7 Super Chill Lessons for Talking About Yourself in French Naturally
How many times a day do you talk about yourself?
Even if you’re not totally self-absorbed, I bet it’s a lot.
As a French learner, being able to talk about yourself en français is a very important skill!
It’s also important to make sure you’re flexible with this skill, that you can talk about yourself in different ways and in different scenarios.
Ideally, the language you use to describe yourself and the various facets of your appearance and personality should sound interesting and natural.
The more phrases you can use to talk about your opinions and who you are, the better!
Whether it’s French friends or more casual everyday acquaintances you seek, talking about yourself can help you build interesting and fulfilling relationships.
It’s also pretty important to listen to others while forming and maintaining relationships.
By increasing your understanding of the language you need to talk about yourself, you’ll increase your comprehension and will become better at understanding when others talk about themselves.
All this will help bring you closer to French speakers and may also give you greater insight into life and culture in France.
So let’s get talking!
Scenarios Where It’s Important to Talk About Yourself in French
Sometimes it can be difficult to see where the material you learn earlier on is going to fit into the fluency picture further down the line.
So to help you visualize your fluent self (and to motivate you to get practicing), here are some key scenarios in which your ability to talk about yourself could provide a very important and invigorating language experience.
Also included are some ideas for how these scenarios would help polish your fluency, so you can see how important talking about yourself is for your wider French skills.
Ah, a great incentive for learning to talk about yourself in a more casual way! Getting to know someone in a possible romantic scenario provides a perfect opportunity to summarize yourself more playfully and personally.
Consider how you might respond to compliments and continue a conversation, perhaps discussing how you used to look or how your style has changed. You might also end up discussing your feelings towards different things and how these relate to your overall beliefs.
Dating is an opportunity to pull together everything that you’ve practiced in other situations. You can talk about when you were younger, respond to and ask questions in a thoughtful manner, talk about your career and motivations, your life events and passions.
And of course, talking about yourself can go much further when it comes to relationships! Being able to talk about yourself is important for getting to know someone on a deeper level, and all your practice as a beginner will serve you well if you find yourself wanting to do this later on.
Even if you don’t end up dating a French speaker, you’ll still find the same language useful for expressing yourself with close friends who speak French.
Job interviews and workplace chat
Job interviews and the work environment are great places to use a more formal style of language to discuss your beliefs, values and career. Here, depth of thought and individuality are key and your language should reflect this.
No pressure, right?
For more advanced learners who have the opportunity to find themselves work situations in French-speaking environments, job interviews and talking to colleagues are also great opportunities to practice the conditional: If you’d been in charge, would you have done things differently? If you were in government, would your values and beliefs lead you to do things differently?
Even if you don’t see yourself being in this position when you’re fluent in French, you could still arrange a mock job interview with a friend or native and show off your fluency when you reach that stage!
Reminiscing about the past with friends
As well as being great fun, reminiscing about how you used to be is a great way to use the past tenses and practice using different tenses together.
In casual social situations, you’ll be able to talk about when you were little. For example, did you have les taches de rousseur (freckles) or un appareil dentaire (braces)? These situations are also a chance to say things about yourself that are no longer true, as you wouldn’t say them in any other scenario. Beyond that, talking about embarrassing things in French can help improve your confidence when speaking; if you can talk about those things, you can talk about anything!
Quand j’étais petit (when I was little) is an often-used phrase for talking about how you used to be.
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Opportunities to Practice Talking About Yourself in French
Talking about yourself can be a hard skill to practice, and if you’re a beginner you may not have had the chance to have an authentic conversation with a French speaker yet. There are, however, plenty of ways to talk about yourself with a French-learning friend or, if you’re lucky enough, in a French-speaking place. Here are some ideas for practicing talking about yourself no matter what your level of French.
Getting to know casual acquaintances
Getting to know new people is a great opportunity to talk about your hobbies, passions, family and life events. Whether it’s Parisians in a bar, the odd French speaker on the bus or your first Skype meeting with a language exchange partner, conversation can be great between people who don’t know each other that well. Talking about yourself is part of small talk, which can help you break the ice with French-speaking acquaintances.
Use these opportunities to practice asking questions as well as answering them; it would be rude not to!
Clothes shopping is perfect for talking about yourself and your appearance as well as your opinions, likes and dislikes. In a store, you may have to ask for something or be asked what you’re looking for. Among friends, you can discuss what styles you like and what suits your appearance and personality.
On social media
The French may engage in social media use a little less than some countries, but just like anywhere else, their attitudes towards it are mixed: Many see it as a waste of time and there are increasing language concerns about anglicisms (using English words), franglais (a blending of English + French) and shortenings of language. However, social media continues to gain popularity, especially among younger people.
