Greetings (Small Talk) in French

In French, the question "Did you have a good weekend?" is typically not considered ritualized, and therefore can result in a lengthy discussion about one's activities from the weekend.

Béal (1992, pp. 31-37) demonstrated the various "rules of thumb" that are often followed when carrying out this greeting behavior among French speakers.

  • Do not ask everyone in your vicinity.
    • Only ask someone "Did you have a good weekend?" if you are genuinely interested in hearing their answer, which tends to be detailed.
  • Provide or expect to hear a lengthy answer.

(A=Woman; B=Man)
A: Le week-end a été bon?
B: très bon, très bon, très bon…On a fait du train
A: du train?
B: du petit train à vapeur, qui se ballade dans les Dandenongs
A: [Ah, dans les Dandenongs, oui c'est sympa ça!
B: Une bonne partie de…le retour on s'est retrouvés entre deux wagons, sur le
     marchepied (petit rire).
A: tellement y avait de monde?
B: tellement y avait de monde.
A: Mais c'est fou! [le dimanche soir?
B:                          [(undecipherable)
A: parce que c'était dimanche soir?
B: mmm…

Translated excerpt from a naturalistic dialogue:
A: Was your weekend nice?
B: Very nice, very nice, very nice…We took a ride on a train.
A: A train?
B: That little steam train, the one that snakes [through the Dandenongs
A: [Ah, in the Dandenongs! Yes! It's a lot of fun, that!
B: For quite a bit of the…on the way back, we ended up in between two
        carriages, on the stepladder! (short laugh)
A: Because it was so crowded?
B: Because it was so crowded.
A: How crazy! [on Sunday afternoon?
B:                     [
(undecipherable)
A: Because it was Sunday afternoon?
B: Mmm…

  • Be honest, even if the emotions you express are negative.

A: T'as passé un bon weekend?
B: M'en parle pas! J'ai fait que des bêtises!

Translation
A: Did you have a good weekend?
B: Don't talk about it! I mucked up everything I tried to do!

  • Entertain the hearer.
    • Tell a good story, highlighting the memorable or humorous moments.
  • Show your familiarity with people and places that are important to your conversation partner.
    • Talking about family and friends helps to create more solidarity between conversation partners.
  • Show active involvement through conversational style.
    • Repeat, re-emphasize, or add-to a portion of what your conversation partner said.
    • Request confirmation or more details.

 

 

References

Béal, C. (1992). Did you have a good weekend? Or why is there no such thing as a simple question in cross-cultural encounters? Australian Review of Applied Linguistics, 15, 23-52.

 

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