Continuing on from my previous article on how learning elements of slang can enhance your experience of learning French in France I would like to delve into some of the other ways it can help you. A language immersion experience like the ones offered by the French School in Montpellier puts you in touch with almost all sectors of the language. You will hear a style spoken on the street that will be different depending on the age of the speakers and a different style from your professors who have to balance making sure you are not overwhelmed with teaching you useful language skills. A language immersion experience is one of the, if not the most effective way to see this rounded view of the language and slang is a big part of it.
Avoid Awkward Moments and Melt into French Culture
Learning slang has a lot to do with understanding the current meaning attributed to words. Slang often doesn’t even involve new words or phrases but old language that has evolved and undergone an alteration or transformation in meaning. So, it’s possible you consult your text books and dictionaries to find the technical meaning of a word but it is used in a different way by certain people. Most of the time this will just mean that you don’t quite express what you want but sometimes it can mean you put your foot in it in a spectacular way. Slang concerns the nuances in language and if you are talking about something rather delicate it is very useful to know exactly how a word is interpreted. Also knowing some rude words might not interest you but unfortunately there are several that sound very similar to words used commonly so knowing the slight differences will help you to avoid them.
I have read that slang is very useful in the construction of communities and creates the feeling of belonging to a certain group. If you are doing a language stay with the ILA French School or somewhere else in France I assume that you are wanting to immerse yourself in the language and using slang is a great way to achieve that.
As you learn about the local history of Montpellier or wherever you choose to do your French course you will learn about some of the origins of local phrases. This really gives you a deeper insight into the story of the region and gives it a personal touch. For example, if you hear a phrase commonly used and hear about how it came from the decks of the fishing boats in decades past it really makes the language richer for you. For example, ‘Verlan’ is a common phenomenon amongst the youth which is a blend of French inversion, Franglish and Arabic which gives you an idea of how the history of the country is at work in language today.
Evoke the Emotion You Want when Practicing your French with Locals
I think this is one of the greatest things slang can offer you whilst you are learning French in France. As slang is often how many French people communicate daily it is these words and phrases that are most likely to really get your message across to them. The more nuanced the topic the more nuanced your language must be to express yourself. A simple example is that French like most languages has several ways of saying you would like to eat depending on the scale of how hungry you are. Now until you get proficient it is possible to use the equivalents of: very, a lot, a little, a bit to express the strength and details of your thoughts and feelings but if you want to really hit the nail on the head slang is very useful.
The main thing I have drawn from learning about slang is how it gives you an insight into how language works generally. How it flows and evolves and changes from one region to another and from one group to another. Groups based on age, background, interests and values. I find this particularly amazing and becoming acquainted with it whilst you are learning French in France makes this enriching experience even richer. Taking it forward and injecting it into your French immersion course has the potential to make you feel less like a French student and more like a linguist.