Social media is regularly used for talking about yourself, on profiles and conversations as well as when commenting on pictures. It can be a really great place to explore modern and digital language in France while practicing talking about yourself and learning some new vocabulary while you’re at it.
Get on Facebook and start adding French people and pages. Start using Twitter to practice adding short sentences about yourself, your likes and opinions. Explore Skyrock to see other people talking about themselves.
As you become more comfortable talking about yourself in French, fill your profiles in with everything you love and caption photos with your own unique comments on your appearance. Talk about your passions and life events whenever you get the chance.
Talking About Yourself in French: 7 Quickfire Lessons for Making It All About You
1. Talking about your appearance in French
There are so many ways to talk about the way you look, the possibilities are almost endless!
Let’s start with eye color.
J’ai les yeux… (I have…eyes.)
Note that the colors below are plural due to adjective agreement (you have two eyes so the adjectives describing your eyes must be plural):
- verts (green)
- bruns (brown)
- bleus (blue)
- noisette (hazel)
Noisette, however, is an invariable adjective, meaning that it doesn’t have a plural version.
Now let’s move on to hair.
J’ai les cheveux… (I have…hair.)
- châtains (chestnut brown)
- blonds (blonde)
- bruns (brown)
- roux (red)
- longs (long)
- mi-longs (mid-length)
- courts (short)
And then, body type:
Je suis… (I am…)
- en surpoids (overweight)
- maigre (skinny)
- grand(e) (tall)
- taille moyenne (medium height)
- petit(e) (short)
You can also talk about body proportions and more specific features.
J’ai… (I have…)
- un grand nez (big nose)
- les épaules étroites (narrow shoulders)
- la taille fine (narrow waist)
Since it’s likely that you’ll be actually looking at the person you’re talking to (or that they’ll have seen you), you might talk about your less easily visible features:
- une tache de naissance (a birthmark)
- les taches de rousseur (freckles)
- un tatouage (a tattoo)
- un grain de beauté (a mole)
Here’s an example of how you could build on these phrases:
J’ai une tache de naissance sur mon bras. (I have a birthmark on my arm.)
You can use this phrase and switch out the feature and where it is to create phrases that suit you.
You could also talk about your features and whether you like them (keep reading for more opinion words):
J’aime beaucoup mon tatouage. (I really like my tattoo.)
Of course, if all this talking about yourself has begun to feel a bit awkward, you can always rompre la glace (break the ice) by making fun of yourself. Or, try your hand at a little verlan, especially if you don’t usually use it, and laugh about how you are totally chébran (“trendy” in verlan).
2. Talking about your hobbies and passions in French
First, let’s look at some different phrases for saying how much you like things. This way, you can distinguish between things you simply like to do and things you love:
- J’adore… (I love)
- J’aime bien… (I quite like…)
- J’aime beaucoup… (I like…a lot.)
- Je déteste… (I hate…)
Now what is it that you like doing? Maybe it’s one of these things:
- jouer d’un instrument (to play an instrument)
- lire les romans (to read novels)
- regarder les feuilletons (to watch soap operas)
- faire de l’équitation (to go horseback riding)
- faire de la gymnastique (to do gymnastics)
- dessiner (to draw)
- faire du vélo (to go cycling)
These phrases are very prettily packaged up: Take any from the first section and add an ending from the second section to give you a sentence.
J’aime beaucoup faire de la gymnastique. (I really like doing gymnastics.)
Many hobbies, especially sports and music, are cognates/loanwords, so they are quite easy to learn and remember. You can always use a dictionary to find the French words for the hobbies you enjoy so you can talk about them in the future.
3. Talking about your beliefs in French
It’s important to remember that France is a different political and religious terrain. However, this is no reason not to share your ideology and beliefs.
Je suis… (I am…)
This phrase will help you address your ideology.
Je soutiens le parti… (I support the…party.)
This may also be a useful phrase if it’s relevant for you to mention this in conversation.
- de gauche (left wing: radical, reforming or socialist)
- de droite (right wing: conservative or reactionary)
- centriste (center: a balance of both)
- musulman(e) (Muslim)
- chrétien(ne) (Christian)
- catholique (Catholic)
- protestant(e) (Protestant)
- juif/juive (Jewish)
- hindou (Hindu)
- bouddhiste (Buddhist)
- athée (atheist)
To help you express your views, here are some opinion phrases:
- Je respecte les… (I respect the…)
- Je crois que… (I believe that…)
- Selon moi… (As I see it…)
- Je soutiens que… (I maintain that…)
- Je suis du même avis. (I have the same opinion.)
Here’s an example of some sentences you could build from the above:
Je respecte les catholiques. Je crois que tous les gens sont égaux. (I respect Catholics. I believe that everyone is equal.)
