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LEARNING FRENCH

How to talk email, websites, social media and phone numbers in French

It's a very common experience to have to give out your phone number or email address in France, or take down the address of a website, and there is some specialist vocabulary that you will need.

How to talk email, websites, social media and phone numbers in French
Punctuation marks take on crucial importance for internet activity. Photo by Damien MEYER / AFP

The correct names for punctuation marks used to be fairly low down on any French-learner’s list, but these days they are vital whenever you need to explain an email address, website or social media account.

Likewise if you want to talk about websites, or social media posts, there are some things that you need to know. 

Punctuation

Obviously punctuation points have their own names in France, and making sure you get the periods, dashes and underscores correct is vital to giving out account details. 

Full stop/period . point. Pronounced pwan, this is most commonly heard for French websites or email addresses which end in .fr (pronounced pwan eff eyre).

If you have a site that ends in .com you say ‘com’ as a word just as you would in English – pwan com – and if the website is a government site such as the tax office it will end with .gouv.fr (pwan goov pwan eff eyre).

At symbol @ Arobase – so for example the email address [email protected] would be jean pwan dupont arobas hotmail pwan eff eyre 

Ampersand/and symbol & esperluette

Dash – tiret

Underscore _ tiret bas 

Forward slash / barre oblique

Upper case/capital lettersMajuscule (or lettre majuscule)

Lower caseminiscule

The following punctuation points are less common in email or web addresses, but worth knowing anyway;

Comma , virgule. In France a decimal point is indicated with a comma so two and a half would be 2,5 (deux virgule cinq)

Exclamation mark ! point d’exclamation – when you are writing in French you always leave a space between the final letter of the word and the exclamation mark – comme ça !

Question mark ? point d’interrogation – likewise, leave a space between the final character and a question mark 

Brackets/parentheses ( ) parenthèse

Quotation marks « » guillemets 

Numbers

If you need to give your phone number out, the key thing to know is that French people pair the numbers in a phone number when speaking.

So say your number is 06 12 34 56 78, in French you would say zero six, douze, trente-quatre, cinqante-six, soixante-dix- huit (zero six, twelve, thirty four, fifty six, seventy eight, rather than one, two, three, four etc)

Mobile numbers in France all begin with 06 and ‘zero six‘ is a slangy way of talking about your phone number.

Donne-moi ton zero six pour qu’on puisse se capter parfois. – Give me your number so that we can hang out sometime.

Social media

If you want to give out your Twitter or Instagram handle, the chances are you might need to know some punctuation terms as described above.

Otherwise the good news is that a lot of English-language social media terms are used in France too.

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have the same names in France and have entered the language in other ways too, for example you might describe your dinner as très instagrammable – ie it’s photogenic and would look good on Instagram.

On Twitter you can suivre (follow), aime (like) or retweet (take a wild guess). You’ll often hear the English words for these terms too, though pronounced with a French accent.

There is a French translation for hashtag – it’s dièse mot, but in reality hashtag is also very widely used.

Tech is one of those areas where new concepts come along so quickly that the English terms often get embedded into everyday use before the Academie française can think up a French alternative.

There’s also the phenomenon of English terms being mildly ‘Frenchified’ such as having a slightly different pronunciation or being adapted to sound more French, such as the below UberEats advert, which uses the words ‘swiper, matcher, dater’ – not really correct French but clearly instantly understandable to the young demographic that the advert is aimed at. 

Photo: The Local

READ ALSO Why do French adverts love to use English words?

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For members

LEARNING FRENCH

How to find affordable language classes in France

Language classes can be expensive so if you're seeking to learn French or just improve your language skills, here are some of the free or affordable classes on offer.

How to find affordable language classes in France

Learning French can be a daunting experience, especially if you move to the country with minimal language skills. Perhaps you thought that it would be easier once you got here, but your social circle seems to be filled with fellow English speakers and no one to practice your French with.

Maybe you are thinking of going for French citizenship and you need to get your French up to scratch (this might be the case for those seeking permanent residency too, soon).

Regardless of your reasons, language courses are notoriously expensive, so we’ve put together a list of options that won’t break the bank.

Compte Formation Professionnelle (Mon CPF)

All employees in France get an annual ‘training budget’ of up to €800 that you can spend on developing your professional skills – and if you’re foreign you can use that budget for language classes.

You first need to register on the Mon Compte Formation app or website, using your social security number and then once you have worked a full year in France you become eligible for the budget.

Search Français Langue Etrangère (FLE) in the site to find courses near you – the training is run by local language schools and so inevitably you will find more of a choice if you live in the city.

Find full details of exactly how to sign up HERE.

