Learn Australian English in this interview episode of the Aussie English Podcast where I chat to my mate Cara Leopold from Leo-Listening about French vs Australian culture, moving to France, and learning French.
AE 441 – Interview:
French vs Australian Culture with Cara Leopold
What’s going on, guys? Today I have a really cool little interview for you and it is with Cara Leopold from Leo-Listening.com. So, this is a really cool interview. This is part 1 where we’re going to be talking about how she ended up moving to France, how she learnt French, and how she adapted to the French culture.
So, it’s a really cool interview, guys. She also has an interesting accent. So, see if you can pick where she’s from.
I hope you enjoy this one. And make sure you stay tuned for the second interview, which will be out shortly about how to stop using subtitles when you watch movies.
Stay tuned. It’s a ripper!
G’day guys! Welcome to this episode of Aussie English. I have a special guest for you today, on today’s interview episode, and you might notice that she has a slightly different accent from me. Cara from Leo-Listening.com. Thanks for coming on the podcast and chatting to us about getting subtitle free.
Hiya Pete, yeah, thanks for introducing me, and yes, we do have a slightly… a slightly different accent.
Can you tell me where yours is from? Can you tell me about…
Well, mine is a bit… Mine is a bit of a mess… because I… I as a kid I used to live in Scotland. So I lived in Scotland until I was 11 or 12, and you know, All my family are Scottish, you know. And then so when I was 11, almost 12, we moved to England. We moved to a city called Nottingham, in England. So, like, my accent started to change really rapidly because I was kind of dropped straight into secondary school, and everyone was like, you know, “You sound so Scottish!, I can’t understand you!”, I didn’t have like a really… You know… I didn’t have like a really broad Glaswegian accent like…
I hadn’t even lived… I was born in Glasgow, but I actually lived somewhere else in Scotland. So… Like, I actually… like me and my brother had different accents to my parents, because my mum is from Glasgow, my dad’s from another place, so like, we all had different accents. So even the people talking about the Scottish accent, it’s so… Like… It’s quite fine tuning in the UK. Like, you kinda go 20 miles and it changes, which sounds crazy!
I always wanted to know how does that… how does that… I guess, continue into modern day life when the world is so connected, and you would think in England, that being such a small island or group islands in the Britain, that you guys would mix around a whole heap! But is it just that everyone is spending their developmental years, as kids, in a very small region, getting their accent kind of cemented, and then when they leave they still hold on to it?
Yeah, it’s a good point, because obviously, like… We’re massively influenced by, like… I mean I’ve always liked watching TV. Like, as a kid I would get up really early on the weekend and, like… Watch programs, and you know… A lot of them are obviously American or even Australian. So you’d think our accents would be influenced as well by like, media. But I don’t know, I think ultimately we’re more influenced by kind of the day to day, like… Context. So when you’re growing up it’s other kids: You don’t want to sound, like… Too different
Yeah, you don’t want to be the outsider, right?
Exactly! Yeah, and I mean obviously that was the case when I moved to England, and I think I quickly adjusted my accent because I didn’t want to, like, stand out… Too much, and I wanted people to understand me but I think they were exaggerating a little bit!
You get sick of repeating yourself, right? When people are like, “What!? What!? what did you say!?”, and you’re just like “ughhhh”, and that pushes you to kind of blend in.
Exactly, yeah. So my… My accent changed quite a bit. Like, some people… Some people still know that I’m… They know that I’m Scottish after speaking to me, even just for, like, a couple of minutes, like, they know. And I mean, I’ve had another Scottish person say to me, you know… Act like I basically know which village you’re from! Because he was from… He was from the same area! He was, like, from the next village. I mean, that sounds insane, but that’s how… Kind of, yeah, specific . Each… Each accent is. I mean, yeah… That sounds… That sounds crazy, because… In Australia, does it vary very much?
