French Conversation – Real-life Example 4 From France – Part 2

Active listening for French conversation

With the transcript and the translation in Part 1, you should have a pretty good idea of what is happening in this excerpt. Here we’ll listen more actively or in greater detail and dig a bit deeper into the workings of the language. This should improve both your listening and your speaking ability

It is important to understand that although this conversation is spontaneous and not really scripted, it is nevertheless planned or staged. The questions and the answers have been thought out in advance.

Consequently, all the sentences and answers tend to be perfectly formed and without some of the features that we see in colloquial speech and that are discussed in my post on how to use these real-life examples.

The kind of language spoken here is what I would call standard semi-formal French. This is a sort of neutral French that is not too casual and not too literary or stuffy. It is exactly the kind of French one would speak with strangers or in an interview or oral language test.

If you ever have to talk about your job or your profession, this is the kind of French you should use.

General observations

1. Notice that the formal subject pronoun “vous” (you) and not the informal “tu” is used everywhere. Speakers of English should pay attention because they tend to think that “tu” is singular and “vous” is plural. Here, most of the time the “vous” is the formal singular form. In fact, this example is a perfect study in the use of the verb conjugations with “vous.”

2. In previous recordings with plenty of conversational interaction, we say the constant presence of all sorts of little words or sounds like “ben”, “bien”, “bah”, “puis”, “alors”, “hein”, “euh” and “écoute” that we called fillers and flow markers because they serve to help the conversation move along smoothly. There are very few of these in this recording because the conversation is more formal and somewhat rehearsed.

3. Note the extensive use of the “vous allez + verb” construction, as in “vous allez travailler” and “vous allez avoir.” This form is called the “futur proche” and is very often used instead of the more complex future tense forms such as “vous travaillerez” and “vous aurez.”

4. As typical of spoken French, the subject pronoun “on” replaces “nous” (we). In this excerpt, “nous” does not appear at all and there are three “on.”

5. Because of the nature of the subject, notice how most of the verbs are in the present tense,

Technical commentary

(1) This very common “moi, je…” (me, I…) construction uses what is called the stressed or disjunctive pronoun “moi” to emphasize the subject pronoun “je.”

(2) Notice here that French says “être avocat d’affaires” (to be a corporate lawyer) and not “être un avocat d’affaires.” That article “un” is not used with the verbs “être” (to be) and “devenir” (to become) when talking about professions.

(3) Speaking about past activities with “quand” (when), the most common tense is the imparfait that we see here : “quand j’étais plus jeune” and “je regardais…” In English, we would say: “when I was young” and “I used to watch” or “I would watch…”

(4) Rodrigue says “des films américains” whereas in English we would say “American movies.”
The “des” is part of the partitive construction that is very important in French. I have a blog post on using the partitive in French.

(5) More examples of the partitive construction in “des conseils” and “des clients.”

(6) This “dont vous êtes le recours” (for whom you are the recourse) is an excellent example of use of the relative pronoun “dont” that goes with “être le recours de” (to be the recourse of).

(7) “L’école est finie” is the name of the tv show. Instead of saying “Une emission de L’école est finie” (an episode of L’école est finie), the host simply says “Une École est finie.”

(8) This “On va commencer” is much more common than the more formal “Nous commencerons.”

(9) Notice how in “tout de suite” the “de” has completely disappeared.

(10) “le quotidien” uses the noun form of the adjective “quotidien” to mean daily life or day-to-say existence.

(11) Rodrigue elegantly answers the tv host with “exactement” and turns to Maxime with the “alors” (so).

(12) Instead of “journée typique”. Maxime uses “journée type.”

(13) As happens very often in spoken French the “n'” of “Il n’y a pas de quotidien” becomes “Il y a pas de quotidien.”

(14) Here the “vous” does not refer to Rodrigue but to some indefinite “you” as one would use in English.

(15) “faire” is used with many verbs, as in this example, “faire travailler”, to render the idea of “put to work.”

(16) I assume here that Maxime is talking about plural problems. The verb form is therefore “…avaient été posés.” But it could just as well be a singular problem and the sentence would sound exactly the same but would be spelt differently: “…au problème qui vous avait été posé.”

(17) Maxime probably started out to say “rechercher” but ends up preferring “chercher.”

(18) The “qui se terminent” refers to “des réunions.”

(19) “sabrer le champagne” means literally to cut off the neck of the champagne bottle with a saber or sabre. but today is used in the sense of “break out the champagne.”

(20) I think I hear “sans le client”, but it could just as easily be “sans client.”

(21) “Du coup” is a common expression for “so”, “as a result”, “hence”, “suddenly”.

(22) Here Rodrigue is talking about the title “droit des affaires” (business law) and therefore does not have to say “le droit des affaires.”

(23) This “Comment ça s’apprend, ça”” is a somewhat informal formulation of the question where the subject “ça” is repeated at the end. A more formal way would have been: “Comment çela s’apprend-il ?”

Note also the pronominal verb form “s’apprendre” that is used in the a passive sense “to be learned.” Here is a blog post about this pronominal verb usage.

(24) Notice how Maxime starts his answer by repeating the question. This is an excellent and often used way of answering questions.

(25) Instead of saying “Le réseau peut être…” (The network can be…), Maxime says “Le réseau, ça peut être…” (The network, it can be) because he is going to use a whole series of “ça peut être…”

(26) “Ne pas hésiter” is a more formal way of saying “N’hésitez pas.”

(27) I think the “que” (that) of “voyant que” has been dropped. This happens in spoken French but, unlike English, not in written French.

(28) This “tiens” is a way of saying the interjection “hey!”

(29) The “que ce soit” is an elegant use of the subjunctive mood in the sense of “be it” or ‘whether it is..”

(30) This “il ait” is a subjunctive form of “avoir” that goes with “pour que votre client.” You see how the speaker remembers that “pour que” requires the subjunctive.

The next step: enhancing your French conversation skills

Listen to this example many times over a week or two until you know it by heart. Your listening ability and understanding of this kind of spoken French should improve noticeably.

The key to improving conversation skills: repeat and imitate

Keep in mind that this is semi-formal French suitable for meetings, interviews or oral examinations. All of the French spoken here is excellent. And there’s nothing preventing you from using this material as a source of inspiration and material to boost your own speaking skills. You should try to learn entire phrases by heart and modify them to your requirements.

Here are a number of things to take away from this recording:

Every sentence in this excerpt is worthy of being incorporated into your speaking style. Choose words, expressions and phrases that you like and add them to your repertoire. Here are a few items to consider:

Moi, je rêve d’être avocat d’affaires, parce que quand j’étais plus jeune…
J’ai choisi d’être avocat d’affaires parce que j’aime…
J’aimerais savoir à quoi ressemble une journée type…?
Comment ça s’apprend, ça ?
Que ce soit ensuite un stagiaire…

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