French Conversation – Real-life Example 3 From France – Part 3

The language of a French conversation

This is the third and final part of the real-life example 3 from France of a French conversation.

Technical commentary

(38) Following Bernard’s curt “non”, the other speaker picks up the “non” and concludes that they are cooking a small quantity of food. There then follows a series of sharp one word exchanges between the two speakers.

(39) I think the female speaker is slightly ticked off as a result of the previous exchange concerning the amount of food being prepared and says “well at least we will have seen how it works.” As she is about to say “oignons finement” she is cut off by Bernard.

(40) Here is another linguistic gem: “nous y voilà.” The speaker is naming the ingredients as they are added to the pot. First the leeks, then, as she gets to the onions, she adds “nous y voilà” for “now we have arrived at the onions.” This “nous y voilà” is a very elegant way of saying “here we are.” This is a great expression that you should learn by heart.

(41) Here Bernard uses “pareil” as an adverb instead of “pareillement” (similarly). This use of “pareil” is considered colloquial by purists and many teachers, but is very common, especially in Quebec.

(42) Again here, the “ne” has totally disappeared in the spoken form of “il ne faut pas.”

(43) Notice how the speaker adds a little emphasis on the final t sound of “ensuite” as if there were a very weak syllable at the end of the word. This little soft e sound is very common at the end of lines in songs and poetry with words ending in -e.

(44) This “tiens” is more likely an interjection and not “tu tiens.” It is often used to express surprise or astonishment.

(45) More examples of the interjection “hop.”

(46) Here the speaker repeats herself to fill the space.

(47) This sentence is another linguistic gem. Although the beginning is not very clear, the speaker is saying that the time it takes for her to chop up one piece of garlic, Bernard will have chopped up a dozen stalks of celery. For this she uses a grammatical construction that is more common in spoken French than in the written language.

She starts off using the conditionnel passé in:

…j’aurais pas fait une gousse d’ail, (I would not have done a clove of garlic)

Then the second part of the construction is in the futur antérieur

vous aurez déjà fait une bonne dizaine de céleris, quoi. (you will have already done a good dozen celery stalks)

And she finishes it off with the filler or flow marker “quoi.”

That’s some pretty complicated grammar and verb conjugation. This all falls under the heading of how to construct hypothetical statements in French. It is terribly tricky, and I should add that most learners never really get it, but it is worth studying.

(48) Even this happens to native speakers. Here she starts of with “le” and then realizes that what she wanted to say was “l’origine.”

(49) Two things to note. First, the “la” refers to “l’origine.” Second. look at this interrogative sentence structure. Instead of using an interrrogative marker like “est-ce que…” the speaker uses a normal indicative sentence form but with a interrogative intonation and then tags on “vous” at the end.

(50) Bernard uses “ce sont.” This is very correct, but do know that “c’est” is often used in this situation and would be considered correct as well.

(51) I don’t hear the “l” in “ils.” This use of “i” (often written “y”) instead of “ils” is very common in colloquial French.

(52) In addition to the marker “ben,” note that “ils” blends with “les” and sounds like “i_les gardaient…”

(53) Bernard ends his explanation on “eux” with a falling intonation but then after a short pause adds “voilà’ to say “that’s the explanation.”

(54) The speaker starts off wanting to use “les” referring to the fish probably but changes her mind.

(55) Here the speaker probably wants to complete this with a gerund like “…en faisant…” but again changes her mind.

(56) Here is a funny event. Bernard is concentrating on cooking and stops talking in the middle of the sentence “…des plats…” and leaves the listener hanging.

(57) There is a long slightly awkward pause and the female speaker, ever quick to tease Bernard, says “three-quarters of the Marseillais dishes.” Tongue in cheek, she is saying that most Marseillais dishes have a “poor” origin. Then she bursts out in laughter.

(58) Bernard gets the joke and answers “not only from Marseille.” Note the grammatical construction here: “pas que…” This is related to the “ne…que” construction for “only” as in “je ne bois que de l’eau” (I drink only water.)

(59) Choucroute or sauerkraut is a dish from Alsace-Lorraine in northeastern France

(60) Cassoulet is from southwest France and particularly the area around Toulouse.

(61) An interjection that here means something like “as you can see.”

(62) The interjection “hein” is here used for emphasis.

(63) See how the speaker says “Le poisson” when speaking about the price of fish today whilst in English we would say simply “fish” and not “the fish.”

(64) The unstressed “e” in “devenu” is hardly audible. Typical of fast colloquial French.

(65) Here the speaker is not using the partitive construction. Somewhat similar to English, she just lists the ingredients. The whole question of when to use “le/la” and the partitive “du, de la, des” is quite tricky. The rule of thumb here is that English tends to use the nouns by themselves whereas French tends to use some determiners or articles.

(66) The speaker here does not complete her sentence properly and seems to say that she did not chop up Bernard as he wished. What happened is that she dropped a word. She probably wanted to say something like. “je sais pas si je vous ai bien émincé l’ail comme vous le vouliez…” but dropped “l’ail” (the garlic).

The next step: improving your French conversation skills

After listening to this material quite a few times and reading these notes, you should have a very good understanding of the language of this conversation. As I keep saying, once you get through the blur of sounds, you soon realize that this kind of French is not difficult at all. In fact, except for a few areas, there is nothing tricky or very advanced here.

The key to improving conversation skills: repeat and imitate

Remember the recommendations outlined in the blog post on using these real-life examples. Listen to this example many times over a week or two until you know it by heart. And then try the suggestions like voice-overs and role-playing.

The idea behind listening to all these recordings is to give you a feel for how French works so that you can in turn make your French sound the way natives speak it. It’s not easy of course, but that’s why we are here. So, there’s nothing preventing you from using this material as a source of inspiration and examples to boost your own speaking skills. And you have the added advantage of knowing exactly what it is supposed to sound like.

Here are two set of things to take away from this recording

1. Remember all these fillers and flow markers like “bon, ben, alors, donc, voilà.” They appear in nearly all these recordings. They are there for a reason. Choose the ones you like and add them to your speech.

2. Choose words, expressions and phrases that you like and add them to your repertoire. Everything here is excellent French. Here are a few items to consider:

pas l’ombre d’un poisson
ce dont on a besoin
ça donne quoi, une bouillabaisse japonaise ?
ça, c’est typiquement marseillais ?
qu’est-ce que je peux faire, moi

Keep listening and talking but make a point of incorporating new material into your own speech every day. Your comprehension skills will improve first. But very quickly you will see your French conversation speaking skills improve as well.


French Conversation – Real-life Example 3 From France – Part 3 — 1 Comment