Not the same way. Ours is kind of… There are three… I just did a video on this… There are three sort of accents, or dialects. And it’s the cultivated which is more your upper class, received pronunciation, like the British, you know? you would speak with a very… Very clearly. You would pronounce all the words correctly. Or, at least properly, like according to the dictionary, and you would… You would be very well educated. Have… Tend to be from a rich family. Then there’s the general, which is kind of just everywhere. And then the broad. And the broad tends to be associated with people of… Either from, like, rural areas, where they’re away from the city, or it kind of blends in with the lower class a little bit. So especially with guys. Guys who hang out together a lot. Only Aussie guys. Together they tend to develop a bit of a broader… broader accent than uhm… And especially the further away you get from the cities. But that’s what England fascinates me: Because you guys don’t seem to have the same pattern. And we came from England, right? So we originally came from… At least the majority of us, when we colonized Australia, we’re all from small parts, I think, of England. Some of us kept the Cockney accent. I think that’s part of why we ended up with Rhyming slang. Yeah. But it’ s always funny! I just… It blows my mind how much difference there is in England, and how you guys still have trouble with each other. Because you would imagine, if you… You know, the average Australian hearing cultivated, broad or general will pretty much understand everyone. But then you hear people like, such as yourself, who say kids had trouble understanding you in school. And you’re kind of like, “Don’t you guys watch TV and see Scottish people on TV?”
Yeah… Yeah I don’t… I don’t think it’s 100 percent… I think everyone’s exaggerating a little bit. Like, it doesn’t take that much effort to tune in to someone else’s accent. Especially because, in general, like… It’s only… Like, not everything changes. Not every sound changes, you know? In Scottish… In Scottish-English, like, we pronounce our R’s at the end of the words, which you don’t do in other accents of English. Some of the vowels are different, like… But it’s not massively different. And especially when your accent is quite… isn’t very strong. But yeah it is weird… It is weird you know… And now, obviously, it’s more acceptable, like on TV and in the media, to hear all the different regional accents and some of them are considered quite cool. So yeah. In theory we should be a bit better at understanding each other, but…
It’s funny too. I find that, as an Australian, because we’ve watched so much media that’s not just Australian, as well as movies and TV series, we get so used to these accents. And so we tend to be able to pick where you’re from too in these different countries. Like, I’m not the best at it, but I can tell north versus south and, you know… Like, even in watching Game of Thrones, right? Where they separate them out based on the Scottish accents of the north. And, like, everyone else is down… It’s just crazy… But it’s funny when… Do you guys have trouble with Australians if we go to the UK? Or… Because you guys have watched a lot of Home and Away and Neighbours, you guys know the Aussie accent pretty well?
Yeah! I would be inclined to say that most people, like, even if they don’t watch those soap operas now, like Home and Away and all that… They watched them… Or at uni, instead of going to class they watched Neighbours or Home and Away. So yeah, I think it… I would imagine that it’s less… It’s less difficult. And also, like… Yeah it’s funny… Like, I live in France now and that’s probably also an important part of the accent-piece. And so last night on French TV, on one of the channels Crocodile Dundee was on.
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Yeah! Oh you wouldn’t believe some of the stuff they put on French TV.
Was that dubbed though, or was that subtitles?
A good question! I… They probably offered… Because now, with like… Digital TV sometimes with the film we can put it into the original version.
I can’t imagine watching Crocodile Dundee with dubs! Oh my god, that would be atrocious!
It’s really common to dub films. And sometimes, on some channels… because the audience, you know… For that particular channel or film isn’t going to be English speaking, they just leave it in French. You can’t even put it in English if you wanted to!
So, like, last night we came across Kung Fu Panda. It was on some kid’s channel, and it was only in French! You couldn’t switch it into English.
Oh, wow… But that’s the part that I loved though, as well as I hated, when I was learning French really thoroughly a few years ago. I just love the fact that you could download Game of Thrones with dubs, with subtitles… All in French, and so… You know, you already had watched it in English, you knew the story, but now you could watch it with French voices. Even though was a bit strange, it was a lot more helpful for listening comprehension – not just having subtitles.
