French Conversations Out and About

Photo of author

By Mary Clements

Every Monday, John and I have our LPP leadership team meeting where we reconnect from the weekend, and set up the upcoming week for success. This past week, he shared a story that really resonated with me about how the feeling of insecurity can still creep up when speaking French, even after so many years and also the super power of connection we possess when we are able to speak a second language.

Here’s the story John shared with me: 

In February, I went to get my booster at Shoppers Drugmart, a normal enough day. While waiting my turn, I overheard the pharmacist speaking with another man in French.  “This is nice”, I thought to myself, since I don’t often get to hear adults speaking French out and about in my day-to-day life here in Hamilton, Ontario. Any opportunity for the ears to hear different accents and pronunciations is welcomed practice!

Eventually it’s my turn to enter the office and the pharmacist starts his normal spiel, when I surprised him with my response,“mais oui, bien sur!”. From there, his energy was wonderful (not to put it down prior, but it was so open now!) and we chatted about all sorts of different things, where he came from, where I worked, how many different languages he spoke, and about his kids at university. I even schmoozed a bit here, giving him my work info and saying I’m happy to employ capable French speakers in case his kids were looking for a job! All this conversation in French with bits of the necessary script in-between for giving me my shot.

What stood out and left me with the most uplifting feeling, is that even though I’m confidently bilingual and have been teaching for well over a decade, there’s still a moment of self-consciousness when I speak with native francophones because I’m afraid I’m going to make some grammatical error. In my excitement I’m sure I made a grammar mistake, but he didn’t care and we had formed a connection. I dare say, by the time we parted, we parted as friends and neighbours – all because we share a language.