To Tu or Not to Tu

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How often does a learner get to interface with a community of teachers, especially on the tu versus vous dilemma? Students should take a moment to be a fly on the wall (or une petite souris) as teachers discuss how they prefer to address their adult apprenants.

I was touched by Pascal’s early preference for le vouvoiement:

Probablement parce que ce «vous» me mettait en confiance : avec le vouvoiement, je me donnais une légitimité et une autorité qui me permettait de gérer mon insécurité de prof débutant.”

And it surprised me to discover that Gabrielle will have a hard time agreeing to se tutoyer if we meet in the not so distant future.

“J’avoue toutefois avoir un peu de mal à tutoyer certains apprenants de plus de 70 ans, environ, même s’ils me le proposent, mais ça peut dépendre plus de leur personnalité que de leur âge…”

My position as a learner? Using vous forces me to slow down and think harder about conjugation when I’m in a hurry to natter away. And discerning the magic moment when it’s okay to switch from vous to tu is beyond my ken as a non-native speaker. If I’m feeling comfortable enough, my modus operandi is to tackle the question directly and flat out ask my teacher, new friend, or a woman waiting on line next to me at the market whether we can fast forward to tu. So far my fellow locuteurs have been too polite or shocked to rebuff me.

— Linda

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