Yeah, Subtitles, yeah… that’s it, that’s…. It’s the advantage of France, because they are… They do do a lot of dubbing. You’re going to be able to find material. and sometimes it’s really well dubbed! Like… Like they really get it right, in terms of the tone and the register. So like… So the example I always go to is South Park! It’s a very rude cartoon! the French dubbing of that is amazing… it’s on point. It’s so funny… The kids are, obviously… They are really rude. They swear a lot. They insult each other. And, like… All of that is kept in there, but with… Like, appropriate French expressions for…
The equivalent, because that’s the hardest thing to convey, right? With TV shows like that, where there’s so much more depth to it, pop-culture wise, than just literally translating what they’re saying, you know? That… I am always mind blown when I have friends that have come over from Brazil or France or Spain or wherever it is in the world. They’ve learnt English, and then they get TV shows like South Park or Rick and Morty or even the Simpsons, because so much of it is like… Western pop-culture and references to these… You know, famous people and situations…
Exactly! But yeah, know some… that says what’s good in French and there’s lots of dubbed films that are that are really, you know, well done. So you don’t miss out. But you obviously do miss out on hearing it in English, but at least the dubbing is kind of… It’s, like, loyal to the spirit of the film. I didn’t stick around watching Crocodile Dundee long enough to actually see if it was an English or the dubbed version because it would be… I don’t know what they do to do Crocodile Dundee. Like, how did they make him speak? What accent did they give him? Like…
What’s a broad French accent? The Racaille or…?
Yeah! Sometimes what they do… Yeah they could make him speak like… Yeah, no, I don’t think that would work…What they… What they could do is make him speak like someone really rural I guess. Or sort of country folk. I don’t know where I was going with my was my train of thought… Oh yeah! It’s like sometimes… Like you know in South Park there’s a character who’s British: Pip.
Yeah, of course.
So what they do in the French version is that he is dubbed with a strong English accent in French.
Because, yeah, it’s like how do you convey that message too, of like, Pip has an English accent on an American TV show with American kids, which makes him sound incredibly pretentious and posh. How do you translate that into other languages and cultures? Because you can’t really just give him an English accent because people won’t get it. The French still leave him as English, but speaking French with a strong English accent.
Exactly! Yeah. Oh I’m so annoyed now! I should have watched a few minutes of Crocodile Dundee, just to figure out… Because they couldn’t do it like basically a French voice with a strong kind of Australian sounding, or at least anglophone sounding accent.
Je suis Crocodile Dundee, Comment allez-vous?! Yeah, that’d be amazing!
Ça, c’est un couteau!
Yeah! I was about to say that. “C’est pas un couteau!”. That’s not a knife!
Ça, c’est un couteau! Yeah, I don’t… I don’t… Yeah, I’m going to… I’m going have to YouTube that in a second and find the dubbed version just to double check how they… How they do it.
So how did you end up in France, though? What’s the story there? And how’ve you found the language learning experience over in France?
Yeah! So, like, I studied French at university.
Yeah, so I studied linguistics and I studied French, and… Yeah I just… I wanted to, and I had spent some time in France, like, during the summers, between years at uni, and I just was like “Yeah! I wanna… I want to go and live in France, after.” So, like, a lot of people do the year abroad where they go and study in a French university or something like this. I didn’t actually do that, for various reasons. And then my university had like a link with the university in the city where I live now, which is called Besançon. So, there was an opportunity for me to come over after my studies and teach English. So I was like “Yeah! I want to do that because I’m interested in teaching English as a foreign language. I want to live in France and… You know, there’s the possibility of us…
Ticking all the boxes, huh?
It’s ticking all the boxes! And it was a really cool job because it’s, like, they pay you the minimum wage but you have like 12 hours of teaching a week.
So you’re getting paid as if you’re doing 35… Wait! Obviously…
The lower end… The lower end of 35 hours a week right, though? Like, pay-wise?
But yeah… But, like, it’s fine if you’re a young single person on the minimum wage in France. It’s like… The cost of living is okay. So… Yeah it was really cool. I did. I had a job for a couple of years teaching in a university, which is quite… It’s quite a steep learning curve when you go to work in a university in France because it’s very different to the way a university works in the U.K., and the way I imagine it works in Australia.
So how does it differ?