These are very useful phrases for feeding into a conversation if you’re slightly more advanced at French.
Je suis du même avis que toi. (I have the same opinion as you.)
This is a great sentence for agreeing with someone.
Selon moi, les droits de l’homme sont très importants. (According to me, human rights are very important.)
Here are some key issues to express your opinion on:
- les droits de l’homme (human rights)
- l’immigration (immigration)
- le chômage (unemployment)
4. Talking about your career in French
You may want to let someone know what you do for a living, in which case Je suis… will be your best friend again.
Here are some common careers. See if you can spot yours.
- avocat(e) (lawyer)
- coiffeur/coiffeuse (hairdresser)
- comptable (accountant)
- écrivain(e) (writer)
- ingénieur(e) (engineer)
- vendeur/vendeuse (server/shopkeeper)
- professeur(e) (teacher/professor)
Interestingly, there is much debate in France about feminine versions of job titles. Some people are still reluctant to adopt these forms, saying that they are overly politically correct. In other French-speaking countries, feminine forms have been more widely adopted, so you’ll be more likely to see forms such as professeure and écrivaine in Quebec, for example, than you will in France.
5. Talking about your family in French
Family-related vocab is great to practice and become familiar with on social media.
Here are some family member terms for you to practice.
J’ai un/une… (I have a…)
- mère/maman (mother/mom or mum)
- père/papa (father/dad)
- sœur (sister)
- frère (brother)
- oncle (uncle)
- tante (aunt)
- cousin/cousine (cousin m/f)
- neveu (nephew)
- nièce (niece)
- fille (daughter)
- fils (son)
Some additional qualifiers: Grandparents have a grand attached to their name, e.g., grand-maman (grandma), and grandchildren a petit/petite. In-laws have a beau/belle prefix, e.g., belle-fille (daughter-in-law).
There are also many times where you might want to share your relationship status:
- marié/mariée (married)
- célibataire (single)
With family topics, it’s worth considering the depth of conversation you’ll be having with different people. You might talk about your life events and briefly about your family with acquaintances but won’t be talking about deepest feelings. Talking about your family in a very personal way is a key ingredient to a solid friendship or relationship, so as you advance you may want to consider and practice this.
Here’s some more advanced vocabulary you might find useful to talk about family feelings:
J’ai un bon rapport avec... (I get on/along well with…)
Nous avons une relation satisfaisante. (We have a good relationship.)
6. Talking about yourself in French when clothes shopping
Here’s some vocabulary you might find useful for talking about yourself when clothes shopping.
Je mets du… (I wear size…)
For sizes, you might find a conversion guide useful!
What kind of clothing do you like?
Je préfère… (I prefer)
- les vêtements moulants (tight-fitting/clingy clothes)
- les t-shirts larges (big or loose-fitting T-shirts)
- la couleur rouge (the color red)
- la marque Chanel (the Chanel brand)
- Je suis petit/petite. (I am small.)
- Je suis grand/grande. (I am tall.)
- Je suis de taille moyenne. (I am medium height.)
You could even pull this all together if you feel like a challenge:
Je suis petite, donc, je préfère les talons hauts. (I am small, so I prefer high heels.)
Je voudrais… (I would like)
This is a great phrase for saying what exactly you’re looking for, and it’s also polite.
If you’re not planning on shopping in a French-speaking part of the world any time soon, you can still go shopping with a French-learning friend and practice this vocabulary, as well as more general appearance vocabulary.
7. Answering questions people ask you about yourself in French
In the kind of conversational scenarios we discussed above (making small talk with new acquaintances, for example), you may want to be prepared for questions people ask you about yourself, so that you know how to respond. Here are some common questions and possible responses.
— Vous êtes d’où ? (Where are you from?)
— Je suis de… (I am from…)
— Comment tu t’appelles ? (What’s your name?)
— Je m’appelle… (My name is…)
— Quel âge as-tu ? (How old are you?)
— J’ai… ans. (I am…years old.)
— Quel est votre métier ? (What is your job?)
Note that this question is phrased in formal French.
— Je suis… (I am a…)
Note that you don’t use the indefinite article (un/une) with a profession.
— Est-ce que tu as une sœur ? (Do you have a sister?)
— Oui, j’ai une sœur qui s’appelle Ruth. (Yes, I have a sister called Ruth.)
— Quel est votre loisir préféré ? (What’s your favorite hobby?)
— J’aime beaucoup… (I really like…)
Not meeting any French speakers any time soon?
To practice these kinds of questions and answers, try making flashcards of lots of different questions with a partner, and take turns drawing a card and asking while the other person answers.
Now get with your inner French narcissist and practice talking about yourself!
And one more thing...
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