Parisian Living

Learning French on TikTok

by Pronoti Baglary

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left: a woman walking 2 dogs. Ahead of her, we can see the shop front of Odette in the Latin Quartier, Paris. Right: a view of a Parisian rooftop which is teal green in color. In the horison, the Sacre Coeur clearly appears afains the blue skies of Paris
Top: Left: @herve_in_paris / Right: @imhrisa
Above: Left: @julieaucontraire / Right: @gogojungle

When beginning life from scratch in a new country, or simply attempting to learn a new language, a sense of humor goes a long way. Even more so when the city in question is Paris, and the language happens to be French.

There are not enough rules of thumb or instruction that can prevent someone from committing many a social faux pas in a new country. Especially here, since France is what is called a “high-context culture.” High-context cultures use communication that focuses on underlying context, meaning, and tone in the message, and not just the words themselves. So, as a foreigner in Paris, it is easier if you can learn to laugh at your cultural mishaps than to let the fear of making them keep you from expressing yourself or trying to connect with the French. Humor is a way to be kind to yourself when you make mistakes. You just have to dive in and figure it out as you go!

When it comes to their language, the French are a country of perfectionists. They are taught to speak good French with proper grammar from a young age. But don’t let that be a cause for alarm or for intimidation! Yes, you might meet a French person or two who seem overly eager to correct your already shaky language skills, but if it’s any consolation, know that they would probably be even more critical of other French people’s French!

And indeed, there is something truly admirable about France’s love of their language. You can observe the same desire for perfection when they try to improve their English. They happily welcome, and sometimes demand, corrections; after all, how can people let each other speak with erroneous grammar?

left: a sweeping view of Paris city from montmartre. a man and a woman can be seen lying down and gazing at the sky from the staircase at montmartre. right: a cyclist going past a Parisian road. Beyond him, two women can be seen sitting down and talking to each other.
Left: @sophieannenadeau / Right: @emilytaubert 

Some aspects of the French language that took me some time, energy, and a couple of exasperated tears to be able to contend with: the sheer number of silent letters in every word, the power of French accents to completely change what words mean, and the classic gendering of everything. 

The first French teacher I had in Paris was wholeheartedly receptive to all the complaining and groaning in class whenever one more grammar rule was taught, after which 10 other exceptions to the rule were added. Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed the guilty pleasure of commiserating. But the moment I started to make any real progress in French was, not to sound cheesy but, it was when I accepted French language just the way it is instead of wanting it to be something else. I stopped mentally resisting and just went with the flow, regardless of whether the grammar makes sense to me or not.

And every now and then, when I need to feel validated about the confusion and quandary of learning the French language, I just go on Tiktok —really!

left: loic suberville walking in frnt of the louvre in Paris. Right: the front of a cafe named la marquise in Paris. it is empty but looks ready to welcome customers with its neat white tables and teal coloured cane chairs.
Left: @loicsuberville by @justinefanget / Right : @annemaudette

Through all the highs and lows of living in Paris and learning this beautiful but phonetically complex language, the following TikTokers have helped me learn to deal with it’s weird and wonderful peculiarities by serving up lessons with a huge dollop of humor!

If you haven’t checked them out yet, you need to do it asap!

Loïc Suberville

Suberville’s account will have you in splits and nodding your head in agreement. His TikToks highlight the weird quirks of the French language, as well as all the initial exasperation of learning it. Like, why does French have so many similar-sounding words with completely different meanings? Or why does the word for mother-in-law (belle-mère) literally translate to “beautiful mother” in French?!

left: a wall in paris with bonjour written on it with large pink and yellow letters. this is painted on a black background. right: a still frm an funny infograph made by Encore French Lessons about the different meanings of les baguettes in French.
Left: @leparisdesophie/ Right: @encorefrenchlessons

Encore French Lessons

This account is run by an online French language school based out of the U.S.A. with native teachers from France. Their TikToks will teach you a whole bunch about “standard” versus colloquial French, how to pronounce names of French brands, different ways to say oui or non, and even how to sound like a dour Parisian in a bad mood. In the end, you will surprise yourself with how much you end up learning while laughing away at their TikToks!

left: tatty mcleod smiling and posing in infront of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. 
right: a photo of pont des arts with its reflection clearly visible on the Seine.
Left: @tatty.mcleod / Right: @garyphr

Alexandria Macleod

Alexandria Macleod, who goes by the name Tatty Mcleod, is a French-English TikToker. She is an actor, writer, director, and award-winning comedian who has garnered acclaim for her works. She has also performed at L’Apollo Théâtre and L’Alhambra Théâtre in Paris, as well as London’s Lyric Hammersmith and Southwark Playhouse. Her TikTok skits present the humorous juxtaposition of French and British language and culture. Not only are her observations witty and sharp, but they are also hilarious.

left: a green coloured nech with a pink heart graffitied on it. behind it, is a cream coloured Parisian building and trees with pink flowers. 
right: alex and tom from the TikTok account Frenchies jumping and laughing in front of the Eiffel Tower, Paris.
Left: @vagabonde.tenenbaum / Right: Alex and Tom from @frenchies

Alex and Tom

Alex and Tom are two French guys from Paris who live in the U.S.A. with the humble dream of teaching French to the world. They make TikToks teaching French pronunciations and the funny side of learning French. But the duo became really popular creating TikToks of themselves trying to pronounce English words and poking fun at the trickier side of learning English. It does make you appreciate the difficulties in learning English that we very often overlook.

left: the stairs at montmartre. we can also see the cafe La Halte and people sitting on the terrace. A man can be seen on the window above the cafe,  talking on the phone.
right: a sign saying "pain, vin, fromgae". behind it, we can see a yellow building in Paris.
Left: @reginesemaan / Right: @pauline.paaris

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Written by Pronoti Baglary for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Haven In for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates or click here. Looking to bring France home to you or to learn online or in person (when possible)? Check out new marketplace shop and experiences.

Written By

Pronoti Baglary

Pronoti is from a small town in Assam, India, and now lives in Paris. Having studied culture as a student of Sociology, she is interested in everything it entails: languages, arts, literature and technologies. Her favourite French word is Flânerie, the verb for strolling sans a precise destination. In Paris, she spends her time walking just for pleasure, and discovering the many quaint places and stories strewn across this beautiful city. View Pronoti Baglary's Website

One comment on “Learning French on TikTok

Love these tips. Thanks!

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