” and “multicultural” skills, noticeably absent from their British counterparts’ list.  With the global business language being English, perhaps the Brits feel international experience to be less vital.  The French, on the other hand, faced with a more challenging economic situation, may feel obliged to prove themselves capable of adapting to foreign markets.

Nonetheless, LinkedIn has such a considerable following in both countries it seems that the world is getting smaller rather than bigger.  The fact that both French and British workers have chosen to use an American networking site to sell their skills suggests a move towards the international worker, where cultural specificities are becoming irrelevant on the global market.

So, with these points in mind, what does your LinkedIn profile say about you?  Do you use more English or French buzzwords?  If any at all?  On a final alternative note, an interesting outlier comes from the Netherlands where “sustainable” made the list of top ten buzzwords last year: does this mean their offices are filled with environmental enthusiasts?

If you liked this article, take a look at our blog for more.  And if you’re currently looking for a job, whether you’re French or British (or any other nationality for that matter), consult our job offers here.

The Rise of the Male Assistant

Gender equality is a hot topic in employment: it drives company initiatives, informs HR journalism but generally doesn’t stray far from the line “We need more women”.  Yet, here’s a vocation in which you might see a reverse trend; it’s all about the men.  For the first time, men are embracing the executive assistant profession which, half a century ago, was a uniquely female venture.  Today, when equality of the sexes in the workplace is more of a reality than a promise, the profile of an executive assistant is being regendered.  Enter the male assistant.

Here at TM International, a recruitment agency specialising in the placement of bilingual assistants, we have seen a notable increase of late in the number of male candidates sending in their CVs.  The classic profile tends to be a man in his early twenties, a first jobber or with a primary experience up his sleeve.  So why, unlike his predecessors, has he decided to become an assistant?

As touched upon, male assistants typically belong to the younger generation; that which has grown up believing in equal working rights for both sexes and is comfortable with the idea of a male assistant working for a female boss.  Suffice to say, twenty years ago, this probably wasn’t the case but well-worn sexual prejudices are on their way out and men are no longer averse to the idea of being an assistant.  Notably, the desexualisation of the profession has a lot to do with it.  The transition in job title from ‘secretary’ to ‘assistant’ has helped rebrand the secretary, from a woman in a short skirt to a respected professional, and has removed any sexual stigma.

Furthermore, the onset of technology in the workplace has completely changed the role.  When word processors were brought in, companies no longer needed typists but sought organisers; those who were resourceful and on whom an executive could rely to make his/her life a lot easier.  The role has more scope and can be very rewarding; just look here for how valued a good assistant can be.

And a more demanding role requires a higher salary.  In the UK, salaries for executive assistants range from £25,000 to £75,000, while in France, they can range between €24,000 and €60,000.  David Morel, managing director of Tiger Recruitment in the UK, notes the higher salary as a fundamental factor pulling more male applicants to the job.  In addition, the opportunities for progression as an assistant within a company are now more apparent than ever.  An assistant has experience in many sectors of the business and works closely with senior managers, meaning he/she is well-positioned to climb the rungs of the company.

All in all, while the assistant demographic is still overwhelmingly female, any movement towards embracing greater diversity in the workplace is to be applauded.  And, on a general note, the next time you ring somebody’s assistant, don’t expect to hear a female voice…

If you found this article interesting, look here for more of the same.  And if you are looking for a job, consult the job offers on our website.

Ten Tips for Success in a Phone Interview in Your Second Language

The phone interview: it’s a daunting prospect even in your first language.  But in your second language the thought is even more nausea-inducing.  As a common first step in the recruitment process, it is essential to be well equipped for the moment of that all-important phone call.

Regardless of your level of fluency in a language, speaking on the telephone can reduce even the most confident speaker to a mere stammer.  The difficulty resides in the fact that you can no longer rely on the luxuries of lip-reading and body language.  78% of communication is non-verbal, which explains why a phone call can be such a challenge for foreign speakers.  However, if you are interviewing at an international company it is expected that you will be proficient at conducting phone calls in other languages.  This skill today is indispensable, so here are a few tips to bear in mind before the phone rings:

  1. Prepare notes.  The beauty of the phone call is that you are invisible.  Play this to your advantage and ensure that you prepare answers in note form for questions that you know will be asked, such as “Why do you want this job?”  Additionally, jot down any technical vocabulary which you are likely to forget on the spot.
  2. Don’t be tempted to read entirely from your notes as you will sound robotic and probably speak for too long.  Use it instead as a prompt sheet if you lose your way.
  3. Keep your speed in check.  When nervous and speaking a foreign language, we are likely to speak too quickly.  This can lead to slurred phrases and mispronounced words, making it very difficult for the person on the other side of the line to understand.  Your interviewer will appreciate your measured speed just as you will appreciate his/hers in return.
  4. Pause before you answer.  Sometimes it can be tempting to reply straight away, especially if you are used to taking language exams when hesitating means lost marks.  During a phone interview however, it is expected that you will pause for reflection before answering.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask your interviewer to repeat something.  Bear in mind that even native speakers have to ask for things to be repeated on the phone.  It is better to clarify a question than to answer what you think was asked and be mistaken.
  6. Be wary of formality.  If you have only had experience of speaking on the phone in a foreign language with friends before, do not be tempted to drop to this level of informality in your phone interview.  For instance, “Hey” and “Bye bye” are not appropriate for a phone interview in English.  Also, for languages which have a polite and an impolite form, such as the “tu” and “vous” form in French, be sure to use the polite form.
  7. Phone signal.  This is vital.  Why make things harder for yourself by trying to hear over background noise or a poor connection?  If you have access to a landline, be sure to give this number to your interviewer rather than your mobile.
  8. Practice as much as possible at speaking on the phone in the given language prior to the interview. If you find comprehension difficult, ringing company numbers with automated messages can be an excellent way to improve your listening skills on the phone.
  9. Ensure that you are well acquainted with basic phone vocabulary.  Here is an excellent site which lists the most important phrases for phone calls in English.
  10. Don’t set the bar too high. If you are far from fluent in a language, it is better not to pretend that you are on your CV as you will quickly be found out the moment you pick up the phone.

If you found these tips helpful, take a look at some of our other articles.  And if you’re looking for a job, consult the offers on our website.