Friday, 4 May 2018

How to go from “Je m’appelle baguette” to acing a job interview in French



 It’s not a new trend that studying abroad provides plenty of cool opportunities to learn a new culture and language. Despite the fact that most universities offer lectures in English, it’s a good idea to step out of your comfort zone and get to know the basics of the local language. If you are planning to stay abroad for work, it is even more important to do so.


"...it’s a good idea to step out of your comfort zone and get to know the basics of the local language"


In some places, like the Netherlands or Germany, one can survive for longer periods with the aid of English only; in France this is not the case. Here, everyday activities such as grocery shopping or buying a transport card might become quite challenging, let alone finding an internship. In fact, one thing that is silently known but not openly admitted is the difficulty of finding a job in France without being fluent in French. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of companies that are willing to close an eye on this if the candidate’s profile is well fitting, but one should at least be able to interact with co-workers in their native language.

Therefore, for the sake of a smoother everyday life but also for the pursuit of one’s career, it is recommended to learn the basics of the French language before arriving to France. Although it might be hard to squeeze in French classes while preparing for the GMAT, applying to different master’s degrees, writing a bachelor thesis or completing an internship, it would be a small sacrifice that will yield results later on. Below are a few tips (that can be followed anywhere, at any time) to learn the language in an effective way.

"...it is recommended to learn the basics of the French language before arriving to France"

#1 Technology is your ally (apps, videos, etc.)

Today is probably the best era to learn new things, as we are surrounded by tools and techniques allowing a more personalized approach to acquiring new skills and knowledge. The good old flashcards can be useful but slightly unpractical, so apps providing quick exercises like Duolinguo, will boost one’s vocab in no time. Another precious tool is Easy French, a YouTube channel offering a plethora videos (with subtitles) for any type of user and interest.

#2 Know the Rules

Grammar is the bone structure of a language and although studying it intensely might not be the fastest way to master a language, having a rough knowledge of verb tenses and their uses might actually make the difference between making people giggle and being able to impress a recruiter. The Becherelle, a tiny (it fits in any medium-sized purse J) booklet on verbs’ conjugations and basic grammar rules, is definitely one’s best buddy on the journey to mastering the French language.

"...having a rough knowledge of verb tenses and their uses might actually make the difference between making people giggle and being able to impress a recruiter."

#3 Movies & series

It is true that one is a click away from changing the language settings on Netflix or from downloading a movie in another language, but one can use the study of a foreign language as an excuse to get acquainted with a completely new cinematographic tradition. Luckily, French cinema produced some masterpieces, ranging from the classic Amélie to the success of Intouchables. However, for those who enjoy the lightness of series, Plus Belle la Vie and Caméra Café should do the trick. Watching a movie in French with French subtitles can actually help the ear get used to the new words while training the eye to their spelling.

#4 Imagine a situation with Frenchies

Another extremely useful activity is to imagine an everyday situation, such as visiting a provider to get a forfeit and then translate the imaginary conversation on paper. This might sound weird to do, but it is actually very effective as it prepares to react to ordinary events without having the need to use the sign language.

#5 Wanted: French native speaker

Needless to say, feeling comfortable having a conversation in a foreign language is the hardest part of the whole process and yet probably the most crucial one, especially if the goal is to ace the interview and get the job. And here is where the greatness of social media comes in: believe it or not, people of any nationality living abroad will have a Facebook group in which they share experiences and tips. All one needs to do is to look for it (for example “Les françaises à Berlin/New York/Katmandu”) and share a post asking if anyone is willing to spend some time weekly over a coffee to chat in French. 

"...feeling comfortable having a conversation in a foreign language is the hardest part of the whole process and yet probably the most crucial one"

Most likely, those who come forward are glad to meet new people and to share their culture and in the best case scenario, they will be willing to check your homework or recommend you books and movies. This is not only much cheaper and more flexible than enrolling in a traditional language course, but also achievements will come more quickly and there’s the chance of making a new friend.

All these are just a few of the many ways in which one can learn a new language; however there are some key ingredients to a successful approach: commitment and motivation. They prevent from constantly postponing and from giving up once the first difficulties arise (rest assured, they will). One just needs to drop the excuses, the “I’m not a language person” idea and use downtimes fruitfully. By regularly practicing French when commuting on public transport, while waiting for the nail polish to dry or even during your workout routine, results will come sooner than expected.

"By regularly practicing French...results will come sooner than expected."

Written by Costanza Poser, 1st year MiM Grande Ecole Student 

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