Why this example of French conversation?
I chose the example for two main reasons. First, it features a very bubbly, witty television host with a crystal-clear voice, excellent diction and a semi-informal conversational speaking style. She has the typical standard French media accent and speaking style based on the most prestigious variety of Parisian French.
The chef is presumably from Marseille but does not have a very strong southern French accent.
Second, this example illustrates particularly well the flow of French conversation. Although recorded in a television studio, the dialogue is unscripted enough so that we can really see how the conversation goes back and forth between the two individuals.
I highly recommend that you listen to the entire recording. C’est un pur délice !
This example is probably an ideal illustration of all the features of French conversation interaction that I have discussed at length in my blog post on how to use these real-life examples. Here are some specific reminders.
1. Notice how the interaction flows with the words like “alors”, “voilà” and “bon” that I call fillers or flow markers. This is very striking in the speech of the female speaker.
2. Note how often the “c’est” construction is used.
3. Note the use of the very important pronoun “ça.” as in “ça, c’est étonnant.”
4. The subject pronoun “on” has nearly totally replaced “nous.” In this excerpt, subject “nous” is used only once whereas “on” is used thirteen times!
5. Note the frequent use of interjections by the female speaker of interjections: “hop là”; “euheun”, “tiens.”
(1) Note that “de retour” is the French way of saying “to be back” as in “je serai de retour vers 10 h,” If you watch a lot of French television, you will often hear the host say “nous serons de retour après la pause” (we’ll be right back after the break.)
(2) Some language purists think that “dédiée” is an improper word because it comes from the English “dedicated” and that that “consacrée” should be used instead.
(3) This is the first of many “alors” that are more or less the equivalent of “so” in English.
(4) “Bon” here a flow marker.
(5) Note the use of the futur proche “vous allez …expliquer” instead of the more cumbersome futur simple “vous expliquerez.” The kind of construction is very common in spoken French. It goes without saying that there is a strong liaison in “nous-z-expliquer.”
(6) Note that the speaker says “le poisson” whereas English would tend to say “without fish” when speaking generally. He could have also said “sans poisson.”
(7) Note the intonation here and the emphasis on “ça.”
(8) This “d’ailleurs” is very common in spoken French and means “incidentally” or “for that matter.”
It appears again at note (25).
(9) Note the “de” after “avant” in “avant d’aller plus loin” (before going any further).
(10) This “ce dont on a besoin” is a perfect example of the usage of the relative pronoun “dont” with the verbal idiom “avoir besoin de.” English-speakers, take special note. LEARN THIS PHRASE BY HEART. Even some native speakers will say “ce qu’on a besoin.”
(11) The bouquet garni is made up of branches of thyme, bay leaf and parsley tied together.
(12) This interjection is here to show that the speaker is listening.
(13) Interestingly, the speaker points to a number of eggs but uses the singular “œuf.”
(14) Another “bon” or flow marker.
(15) Here’s an elegant expression “not the shadow of a fish” that I have translated as “not a fish in sight” or “no fish to be found.”
(16) Note here that it is “sans poisson” but he could have said “sans le poisson” as in note (6). This is exactly like the English “without fish.”
(17) Here the speaker starts of by repeating what the other person had just said. This is a common strategy but the speaker realizes that he can’t do anything with this and decides to say something else.
(18) Here is another example of “d’ailleurs” (incidentally) that we saw in note (8).
(19) The speaker mumbles a bit and says something like “chus allé.”
(20) In this construction “j’avais étudié aussi, moi,” the “moi” is tagged on at the end to emphasize the subject in “j’avais.”
(21) Here the speaker hesitates, not sure about what to say next and then changes her mind.
(22) The “ça” here refers to “Marseille.” The speaker does not complete the sentence, but I think she is trying to be funny and wants to say something like “ça dépasse tous les autres.”
(23) The “la” here is “la bouillabaisse.”
(24) This is an excellent example of an informal way of asking a question. The speakers starts with “ça donne quoi” and then adds the subject “une bouillabaisse japonaise.” A more formal way of asking this question would have been: “Que donne-t-elle, une bouillabaisse japonaise ?” or “Qu’est-ce que ça donne, une bouillabaisse japonaise ?”
(25) Another example of “d’ailleurs” as in note (18)
(26) Note how the speaker teases Bernard with “chauvinistic, this Bernard.”
(27) This “Bon alors” is a pure flow marker.
(28) This “de l’huile d’olive” (of the olive oil) is an example of the partitive construction that translates the English “some” or “any.” For example “some water” or “any butter” would typically be translated by “de l’eau” and “du beurre.”
(29) The speaker likes these interjections. This “hop là” is often used when one is about to do something. A common variant is, “allez, hop.”
(30) “Un bon peu” is a little linguistic gem that plays on the words where “peu” means “little” and “bon” that in this context means “more.” The whole expression means “quite a bit.”
(31) “faire revenir” is an example of many verb idioms based of “faire” + verb. French says “faire bouillir de l’eau” (boil water) or “faire cuire des œufs” where English says “boil water” and “cook eggs.”
(32) “des oignons” (some onions) is another example of the partitive construction we saw in note (28).
(33) The speaker says “finement” as an adverb that goes with “émincés” but Bernard will say “émincés très fins.” Both are probably correct although purists would go for the first construction.
(34) “cuise” from the verb “cuire” (to cook) is the only example of a subjunctive verb form in the entire excerpt. Remember that “il faut que…” is the most common trigger of the subjunctive. Any time you hear “il faut que,” watch out!
(35) Note the intonation of “hein” as if to ask a question.
(36) Note the total absence of the negation marker “ne”
(37) Chef Bernard gives a very curt “non.”
To be continued in French Conversation – Real-life Example 3 From France Part 3.