In this article, you will discover: 

  • The difference between textbook French and the real French spoken by natives
  • How to speak like native French speakers - Understanding the difference between academic French and everyday French will allow you to adjust your learning and get closer to authentic French, as it is spoken in France. 
  • Concrete examples of dialogues from textbooks vs real conversations: Observing these comparisons will give you valuable insight into informal language and expressions commonly used by native speakers, thus enriching your vocabulary and oral comprehension. 
  • The gaps between the formal language taught and the informal language used: Identifying these gaps will help you better navigate in real communication situations, making you more confident and comfortable in conversations with French speakers.


Dialogue 1:

Let's observe the first dialogue on greetings in French: 

  • Jacques : Bonsoir, Marie. (Jacques: Good evening, Marie.)
  • Marie : Euh ? Tu t'appelles comment ? (Marie: Uh? What's your name again?)
  • Jacques : Moi, je m'appelle Jacques. (Jacques: Me, my name is Jacques.)
  • Marie : Ah, oui. Quoi de neuf, Jacques ? (Marie: Oh, yes. What's new, Jacques?)
  • Jacques :Pas grand-chose. Alors, au revoir, à demain, Marie. (Jacques: Not much. So, goodbye, see you tomorrow, Marie.)
  • Marie : À la prochaine, Jacques. (Marie: See you next time, Jacques.)

Well, what I found strange in this dialogue is the "Euh ? Tu t'appelles comment ?" ("Uh? What's your name again?").

Then, we don't have the context, but it seems strange to phrase it like that. 

If we've forgotten someone's name we would rather say "Excuse-moi, tu peux me rappeler ton prénom ? J'ai un trou de mémoire" ("Excuse me, can you remind me of your name? I'm having a memory lapse"). It's more polite and natural.

To give one's name in a common, rather informal context, generally, we would say "Moi, c'est prénom" ("Me, it's name"), "Moi, c'est Jacques." ("Me, it's Jacques."). It's more natural than "Je m'appelle" ("My name is"). 


Dialogue 2:

The following dialogue still on greetings in French, but in a formal way this time:

  • Monsieur Bernard : Bonjour. Comment vous appelez-vous ? (Mr. Bernard: Hello. What is your name?)
  • Monsieur Lambert : Je m'appelle Jean-Paul Lambert. Et vous ? (Mr. Lambert: My name is Jean-Paul Lambert. And you?)
  • Monsieur Bernard : Moi, je suis Marc Bernard. Enchanté. (Mr. Bernard: I am Marc Bernard. Pleased to meet you.)
  • Monsieur Lambert : Enchanté ! (Mr. Lambert: Pleased to meet you!) .

So, the question "Comment vous appelez-vous ?" ("What is your name?") is a very formal inversion question. But, it's true, that it's not very used orally. It's much more used in writing, always in a formal context.

In a formal context, I would say "Comment vous vous appelez ?" ("What's your name?") or "Quel est votre prénom ?" ("What is your first name?"). (Dans un contexte formel, je dirais "Comment vous vous appelez ?" ou "Quel est votre prénom ?".)

The "Moi, je suis Marc Bernard." ("I am Marc Bernard."), well, it's not used in either a formal or informal context in French. We would say, as I said earlier "Moi, c'est Marc Bernard" ("Me, it's Marc Bernard") or more formally "Je m'appelle Marc Bernard" ("My name is Marc Bernard."). 


Dialogue 3: 

The following dialogue, a conversation between friends: 

  • Daniel : Bonjour Hervé. Comment vas-tu ? (Daniel: Hello Hervé. How are you?)
  • Hervé : Je vais bien, merci. Et toi ça va ? (Hervé: I'm fine, thank you. And you, are you okay?)
  • Daniel : Ça va bien. Est-ce que-tu viens à mon anniversaire ? J'organise une petite fête. (Daniel: I'm good. Are you coming to my birthday? I'm throwing a small party.)
  • Hervé : C'est quand ? (Hervé: When is it?)
  • Daniel : Le 3 mars à 20h. (Daniel: March 3rd at 8 PM.)
  • Hervé : Le 3 mars, entendu. Tu fais ça chez toi ? (Hervé: March 3rd, got it. Are you doing it at your place?)
  • Daniel : Oui c'est chez moi. J'ai invité une vingtaine d'amis. On va danser toute la nuit. (Daniel: Yes, it's at my place. I've invited about twenty friends. We're going to dance all night.)
  • Hervé : C'est très gentil de m'inviter, merci. A bientôt. (Hervé: It's very kind of you to invite me, thank you. See you soon.)
  • Daniel : A demain, bonne journée. (Daniel: See you tomorrow, have a good day.)

Well, it's ultra-formal for a conversation between friends. I don't think that two French friends would really talk to each other like that. 

Already among friends, we won't say "Bonjour", but rather "Salut". 

We would rather say "Ça va ?" or "Comment ça va ?" instead of "Comment vas-tu ?" 

Instead of saying "Le 3 mars, entendu" more naturally, we would say "Le 3 mars nickel" or "Ça marche". 

Instead of saying "C'est très gentil de m'inviter", we would rather say "Merci pour l'invitation". 


Dialogue 4: 

The following dialogue:

  • Quentin : Bonjour, Léon. Dis donc, tu es d'où ? (Quentin: Hello, Léon. Say, where are you from?)
  • Léon : Je suis de Paris, Quentin. (Léon: I'm from Paris, Quentin.)
  • Quentin : Alors, tu es français ? (Quentin: So, you are French?)
  • Léon : Oui, exactement. (Léon: Yes, exactly.)
  • Quentin : Et Marie, elle est d'où ? (Quentin: And Marie, where is she from?)
  • Léon : Elle est de Marseille. Elle est française, aussi. (Léon: She's from Marseille. She is also French.)
  • Quentin : Merci, Léon. Au revoir (Quentin: Thank you, Léon. Goodbye)

Well, it's not at all natural the "Dis donc, tu es d'où ?" ("Say, where are you from?"). "Dis donc" is an interjection commonly used to attract someone's attention. But, in this context, it's not really appropriate. We would rather say "Mais, au fait, tu es d'où?" (By the way, where are you from?).


Dialogue 5:

The following dialogue at the bakery:

  • The baker: Bonjour madame (The baker: Hello madam)
  • The customer: Bonjour monsieur (The customer: Hello sir)
  • The baker: Que voulez-vous ? (The baker: What would you like?)
  • The customer: Je voudrais acheter une baguette, s'il vous plaît (The customer: I would like to buy a baguette, please)
  • The baker: Ce sera tout ? (The baker: Will that be all?)
  • The customer: Non, je voudrais deux croissants aussi (The customer: No, I would like two croissants as well)
  • The baker: Très bien - ça fait deux euros, s'il vous plaît (The baker: Very well - that will be two euros, please)
  • The customer: Merci beaucoup (The customer: Thank you very much)

So, what's not right here first, is the "Que voulez-vous ?" ("What would you like?"), it's not really said, it actually seems a bit aggressive. We would rather say "Que désirez-vous ?" ("What would you desire?") or "Qu’est-ce qu’il vous faudrait ?" ("What would you need?"). 

Similarly, the "Je voudrais acheter une baguette" ("I would like to buy a baguette"), it's not very natural. We would rather say "Je voudrais une baguette, s’il vous plait" ("I would like a baguette, please") or just "Une baguette, s’il vous plait" ("A baguette, please"). 

The baker would rather say "Ça sera tout ?" ("Will that be all?") or "Avec ceci ?" ("Anything else?") rather than "Ce sera tout ?" ("Will that be all?") which is very formal.