French Conversation – Real-life Example 1 From Quebec – Part 1

Ear training for French conversation

This is the second in a series of posts on how to understand a French conversation using real-life examples. My focus is the training of the ear to analyze what often seems like a blurry stream of sounds into meaningful words. I hope to demonstrate that spoken French for conversation is actually quite simple once you get past the hurdle of the sounds.

Secondly, I hope that after you have demystified the sounds and the construction of spoken French, you will be able to use much of this material to enhance your own speaking abilities.

In previous posts, I analyzed a sample of French conversation with European voices. In this post, I want to have a look at a sample with a Québécois voice. Coincidentally, this conversation is about the same subject, the job interview.

The male voice is not Québécois but rather an excellent example of a professional European radio voice. The female voice is that of a Québécois government employee from the employment agency Emploi-Québec. She is giving pointers on preparing for the job interview.

Her accent is typical of educated managers in the public service. The age is not given. I would estimate it to be around 40-50. It is not a strong regional or working-class Québécois accent, and you should have no difficulty understanding this accent. For those who like the Québécois accent, it is an excellent model to imitate.

The transcription of the excerpt and the translation follow in this post. General observations and detailed technical analysis of the language are in the next post.

How to use this recording

You can try to listen to the recording before looking at the transcript to see what you pick up. A common reaction when listening to these recordings for the first time is how fast the language is. This is normal. When you don’t understand a language, it always seems very fast. In fact, what we have here is a very normal speaking rate.

Using a printout of the transcript and the translation, listen to the recording in small doses a number of times. At a certain point you should be able to follow and understand the recording without looking at the transcript.

The technical commentary in the next post will help you understand the language at a deeper level by drawing your attention to key aspects of the grammar and the vocabulary used by the speakers.

If the subject interests you at all, you should certainly listen to the rest of the recording.

The excerpt ends at 2:18 out of the 9:37 minutes of the complete recording.

The Transcript

–Monique Bourgeois à nouveau. (1)
–Oui. Bonjour Pascal.
–Alors, cette fois nous allons parler (2) de stratégie en entretien d’embauche, tout en restant soi-même ( 3), bien évidemment.(4)
–Tout en restant soi-même. (5)
–Pas facile. On (6) doit être nerveux des fois, hein ?
–Je crois qu’on est nerveux toujours.(7)
–Bon. (8)
–Et et c’est.. (9)..euh…bon,(10) cette nervosité-là, elle est tout à fait compréhensible. L’enjeu est souvent très important.
–Un emploi.
–Un emploi, (11) c’est ça. Et pis (12) encore une fois…euh,,,un emploi qui nous intéresse, qui nous convient, dans l’entreprise qu’on a…euh…plus ou moins choisie; mais en tout cas on y (13) voit beaucoup de…beaucoup de…de possibilités et souvent on n’a aucune idée comment ça va se passer. On..on maîtrise pas le…le déroulement, ou enfin relativement peu. Et c’est souvent la source, les deux sources de nervosité: on sait pas (14) trop à qui, à quoi (15) s’attendre (16). Parfois il y a une seule personne qui va nous (17) interviewer. Parfois ça peut être un comité, des fois il y a des tests, parfois il y a des mises en situation. (18) Donc, d’une fois à l’autre on sait…on sait pas toujours à quoi s’attendre. En soi c’est une source stress, oui.
–Mais oui. Alors, comment s’y prendre (19) une fois qu’on est entré dans le bureau?
–Bon, en fait, euh, ça commence avant, avant le bureau, ça c’est la chose plus importante. Ça semble peut-être un (pe)tit (20) peu..euh..inutile de le dire mais on serait (21) surpris de voir combien de gens ne se préparent pas avant de…de se présenter (22) à l’entretien d’embauche. C’est hallucinant (23) quand on discute justement avec des responsables des ressources humaines et tout ça. (24) Les gens arrivent comme ça (25) spontanément…
–Comme s’ils allaient au dépanneur. (26)
–À peu près, exactement.(27) Donc c’est évidemment c’est (28) une erreur à ne pas commettre, donc se fier à la bonne étoile et tout ça (29). Se préparer, ça veut dire (30) quoi? Ça veut dire en savoir le plus possible sur le poste, donc, quelles sont les exigences du poste…euh… et les principales responsabilités, prévoir un (pe)tit peu quelles sont..euh…pas prévoir, mais analyser carrément quelles sont nos forces..euh..qu’est-ce qui (31) va nous permettre de réussir et identifier aussi quels peuvent être les points plus sensibles (32). On est rarement le candidat absolument plus (33) que parfait. Il y a souvent des petits points …euh..d’ombre qu’il faut donc identifier et préparer. Le poste. (34) L’entreprise aussi. Il faut savoir le…il faut connaître (35) le plus de choses possibles sur l’entreprise.

The translation

(As always, the translation is not as idiomatic as could be because I have tried to stay close to some of the original French construction.)

–Monique Bourgeois again.
–Yes. Hello Pascal.
–Now, this time we’re going to discuss strategy for the job interview while remaining true to oneself, of course.
–While remaining true to oneself.
–Not easy. One must be nervous quite often, eh.
–I think one is always nervous.
— And…and it’s…well, the nervousness is understandable. The stakes are very high.
–A job.
–A job, that’s it. And moreover, again, um…um a job that interests us, that suits us, in a company that we have…more or less chosen, but that in any case where we see many…many opportunities and often we have no idea how it (the interview) is going to proceed. We…um…don’t control the…the process, or relatively little. And that is often the source, the two sources of nervousness. One doesn’t know whom, what to expect. Sometimes, there’s just one person. Sometimes it’s a committee, other times there are tests, other times simulations. So, from one time to the next, one never know what to expect. This alone is a cause of stress, yes.
–Yes indeed. So, how should a person go about this once they are in the office?
–Well, in fact, um. it starts before, before the office, that’s the most important part. It may seem a little useless to say so, but one would be surprised to see how many people don’t prepare before..before coming to the interview. It’s amazing when you talk with human resources people and others. Some people show up just like that, spontaneously. -Like if they were going to the corner store.
— Sort of, exactly. So, this, obviously, is a mistake to be avoided, like relying on one’s lucky star and anything else. What does it mean to be prepared? It means finding out the most you can about the position; what are the requirements of the position…the major responsibilities; foresee a bit, not foresee but really analyze what are our strengths…what will help us to be successful and also identify our weaker areas. We are rarely the perfect candidate for the position. There will often be a number of little sensitive issues that we should identify and prepare for. The position. The company. You must study it, learn all you can about the company.

From understanding to speaking French

As always, I recommend listening to this recording many times over a period of a least a week after having read the technical commentary. You should then have a good feel for how conversational spoken French really works.

The next step is to make certain elements part of your own personal spoken French repertoire. I’ll go into this aspect in the next post.

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