I recently received a complimentary copy of Parisienne French: Chic Phrases, Slang & Style by Rhianna Jones through a PR company, a book filled with fashionista and style-centric French phrases. Since French is one of the official languages here in Canada, as an Anglophone (or more accurately, an “Allophone,” since I learned how to speak Cantonese before English), I had to sit through years of “Core French” classes where we conjugated verbs, and held boring conversations just so we’d have some “exposure” to the language. I have to admit that it was boring and the only things I remember clearly were watching Téléfrançais (don’t you just love Ananas, the talking pineapple (poor guy! He didn’t actually have a name. They just called him what he was – Pineapple) and reading Roch Carrier’s (very political) children’s story, The Hockey Sweater, in French.
Though some of the language remained with me, almost good enough to survive my two trips to Paris and various stays in Quebec, I had to rely on a phrase book (and later a phrase app) if I wanted to say more than things like “Je voudrais un café au lait, s’il vous plaît” (a cup of coffee with milk, please). I barely survived shopping. Even though I knew words for articles of clothing and accessories, describing something was more difficult – especially if I wanted to say that I was looking for something more specific, such as printed tights or ankle boots (FYI: printed tights = des collant imprimés and ankle boots = bottines). I don’t necessarily agree with all the phrases, however. Ms. Jones uses un sac à main for (hand)bags. While that’s definitely the full term for it, wouldn’t un sac be good enough if you walk into the bag section of a department store? Or maybe it’s a Canadian thing and in France, un sac means a grocery bag?
Of course, this book is not only about fashion, beauty and even food, but Parisian/French culture and life as well. Ms. Jones describes the Paris area, and what one might find in each arrondissement, music, club and party life as well as various slang terms which one never learns in the academic world. Of course, these words could go out of date fairly quickly. I’m not sure if il est un canon (he is a hottie) would still work in a year or two, for example. However, on the tech side, we know that texting lingo probably lasts much longer and I am glad that Ms. Jones includes some French “Textese” such as a2m1 (à demain – the “2” replaces the de/deux sound and the 1 takes the place of un/une or en/in sounds) and bjr (bonjour).
The book is written so that people who know zero French can learn just as someone like myself, who has had exposure to the language can. It is fun, different and definitely much more useful than the typical phrasebook or app. I just wish that they had something like this when I was in school (though some of the chapters are not exactly age-appropriate for someone in Grade 4!). The book is priced at $17.50 Canadian and can be purchased online or in store (check website for availability), online at Amazon or in digital format.