It’s quite chaotic! Because, like, as long as you’ve got the baccalauréat, you can go to university. This is changing at the moment and this is why some French universities are on strike, because they want to introduce selection before you get into uni. Essentially what happens in France is loads of people turn up… The first year is really the year of selection. So, like, a lot of people just drop out because they don’t really know why they were there in the first place. Especially , you know, I was working in the sort of humanities, languages and faculté. A lot of people just kind of turn up there because they’ve finished school, they don’t know what to do, they’ve heard that if you study a language or sociology the workload is a bit lighter: You don’t have as many classes, so they are like “Okay I’m just going to enroll here!” because it’s very cheap to enroll, or even free, and some people get bursaries. So it is really good in that sense, it’s really open. But that means that, like, it’s quite chaotic because… you know they have classes that are supposed to be kind of seminar style, but, like, one time in one of these classes I had like 47 students. Like, obviously they didn’t all turn up… It didn’t all turn up, like, fortunately. But I think for the test, though, they were probably… They were probably all there. Yeah that was probably the time I had counted 47. So that’s supposed to be like an English class where they’re supposed to be doing oral expression. And even if the maximum is supposed to be more like 30, that’s still, like, way too many people.
Well you just don’t have enough time, right? To get them all to talk and to be involved more deeply.
Yeah, there’s a lot of crowd control because French people, they really like talking. Like, it’s not uncommon for people to talk all the way through even a lecture! Like… And I had colleagues from other countries who were so shocked! Like, I had a Brazilian colleague…
That ‘d be a big no-no in Australia. You would get thrown out.
Oh yeah! Like, it’s so rude. And yeah, so the Brazilian colleague was like, you know, “I was doing a lecture and people are just, you know, they don’t shut up, like… ,” So yeah it’s definitely different. You’re sort of less well looked after if you’re a student in France. You’re kind of left to your own devices to kind of muddle… Muddle through, you know, and then figure it out. So yeah, not everybody ends up finishing university. Like, a lot of people leave or do something else.
So was there a lot of culture shock though too, when you went over there? Like, the different food, the different, I guess, etiquette with people, right? There’s a bit of a difference there, too and…
Yeah, like, there were some there’s some stuff I knew from spending a bit of time, like… Like, I’d been to a summer school at a French university and I’d done some homestays with French families a little bit. So I kind of knew what to expect. So that helped a bit. But, yeah, I hadn’t actually spent that much time in France, like, in… When I was younger. Like, it wasn’t really a holiday destination for us, like, you know a lot of British people like to go to Spain.
I probably went there on holiday, or even just on holiday in Scotland, or whatever, so… But yeah, so like me the most important things I knew, but some things were still really, like, hard for me, when I arrived, like… Like, you know, it’s really important to… When you going to shop in France you have to say “Bonjour,” whereas in the English speaking world you can kind of… You can kind of just sneak in.
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So you don’t always have to say, unless it’s a really small kind of independent shop, then you might say something to the person who is working there. But, yeah, in France it is really important to announce your arrival by saying bonjour, or they’re suppossed to say bonjour to you.
So, like, directly to them, or just like as in “Bonjour!”? Like, is it you walk in and you’re like “I’m here!”
Sometimes I’ll go into the bakery. If there’s a bit of a queue, I might be like “Bonjour”. It’s just like a general bonjour to everyone. Some people are a bit like… Like a sort of… Yeah, some people will come in and be like, “Bonjour mesieurdames!”, you know, they’re kind of addressing everybody in the shop, you know. I don’t I’d walk in there like I just kinda mumble a “Hello”.
It’s so funny, the differences I notice too, because like I’m learning Brazilian Portuguese at the moment, and they are so relaxed, and they have these same sort of expressions. Like, they’ll say things like “Oi gente”, which is like “Hi people,” or “Oi galera!”. “Oi galera”, which is like when you’re addressing a lot of people at once. On Facebook they’ll always write, “Oi galera!” in the groups, and it means like “Hi, gallery,” you know, like a gallery of people.
I love how that changes but that is it, “Mesieursdames”? like… It’s like “Mr., Mrs., hello,”
“Monsieurdame! Bonsoir, monsieurdame! Monsieurdame”. Yeah… That’s something you have to just be careful with. And then, yeah, because, like, some things are a bit more formal in day to day life, so the whole thing of going into the shop and saying “Bonjour!” And the thing that always cracks me up, right, I noticed… I caught onto the fact that if you don’t know someone, even if they’re more or less your age…
You’ve got to do the “vous” thing, right?
