The French Faux Pas

With my internship being centered around both french and english, as well as spanish once in a blue moon, I’ve had quite a time navigating the myriad of languages and figuring out some of the miscommunication barriers that I have encountered. With some of the children I supervise and some of my coworkers, whether it be in french or english, they sometimes ask me something about what they’re talking about. This could be in a room of about 10 other children who I’m keeping an eye on and my attention is divided among each one of them to make sure the room runs as smoothly as possible, but it always seems as if they expected me to immediately understand what they’re talking about. Whether this is a cultural thing in France or by fault of my own, I always feel bad asking them to clarify so often what they are talking about. This is one of the more minor instances I’ve been face to face with communication issues. One of the more common times I seem to encounter miscommunication is with my supervisors, who are native spanish speakers who speak both french and english. Whether it be an english word that they don’t know or the same for french, once in a while the task they give becomes a little unclear. As I’ve said in previous blog posts, the easiest way to figure out what is going on is to simply ask. It never hurts to ask for clarification and my supervisors are very understanding of this as they are also aware of the language barrier. I’ve been able to avoid any major confusions when it comes to the language barrier thanks to this. When it comes to the actual work I put forth, my supervisors are very lax and more on the side of high context communication. It seems that they expect me to know what to do and exactly what to put forth with different projects. For example, I had created a checklist for closing our location so that we don’t forget any tasks before the end of the day. While it doesn’t seem that hard, I have only been here for a short time, and I missed some of the tasks that I haven’t noticed or performed yet. It took quite some time to get them to actually check the work I put forth and to add what they wanted before I finished the project. The due dates for some of the projects I’m completing is also very unclear. I had heard that in some European countries that instead of strict dates they simply expect you to get them done eventually with nothing set in stone. This is exactly the case as I’ve found it in France and to me, I readily dislike not having a clear timeframe of how long a project should take and when they need it to be completed by. It’s very stressful to always feel like you should be working on something when in reality nobody else is stressed about it but yourself. Another of my other responsibilities is to help advise different activities for the children regarding the different units for the week. Without having been asked, my supervisors usually expect me to have a unique activity planned for the day and to be able to immediately implement it with the kids. Usually, if I haven’t been asked to do something, it doesn’t come to mind as I don’t deem it super important. In this case, I’ve often had to think outside the boundaries of the clearly stated responsibilities and be able to think quicker on my feet about different things to do during the day. This is week 6 of my stay in Paris and I think I’ve adjusted more and more to their communication style, especially when talking among my coworkers I’ve become faster in my responses and better articulated with what I’m trying to say. It’s been quite a time practicing my french and improving my own communication styles in an environment where I’m very critical of said communication. I think that with my initial internship where i didn’t get the chance to mingle and interact with my supervisor, I’ve been able to be much more talkative and friendly with the entire team here at Pari-Grandir. I’m very grateful for my time here especially as I’ve grown more comfortable with both my fellow program members and everyone I’ve met during my time here at Paris! There’s about 2 weeks left to go and I know already I’m going to miss it!

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