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 !

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.

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.

A Tale of Two Cities

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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.

The Value of The French Language

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English is the most widespread language in the world and is more widely spoken and written than any other language. As English is now considered the “universal language”, does bilingualism in French have any value in the recruitment process?  The answer is yes.

Being bilingual in French leads to more benefits than just raw human dialogue. It opens a new world of communication skills that are essential in the work place. As the world becomes a seemingly smaller place, the influence of the French language is becoming wider in tandem with the internet and new markets. For candidates in the job market, a grasp of the French language might be what it takes to shine out from the rest as its value is ever increasing.

As the world becomes more socially, economically and technologically connected, competence in languages such as French is increasingly important.  There are a total of around 355 million French speakers worldwide including new markets that are considered economically important in the near future. The French speaking market is eminent and drives up the demand for French speakers in the job market.

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The French language is also opening new doors for international companies that were not considered valuable in the past. Half of the top-10 fastest growing countries in Africa have French as an official language and we can thus expect Africa to be an increasing focus of global trade and international relations.

Moreover, French is the third most used language on the internet ahead of Spanish. The internet has enabled entirely new forms of communication, research and business in recent years and is now considered a ‘basic need’. Bilingual candidates have goldmines of information at their fingertips that would otherwise be inaccessible to those relying on English.

Good communication skills are valued by many employers as “the most important of all life skills” and the candidate who can deal with a customer in their own language will without doubt have an edge. With the graduate job market crowded and a poor economic climate, bilingual communication skills are bordering on essential.  The recipe for successful communication skills is to understand the culture of the country you are doing business with which comes from being bilingual.

A grasp of the culture gives an understanding of acceptable behaviour and ethical differences that should be recognised for any real communication to take place. Miscommunications may have a serious impact on the success of the negotiation process. Whether it is following instructions or perceiving the motives of a client, it is essential in a working environment.

No one can deny the importance of the English language on an international scale however this does not reduce the value of French.  With the expanding Francophone sphere of influence combined with the necessary communication skills that accompany fluency, bilingual candidates shine out ahead of the rest.  The French language is therefore invaluable during the recruitment process and is becoming even more important with global development. Set yourself apart from the rest and learn French.

How to make sure you don’t lose your language skills

If you are a multilingual job seeker in the UK, pay attention!

In today’s job market, things are getting more and more competitive. With new records of students graduating with degrees every year in Britain, there simply aren’t enough jobs to satisfy everyone’s needs. As a multilingual job seeker, your best assets are of course your languages. The question is; how do you keep them up to scratch.

There are many different ways in which you can keep your languages going and although many of them may seem simple and obvious, they are very important. For someone like myself who is bilingual in English and French, it is easy just to coast along in English (as it is my mother tongue) and living in Paris, most of my friends and family are English speaking. I find it is crucial to speak as much French as possible with native speakers. Be aware that foreigners do always like to practise their English so be insistent.

Reading is so important to keep your languages ticking over. If you can’t find an interesting piece of French literature, then just get a translated version of your favourite English book. Although this isn’t as good as reading French books, this is still very beneficial. Not a book person? Read a French paper once a day or subscribe to a French magazine eg. le Point. If you are not comfortable with that level of language or simply not sufficiently interested in current affairs, you could try a more informal magazine via Bayard Jeunesse eg. Okapi. It may be targeted at teenagers but is informative, easy to read and equally well-suited to adults with short attention spans!

Everyone likes a good film so there is no excuse not to watch them in French. It is such an easy way to consolidate your French and you are pretty spoilt for choice when it comes to French cinema. In fact watching French television is very good for your languages. Just watching the 8 o’clock news every day is worth doing. You can also listen to the French radio and listen to French music (although it is not everyone’s cup of tea!)

If you have visited France or are planning to visit France in the future, make sure you keep in touch with the people you meet. This is the most important part of keeping your language at a solid level. There is no substitute for actually having a conversation in French with a French person. It is even worth finding a pen pal you can write to in French and they they can write to you in English. That way you are both winners.

Grammar. I have kept this to last. Unfortunately this is equally as important as your oral skills. Prospective employers will be keen to test your written French so accuracy is vital. The only way to do it is to practise, like anything else. There are plenty of websites available to test your grammar. You just have to grin and bear it and you will reap the benefits.