One thing to note – unfortunately the CPF scheme name is often used by scammers, if you get phone calls or text messages offering to unlock your account it’s better to ignore them and just head directly to the government website or app.

The Office for Integration and Immigration (OFII)

The Office for Integration and Immigration is a compulsory stop for many people living in France, and if your French is very basic/non-existent they can order you to attend classes.

But as well as the compulsory beginner-level classes, the OFII also offers voluntary classes at higher levels. 

Offering language courses of 50 to 600 hours depending on the needs and level of the person concerned, the OFII seeks to ensure that anyone seeking a long-stay residency permit in France can at least speak, read, and understand basic French.

The standard course is aimed at the A1 level, though they also offer courses for A2 and B1. The classes are provided by “AFCI and its co-contractors” and are held “during the day, evening or weekend.”

If you are on a long-stay residency permit you have likely either already finished your half-day reception at the OFII or you have it coming up. During the reception, the OFII representative will determine whether your French rises to A1 level or not, and if it does not reach that threshold then they may prescribe you French training courses. While OFII’s goal is to help those at or below A1 level, you can always reach out regarding options for A2 and B1 as well.

Your local town hall

The town hall (mairie) is responsible for many things in France. If you are new to the country, it might actually be one of the best places to visit first.

Your town hall is a great resource for finding recommendations for services, organisations, and activities, especially if you live in a more rural area. Any many mairies also offer heavily discounted language classes.

In Paris the mairie offers ‘Cours d’Adultes de Paris‘ in everything from sewing classes to lessons in Excel, but there are around 300 classes in Français langue étrangère. The modules are between 20 and 180 hours and are adapted by level and ability.

The courses are usually held in school buildings throughout Paris.

If you live outside of Paris, you can contact your local mairie to ask what they recommend in regards to subsidised language courses. They will likely be able to point you towards NGOs operating in the area that hold classes.

For parents of schoolchildren 

If you have children in the French public school system, but France is not your native language and you want to improve, then there is a specific programme just for you.

Ouvrir l’école aux parents pour la réussite des enfants” (Opening schools to parents for the success of students) is a government scheme from the Ministry of Education aimed at helping parents integrate in order to better support their children’s schooling. 

OEPRE allows parents of non-French children in the school system to take between 60 and 120 hours of French classes over the course of a year (about four hours per week) with the goal of improving their French and better understanding the school system. The lessons are free and are offered to groups of approximately 8 to 15 people. 

You can learn more HERE

Pôle d’Emploi

This is the French government organisation that helps job-seekers find potential professional opportunities. It also offers formations (courses) to help those seeking work keep their skills sharp, including free language classes for those who are not French natives.

You first need to be registered with Pôle emploi as a job-seeker, which usually means you have already been working in France. 

If you are a registered job-seeker you can then create an account on the Pôle emploi website, head to ‘Trouver ma formation’ and search “Français Langue Étrangère” to see what courses are available.

Université pour Tous

The ‘university for all’ programme is about offering further education to adults, but unlike the UK’s Open University it’s not all at degree level and many offer beginner and intermediate French classes for foreigners.

It’s organised on a local level so you will need to find the Université pour Tous website for your département and then search the courses – prices and courses on offer vary according to location. 

Language exchange

As a native speaker of English you have a valuable skill to offer and ‘language exchange’ options are a great way to get free or reduced price tutoring.

As the name suggests, you chat with a French speaker and they help you and correct your errors and in exchange you do the same for their English.

There are numerous groups who offer this, so search online. Most are either free or charge a reduced price. You generally need to be able to chat at some level so they’re not ideal for complete beginners but are a good way to improve your fluency once you have the basics.

The social network “Meetup” is a great resource for finding pre-existing language groups in your area, or virtually if you prefer. This website might favour those who live in large cities, but you might be surprised to find options in small towns as well. Plus, if something does not exist yet, you can always create it.

Facebook groups are also another great way to find likeminded people who are seeking cultural and linguistic exchange. Groups like ‘BlaBla (insert your city)’ can help connect you to conversation groups. 

Online groups

During the pandemic many language classes moved online, and plenty of them have stayed there, giving more options to people who live outside the cities or bigger towns.

If you are looking to practice your French solely online, some websites like Polyglot Club offer free choices for users to interact and practice their language skills.

Conversation workshops at libraries 

In Paris, both the BPI and BNF, as well as at least 15 other municipal libraries, offer one hour to one hour and a half language exchanges that are led by library staff and/or volunteers.

You can learn more at the Paris library website

Outside the capital, some libraries also offer conversation groups, so ask your local library if they have something similar.

Bon courage

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