When you learn a foreign language, there's always that moment, when you think you've reached a quite good level, you think you know enough vocabulary and know how to make grammatically correct sentences. You want to start chatting with native speakers and you realise that first, they speak really fast, and also some of the words and expressions they use sound nothing like the ones in the textbooks you've been studying for months or years. That can make communication a bit tricky!
In this article, I will provide some insights on how French people really speak in their day-to-day life with friends and family. These tips will help you, not only speak like a true native French speaker, but also help you understand French people more easily in casual conversations.
These expressions are not always appropriate, make sure to adapt the way you speak to the context you are in. For example, these expressions would not be appropriate in exams or a professional setting.
Now that this has been said, here we go: how to sound like a true native in casual conversations!
1. Use more abreviations
French people LOVE abreviations! At least getting familiar with the most common ones is a great way to make your French sound more natural!
- la faculté ➡ la fac (university)
- le cinéma ➡ le ciné (cinema)
- la musculation ➡ la muscu (gym)
- la publicité ➡ la pub (advertisement)
- les informations ➡ les infos (news)
- le restaurant ➡ le resto (restaurant)
- le McDonald ➡ le McDo (McDonald's)
- la télévision ➡ la télé (TV)
- l'ordinateur ➡ l'ordi (computer)
- disponible ➡ dispo (available)
- une/un colocataire ➡ une/un coloc (housemate)
2. Drop the ne from ne...pas
Although technically ne and pas should always be used together to construct a negative sentence, French people tend to drop the ne and just keep the pas after the verb. This is a must-know tip if you want to sound like a true native speaker!
- Je ne connais pas ce mot ➡ Je connais pas ce mot. (I don't know this word)
- Je n'ai pas bien compris ➡ J'ai pas bien compris. (I didn't quite get that)
- Ne parle pas trop vite, s'il te plaît! ➡ Parle pas trop vite, s'il te plaît! (Please don't speak too fast)
3. Use on instead of nous
Both on and nous mean "we", however nous sounds a lot more formal than on and French people tend to use on more frequently when speaking. Nous is more common in very formal settings or written down in a letter.
- Nous venons d'arriver en France ➡ On vient d'arriver en France. (We just arrived in France)
- Nous apprenons le français depuis deux ans ➡ On apprend le français depuis deux ans. (We've been learning French for to years)
4. Use a more casual question form
In French, we have three question forms.
1. You can either use a subject/verb inversion : As-tu pris ton petit-déjeuner ? (Have you had breakfast?). This question form is very formal and would not sound very natural in a casual conversation.
2. You can add Est-ce que at the beginning of the sentence: Est-ce que tu as pris ton petit-déjeuner ? This question form is standard and can be used in any context.
3. Or you can just construct your question like a statement and raise your intonation at the end of the sentence : Tu as pris ton petit-déjeuner ? This questions form is very casual and probably the one French people use the most.
5. Use more contractions
French has a lot of two letter words ending with the letter "e": je, me, te, de, ce, etc. Usually the final "e" in these words should only be dropped in front of a word starting with a vowel. However, French people tend to drop it regardless, especially if they're speaking very fast.
- Je pense pas ➡ J’pense pas. (I don't think so)
- Tu te lèves à quelle heure normalement? ➡ Tu t'lèves à quelle heure normalement? (What time do you usually get up?)
- Je connais pas ce mot ➡ Je connais pas c'mot. (I don't know this word)
N.B: This reflects the way French people speak, but we do not necessarily write it this way.
2. Turn the "j" into a "ch"
When the word je is in front of a verb starting with the letter "s", we often mix them together and it becomes "ch"
Je sais pas ➡ Ché pas. (I don't know)
Je suis pas sûr(e)! ➡ Chui pas sûr(e)! (I'm not sure)
3. Drop the "u" at the end of tu
If tu is in front of a word starting with a vowel, French people tend to drop the "u"
Tu as compris ? ➡ T'as compris ? (Do you understand?)
Tu as déjà vu ce film ? ➡ T'as déjà vu ce film ? (Have you ever seen the movie?)
4. Use a contraction for il y a
We tend to say y'a instead of il y a.
Il y a beaucoup de monde! ➡ Y'a beaucoup de monde!
Est-ce qu'il y a beaucoup de magasins près de chez toi ? Oui, il y en a beaucoup!
➡ Est-ce qu'y'a beaucoup de magasins près de chez toi ? Oui, y'en a beaucoup! (Are there a lot of shops near your house? Yes, there are a lot of them)
So here you have it : 5 tips in order to speak like a true native! Try these out next time you have the chance to speak with some French friends of yours or even ask your French teacher to speak this way during your next class for you to practice! I hope you enjoyed this article, let me know your thoughts in the comment section!