Hatched asks “5 Questions” to Jordan Schnee from Fluent City who will be conducting a free French Slang workshop in our downstair’s bar from 7-7:45pm on Tuesday before our FILM FEAST screening of Amélie on Tuesday. (Btw, get here to sign up by 6:45pm and grab a seat – merci!)
What scenes from Amélie have inspired the phrases you’ll be teaching people during the workshop before the screening?
Amélie is a strange woman. Herein lies a lot of the interest in the film. One aspect of this is her formality. Most people of her age in Paris are quite vulgar, especially when in casual situations. Amélie remains formal and reserved. The tension of this film is a lot about cracking this shell. This aspect set into stronger relief when one compares her with the people she meets in the street and in her daily life. A lot have a stereotypically “vulgar” accent/voice. Their language too is often vulgar and informal. One aspect to look for is her use of tu (informal) versus vous (formal).
What is the most useful French slang phrase to use if you meet someone you like on the streets of Paris?
One of the single most useful phrases has to be j’sais pas moi! (pronounced “shay pah mwuh!”) This is an extreme shortening of “Moi? Je ne sais pas.” Meaning “Me? I don’t know.” Key to pulling this off is to get really haughty and emphatic. This will often get people off your back and certainly makes you sound like a real Parisian. It’s something along the lines of “Who me? I dunno!!”
Do you often use films as a tool for language instruction at Fluent City?
At Fluent City I teach French, Spanish and German. All of these languages have great film cultures associated with them, though French really takes the cake. An assignment I often give students is to watch a movie with subtitles in the native language. You can pick up a lot of stuff this way. One thing I love about movies in other languages is that they transmit not only language, but other aspects of culture that can be hard to explain like habits and humor (German humor is a doozy) and also more concrete things like place, dress, and food.
Besides Amelie, what French films are your favorites?
Some of my favorites are Jules & Jim a classic by François Truffaut, and the animated films by Sylvian Chomet like The Triplets of Belleville & L’Illusioniste. If you’re into slang you should check out La Haine, which portrays the downtrodden social class that is a hotbed of linguistic innovation in France. I’m also into Franco-Québécois films like Xavier Dolan’s Laurence Anyways which is a powerful and topical film.
And then because this is a film FEAST, what has been your favorite French cuisine experience?
Some of my best meals in France were the ubiquitous pique-niques. (Yes it’s spelled like that!) You usually get some wine, bread and tons of little spreads and pickles and the like; then you go plunk down near a body of water and have at it. In Summer in Paris the canals and riverbanks are packed every night with people. When I was camping on the Atlantic coast I had one really memorable pique-nique with fresh oysters, sea snails, and white wine – that one hit the spot.