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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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EDUCATION

France to launch ’emergency’ English learning plan for schools

More bilingual schools, a language voice assistant, and funding for study trips - here is how France plans to prioritise learning English in its schools.

France to launch 'emergency' English learning plan for schools

As students in France head back to the classrooms for the 2022-2023 school year, Education Minister Pap Ndiaye has announced a series of plans to address shortcomings in the French education system. One of his top priorities: increasing English-language learning.

The idea that France needs to step up its English abilities is not new. In years past, France has been at the bottom of the European class in regard to its English skills. The country as a whole has been improving, in 2021 France ranked 24 out of 35 European countries, up from 28 in 2020 and 31 in 2019.

That being said, France still lags significantly behind the Scandinavian countries and falls behind its neighbours Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland. 

French schools are required to teach a foreign language to students, and instruction should begin the second year of primary school. While that language does not have to be English, the goal is that by the end of middle school, students should have an A2 level in a foreign language.

Edouard Geffray, the director general of school education for France, works alongside Ndiaye. He told The Local that all French students learn some English in primary school, and the majority take English as one of their two foreign languages in secondary school. Thus, English was the “common-denominator language” to focus on for improving.

“It was the only language to test the levels of all students [in France],” explained Geffray. “The quasi-totality of French students study English, and every middle school in France offers English courses.”

Yet by the end of troisième (age 14-15), one out of two students studying English failed to reach the A2 level in the spring of 2022. The testing demonstrated the results of 800,000 students in France – representing “the majority of 14-15 year olds in France,” according to Geffray.

In response, Ndiaye announced the ’emergency plan,’ with the goal that 80 percent of students will reach the A2 level within the next three years. While English is the first focus, Geffray explained that the education ministry would like to see improvement in other foreign languages as well.

Ndiaye intends for English-language classes to take up more instruction time. Thus, the creation of bilingual schools has been encouraged, particularly in primary schools. As of 2021, approximately 238,000 students (from 1,900 schools) in France were already benefiting from “a reinforced curriculum in a foreign language” – with the vast majority of these bilingual schools being English or German. 

For schools that have already volunteered to become bilingual, Nidaye has encouraged them to bring up English language instruction time from just three hours a week to half of all total instruction time.

READ MORE: How France is (slowly) improving its English-language skills

The Paris school district has already begun to take steps in this direction. Ahead of Fall 2022, the academy increased the number of bilingual public schools from 20 to 32.

The Paris academy hopes that all arrondisements will be concerned, and that creating more bilingual schools will help decrease the decline of students in the city by making public school more attractive. Paris public bilingual schools represent just under five percent of the total 750 schools in the district.

Another requirement of the ’emergency’ plan is to have students meet ‘annual progress benchmarks’ for English from first grade through middle school – something they already have to do for French and maths courses. 

The education system also plans to create a dedicated voice assistant to aid in teaching English to primary school students. An example of one such voice assistant is ‘Captain Kelly.’ It assists the teacher in conducting English language activities to build students’ lexical and syntactic knowledge and train their comprehension and pronunciation in English.

Geffray explained that this will be made available to each local district, and it will be up to them as to whether they will purchase the device for their schools.

Intended for primary school students, the voice assistant helps children practice short and varied activities, as shown above, which were designed by English language teaching specialists and school teachers.

Finally, the French ministry of education also announced that it plans to finance more educational trips abroad for students. Geffray explained that the goal is to increase scholastic trips for students of all age groups.

These will primarily be part of the Erasmus + program, so trips abroad would be within the EU – for English-learning, that would mean more trips to Ireland. 

Geffray added that another option for students to go abroad will be during high school as part of the first year of “general and technological high school.” These students will have the ability to spend four weeks in Europe that would be credited within the baccalaureate. 

France continues to face a teacher shortage, particularly with respect to foreign language instruction. For English-language instruction specifically, French schools have struggled to find English teachers since Brexit

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