A survey of French teachers in the Grande Région has shown that contrary to popular belief, learning to communicate effectively in French is mostly a question of having the right attitude.
“Students worry that you need to learn the tense system, passé composé, future simple and all that, but that’s not true,” said one teacher who lives in Metz. “Mostly you just need to pucker your lips and walk around saying things like, ‘j’adore ça,’ ‘c’est cool’ and ‘mais bon.’”
“It’s vital that you dress the part, too, if you want to be a convincing French speaker,” said another teacher from Thionville. “That means men should wear trousers that are half a size too small for comfort, and they should not be seen in public without a scarf, even when at the beach.”
“Women need to always look like they’ve dressed up for a job interview, even if they’re just going to the petrol station to buy toilet paper, some cheap tobacco, and a bottle of vodka,” she continued.
Most French teachers also agree that students should not underestimate the need to make use of gestures.
“For example, it’s important that when you drink coffee, you hold the cup precisely 25 centimeters above the table, and you should stir the contents for no less than three minutes before bringing the cup to your puckered lips,” said a French teacher who lives in Luxembourg. “If you really want to impress others with your French skills, you should pause mid-movement to roll your eyes.”
“Yes, at some point it can be useful to learn how to conjugate verbs, but beginners should focus on more practical communication skills,” he continued. “When hearing news, good or bad, you should always respond by saying ‘pfft.’”
“Actually, dinners with my French-speaking friends are frequently nothing but saying ‘pfft’ back and forth, for an entire evening,” he added. “And, if we are really having a good time, we’ll go out to a bar or discotheque and continue saying ‘pfft’ for another few hours.”