Yeah, well… Not that, but it’s, like, the first time you meet someone you would say “Bonjour.” So even if it’s a younger person around your same age, because I was like “Oh, surely I can just say ‘salut’,” which is like “Hi!”. But no! If you’ve never met you say “Bonjour.”
I never knew that.
I’ve noticed that, and I’m like, “This is stupid because otherwise, if you’re young and you meet another young person for the first time you can’t just “Tu”. You know, if you’re both 25 you just say “Tu”. I mean I’m 32 now, so I’m probably leaving that kind of zone of being able to just say “Tu” to whoever I want. Yeah, and if people perceive you as younger… Like, I had to go and see a sort of specialist doctor yesterday, and it got a bit weird because, you know, he’s calling me “Vous” initially, and then he was sort of using “Tu”, because it’s like “Oh, well she’s young.” I don’t know what… I was just like “You know, you’ve got to decide mate because…”
I guess, for the context of listeners, the French have “vous,” which is like polite, plural “you”, and “tu,” which is like singular… I guess not impolite, but is kind of informal, right? It’s what you would use with friends.
It’s how you get closer to someone, you know. So that concept is difficult for French people learning English. It’s like “Well how do I show I’m the same level as someone?”, and it’s like “Well you can’t do it with a pronoun. You do it with other things.”
And the funny thing is that I’m always telling my students that in Australia you will… It’s like we automatically call everyone “tu” because it shows that we’re all friends, and that we’re all mates. So if I met the Prime Minister of Australia tomorrow, you know, like that dude at the top of Australia, he would probably say to me “G’day mate,” you know, which he would treat me like I was his best friend and that’s just like a weird Australian thing, where I think it’s partly where the anti-British establishment from when we were a colony, you know, the last few hundred years, and as a result of rebelling against the classes we treat everyone like they’re our mates, and so it’s just so weird. Like, I don’t know how I would act in front of the queen, you know. Like, I mean I probably wouldn’t say “G’day mate,” but it would feel like…
“How’s it going?”.
“You alright, how’s Philip?”.
Yeah exactly! That’s it, I know. But that’s the funny thing: That in Australia the good thing is that you can get away with calling people “mate”, or even saying “dude”.
I noticed recently, going around to different stores I was filming some stuff for videos, and I was referring to people as just “Dude”… “Hey dude, how you going?” Like, you know and people… They just don’t even flinch, it’s just “Yeah, whatever.”
That’s interesting because French life is definitely more formal, like… Also the thing… For a couple of years I worked in a French company, and I was in… It was industrial, so there was a factory and then there were office bits. And it just… It’s comical to me, again, like just spending all day bumping into people in the corridor going “Bonjour,” or you like… You run into the HR manger, “Bonjour,” shake hands. You run into the boss of the factory, “Bonjour!”, shake hands, “Bonjour!”, shake hands. And it’s just like “Is this like a Monty Python sketch?” Like, you know sometimes it just feels really silly to me, some of this sort of, you know, formal rules. But yeah the craziest one for me is “Okay, you don’t know this person, but you’re about the same age, you know, but you can’t ‘salut’ the first time , you must say ‘bonjour,’ but after that you can say ‘salut’ to this person whenever you want.”
That’s an unspoken rule, is it too? Where you don’t even… It’s not even like “Oh yeah! Make sure you do this,” It’s just something everyone seems to do, is it?
I’m going to have to double check it with some French people and some Anglophones, but for me… I’ve definitely noticed that . Like, you know, I’ve said “Salut!” to someone I’m being introduced to and then they’ve said “Bonjour” back! And I’m like “well… that was awkward.” Like…
You could just be like “Quoi de neuf mon pot!?”, you know, “What’s up, matey?”.
I think I’ll try that! Then at the same time you have to kiss them on the cheek. So it’s like… Alright, so, I can’t just say hi to you but I kiss next to your face? How… This doesn’t make any sense! Like, I should be able to say “salut” when we’re getting, you know, very close physically but…
Do you get leeway though, too? because you’re obviously not French. Do people at least go “Okay. Alright, you know, she’s not trying to be rude or anything, she just doesn’t get that we do these things without… that are unspoken rules, you know?”
