So there are many habits that French natives have that you’re unlikely to read about in text books. On your French immersion course in Montpellier like the one at my French Language School in Montpellier you will hear about many of these habits from the teachers but normally it is advised to learn the technical structure first as this is what you will for exams and things like that. If you are taking the DELF or DALF exam for example using the tips below will be bad for your grade. However, the French use them all day everyday so they are useful for your oral comprehension in general and if you want to speak more like a native then these will hopefully be very useful to you.
Use More Contractions When Talking French With Natives
This is an interesting one and if you can get your head around it has the power to unlock a whole load of stuff you have already learnt. Being familiar with sound patterns is hugely important when learning a new language because you often don’t have time to translate each word and reformulate the sentence in your head just being able to recognise a sound or group of sounds and understand their meaning immediately is very important. The French you will learn on any official French immersion in France will be the more technically correct way of speaking as you need to know the foundations and be able to use this style for more formal settings. So sometimes the sounds you will be using will be changed slightly when being said by a native. This little change is quite simple once you have seen it in action a bit but it can act as a bit of a barrier sometimes and result in people saying things to you that you would completely understand if they were said in the formal style.
Basically native French speakers will contract most words when one ends in a vowel and the next starts with a vowel even if the original form wouldn’t result in a hiatus. The hiatuses caused by this sort of word arrangement are the reason for the official contractions as they maintain euphony and give French that wonderful music like character. So, the natives have just taken it one step further. Like this:
Tu as – T’as
Tu as pris tes clés – T’as pris tes clés
If you are aware of the extra contractions it would be easy to think the sentence started with:
Ta prix – Your price
With this little misunderstanding you’re left feeling confused, missed the next sentence and before you know if you’re lost because you have been trying to figure out the start of it. So if you can be on your toes to look out for this subtle nuance you may find that you are following a lot more of native conversations. A lot of French even realise they are doing it so even use them sometimes when you ask them to speak simply for you.
One of my favourite ones is the contraction of ‘je suis’ which becomes one sweeping sound like a ‘schweee’ but with like a puff of air running through it. Saying this will make you feel SO French!
Another one you are like to hear a lot is ‘y a’ which simply the phrase ‘il y a’ as the French often say it. As you can see with phrases and contractions like this you will be hearing all the time whilst learning French in French but it isn’t just with ‘avoir’ and ‘être’ but almost any possible liaison between words like this.
So just to recap, this is not to be used in any official setting and if you are taking the DELF exams you want to avoid these like the plague. Having said that it is very useful to know these and get used to the sounds and you will be surprised by how much of everyday conversation this opens up for you. It will feel like a really big step during your French language stay as you start to differentiate between formal and spoke French.