Une petite amélioration en 2021 : A few ways this anglophone worked on her French
I'm decidely anglophone. Growing up in British Columbia, the most western province of Canada, learning French was an academic exercise.
My immigrant parents consistently told me about how being French-English bilingual would open up my job opportunities in Canada. However, I never saw the benefit of know a little more French than all Canadian kids learn through publicly-funded schooluing, until I came back from working as a jeune fille au-pair in France. Through immersing myself in the language and culture, I found myself being able to follow along with conversations in French, and being able to add my own perspectives (albeit with poor grammar).
Over the past year, French language skills have been more important in my professional life than ever. Many of the stakeholders I engage through my work are French-first, or more likely, French-only. While I am incredibly fortunate to work with colleagues, volunteers, and vendors who are bilingual and happy to support, improving my own French language skills (even marginally) has been critical to building meaningful connections with francophone stakeholders.
Here's a few things that have helped me with improving my French. Please comment below if you try them out, or have any tips of your own to share:
1) Forget Google Translate. Bookmark and use https://www.deepl.com/translator
It's much more accurate, but still not perfect. Combine this with the other tips below and your writing will get better.
2) Create Templates
I love a good template. On top of full email template responses to common inquiries from stakeholders, keep a file of templates for:
- Greetings and farewells that you commonly use (this time of the year, <<joyeuses fêtes>> is a good one)
- Ways to explain your organization's mission, vision, and key projects
- Ways to explain your team's projects, goals, and functions
- Brief introduction of yourself and your role
- A quick line that tells your audience you're working on your French skills, and thanks them for their patience
3) Consume your organization's materials in French
Canadian readers: If your organization is bilingual, most pieces of external communications will be produced in both English and French. This includes blog articles, brand books, and social media posts. Try reading and viewing these in French before turning to the English versions. From these pieces, you may be able to pull language for your templates too!
4) Know your limits and communications policies
Understand your organization's communications policies around translation. When must communications be translated and reviewed through official channels for brand consistency and risk assment? When can you write and "fire off" something in French when you don't have professional-level fluency?
Ask your manager and find the related policies. You won't regret it.
5) Have fun and try your best
Practice your skills with colleagues and friends. For language learning, aiming for perfection only inhibits growth.
Many of you know that I'm a reality TV buff, so of course, I encoruage you to watch The Circle France. It helped me learn how Francophones communicate on social media (e.g. MDR - Mort de rire, is the equivalent of LOL- laugh out loud*). I also recommend Call My Agent, which is a good show even if you're not trying to learn French.
I personally don't enjoy using the Duolingo app, but I do enjoy their French podcast: https://podcast.duolingo.com/french
Music lovers and those trying to learn French that is more Québécois than Parisen can listen to Cœur de pirate who has a truly beautiful voice.
C'est tout. Merci et bonne année!
*Mort de rire more closely translates to "dying of laughter"