Yeah I think I probably get away with… Yeah, to a certain extent. And also it depends on the environment. So in the university environment people do tend to use “tu” with each other. Very easily between colleagues. Obviously it it’s the dean of the university you’d have to use “vous”. But that’s quite… Whereas some workplaces… I think it just depends on the workplace culture, like how formal it is or not.
It’s so interesting though, that even obviously we have these same problems, between two cultures… Two cultures that you would imagine would be incredibly close to one another, France and England, and yet you guys have relatively big differences that you kind of have to stumble your way through when you’re learning how to… how to navigate that culture.
Definitely, definitely. Yeah. You can’t really understand it fully, I think, until you’ve seen it, kind of, on the ground and you’ve tried things out and you have seen the reactions, when you’ve observed people. I think you have to a lot of, kind of, observation of what other people do and then you kind of go in and… You know, you can try it yourself but… Yeah, you have to be a little bit careful, but yeah, you always you can always play that kind of foreigner card.
Would you have any… Any advice for French people learning English and coming to England or even Australia, or even foreigners in general? And, sort of, dos and don’ts, or how to get past this sort of situation? Learn how to how to navigate these situations.
Yeah! I think, like… You know… Yeah, definitely look at what other people are doing and what’s kind of, yeah, acceptable or not. Because ye, some things that are weird from… if you’re coming from any culture where people kiss each other like in France. So when we say “Kiss”, actually what you do is you just touch the other person’s cheek with your cheek and then you make a kissing noise. You know, when you… When you meet someone that you know and you do the *kissing noises* on each cheek, right?
But don’t kiss them on the mouth! That might freak them out!
…Like people… In a lot of Anglican cultures people will hug and I know that’s a bit weird for French people, so…
Yeah, that’s something I’ve encountered quite a bit. Where people I’ll meet for the first time and I’ll just be like “Yea, give us a hug,” you know, “what’s up?” And they’ll be like “…What?” And you’re just like “but that’s just what we do! we’re just friendly,” you know. Like, we don’t shake hands, it’s a bit formal and the kissing, we don’t do, but we hug.
Yeah, yeah! That’s it. Because it’s kind of awkward for my… Like, my partners French, so he doesn’t really… He doesn’t even like doing the kissing, even though it’s, like, in his culture. Although there are some men that he kisses! Like . .. He’s quite into the concert scene here where we live, and he knows people who run record labels and organise concerts, so when he sees them they’re thing is to do the kisses on the cheeks, not the shaking of hands. It’s just… It’s just that in that context… That’s what they kind of do.
See, that’s a big point though, right? No matter what, you know, part of the world you’re going to you kind of have to not just learn in a book what the context is for what you should be doing, but get in there. And then you learn because it might be different for different groups, and friends, and family, and could be anything.
This is… Yeah, this is why it’s really . .. Even like the tu/vous thing, when you start learning about it in books it looks quite straightforward. You’re like “okay.” Do I know the person, or do I not know the person? And then when you’re actually in France they add on like a million extra rules! It’s really, really complicated! But anyway… But yeah, the hugging thing… Yeah, it’s maybe trial and error, or, I don’t know, if it makes you feel weird e d out you’re allowed to say it, you know, you’re saying that it’s…
You need to embrace the fact that you will get a free pass, you know, if you’re a foreigner. People aren’t going to… Their automatic assumption will never be “this guy’s being a jerk, he’s being rude intentionally.” Yeah. So as opposed to if I did. If I did it to another Australian, they would understand instantly that… Well they would have these assumptions about what I know, and what I shouldn’t do or should do. Whereas for you, people will give you a lot of leeway often, because they think you’re getting used to how everything works.
Alright, guys. So, that was it for today. I really hope you enjoyed that interview. Massive thanks to Cara from Leo-Listening.com.
Remember that we will be back, although, this guy won’t be back, but we will be back for the second part of this interview shortly so stay tuned and wait for that where you guys will learn how you can stop using subtitles, how you can get passed having to use subtitles when you watch TV shows or movies.
See you in the next one, guys. Bye!