The Two Sides of French!

Hello everyone!

This past week has been really great because I feel like I have finally settled into my routine! During the work week I get up around 8:00 and make sure I am out of my apartment around 8:50 so I can arrive to work around 9:30, which is when my NGO’s office opens. I usually work for a few hours and then have a small snack around 11:30, where I try to ask a bunch of questions to my coworkers about either the work that I am doing or about the projects that they are working on. Then, around 1:00 in the afternoon, we take our lunch break for about an hour. I am not sure if this is normal, but most of my office usually goes for lunch at the same place, whether that be for Thai food, or for something more casual like falafel sandwiches. If the weather is nice, we all sit out on a terrace at big tables and everyone chats before we all sit back down at our desks around 2:00. In the afternoon there are meetings between the heads of all the project teams, so most of the interns just work separately on our own tasks for another hour or two. Finally, at around 4:50-5:00 all of the project leaders come to check in on everyone to answer any questions or to give updates on news from the previous meetings. Finally, at 5:30, all of the interns pack up and leave the office, with most of us all walking to the closest metro station together.

In an exciting turn of events, Friday after work I went to watch a soccer game between the national teams of France and Denmark in the Stade de France with some of my friends and my French roommate who is back in Paris for a couple weeks. It was a super great experience, and now I can confirm that soccer is as much a way of life in Europe as any other part of your personal identity. Sadly, France lost, but I still thoroughly enjoyed seeing roughly 75,000 French flags waving after a goal and hearing all types of organized chants shouted back and forth across the stadium.

Otherwise, this weekend it has raining a lot, so I have just given myself sometime to slow down and rest my feet, but I have still been making a big effort to go and sit in a different green space around the city for at least a couple hours of every day to fully enjoy my European summer.

During the time that I have been resting, I have been reflecting on what I have been struggling to adapt to in France. I would say that the difference between professional and more colloquial everyday French has been the biggest challenge for me to get used to. I find that I am fairly comfortable in professional and more mundane every day interactions, however I find myself really struggling outside of work in more casual spoken conversations between friends. Under those circumstances, it really feels like casual French is a completely different language to which I have very little exposure. Moreover, due to cultural norms that I am still not fully in tune with, I find it difficult to interrupt conversations to say that I am really just having a hard time understanding what is being said. I think that this is because it is very difficult to teach everyday French in a classroom and therefor it is not taught at college. This is for much of the same reasons that you can’t teach American slang very efficiently. Every day, something changes, and a phrase that was used one way in the past is now used in a completely opposite manner, or a new word has been invented in place of a more archaic counterpart. Professional French is what is taught in the typical French classroom to best prepare you for just that, professional interactions. Everyday French, deserves realistically at least an equivalent amount of learning, with its ever-changing norms and rules.

This has been extremely difficult to adapt to because I feel like I am living two French lives, one in which I understand most and can express myself freely, and one where I understand nothing and never know what to say. While I don’t feel as if I am making much progress as of now, it is my hope that by the end of my experience here in France that I will be fluent in both sides of the French language!