Life in Paris

Simpler Thoughts

I got some interesting advice from my office mate today.

I love my internship, I really do. I’ve written a few times about my concerns with French and getting started with clients, but language stress aside, this is an amazing job.

I was preparing myself emotionally to begin this morning, and I mentioned to my office mate that I do, occasionally, dread speaking French. He and I have a bit of a language rapport, in part because I help him with English translations, and he will occasionally interpret what I meant to say in French to our coworkers.

He sipped his coffee while I whined, and once I had finished he paused before suggesting, “If you think what you’re saying is too complicated, say simpler things.”

Ok… Fair… But I responded that I can’t just say simpler things, I’m thinking in long, complicated English and trying to translate it to French.

He considered that, nodded, and said, “Think simpler things.”

That suggestion stuck with me all day. Think simpler things. Return to simplicity for the sake of being understood.

How would that transform my communication?

“I am so thrilled that you found this exercise useful and that it will help you as you move forward with your career and personal development!” becomes, “I am very happy that this was useful for you, good luck!”

“I am so grateful for this opportunity to work at your incredible organisation, it is such a life-changing professional experience and I am learning so much every day about how to work in a French office setting.” becomes, “I adore this organisation, and I feel lucky to be an intern here. I am learning a lot.”

“I wanted to shout at the asshole who pushed past everyone on the train platform this morning, my god can you believe how some people behave in public?” becomes, “I saw a strange person on the train this morning.”

“The book of short stories that I’m reading is truly beautiful, if also heartbreaking. I’m glad that I chose it as the first thing to rent from the French public library system.” becomes, “I took out a book from the library this weekend. It is a collection of beautiful short stories.”

“I would love to bring my rice cooker to the potluck on Thursday but I may not be able to bring rice. If I don’t have any rice, I’ll text you and ask if you could pick some up from the store.” becomes, “Yes, I will bring the rice cooker, but I do not have any rice.”

It’s really not my style, and I still struggle to add nuance with complicated verb tenses, but maybe that’s where I am right now. Undercomplicated but understandable.

I’m going to practice a bit tonight with E, and ask him what he thinks. I don’t want to sound like an imbecile, but more than that, I want to be understood!







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