French Level 1|
Question #1: "Does it really matter which word I use?"
Answer: YES! French people are very hung up on etiquette. If you use the wrong words to the wrong people, you could end up being EXTREMELY embarrassed (this goes for a lot more than just greetings as you will see as we continue throughout this course)!
Question #2: "How do you know which word is the best one to use?"
Answer: Let's find out! Take a look at these parts of the Preview dialog:
Notice that when Victoire and Lucas greet each other they use say, "Salut!". However, when Victoire and Lucas greet Madame Bordeaux they use, "Bonjour". Why, you ask? The English equivalent for the French word, "Salut" is "Hi". The English equivalent for the French word, "Bonjour" is "Hello". Both "Salut" and "Hi" are what are known as familiar terms, or words that you should use only in talking to people your own age, family members, animals, people who are younger than yourself*, etc.
*Mme. Bordeaux uses "Bonjour" with the students of her school even though they are younger than herself in order to keep a respectful personal distance between herself and them.
On the other hand, "Bonjour" and "Hello", are words that are considered to be formal terms, or words that you would use in addressing an adult, such as a teacher, or any other adult who is not a part of your family.
It is true that this concept of formal and informal terms is very foreign to our way of thinking. In the good old U.S. of A., it is considered "OK" to use either "Hello" or "Hi" to address anyone. However, as I said earlier, most French speaking people are very particular about who can and cannot address them using familiar terms. Throughout this course you will meet many such terms and you will be expected to learn and memorize them and their correct usage!
One more thing. French people are very physical and will usually touch each other when they meet. For example, when two women, or when a woman and a man meet, they will give each other what is known as "une bise" or "kisses on the cheek" (beginning with one cheek, then to the other cheek and finishing with a second kiss on the first cheek). However, when two men greet each other, they will usually shake hands (unless they are family or very close friends). This action may take place again when these people are leaving each other.
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