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Parlez-Vous Francais?

Posted by Rebecca on 26 September 2008

One of the main reasons I applied to London Business School is because of its global ambitions, of which the language requirement plays a very important role. Everyone is required to speak at least a second language.This can be a very ambitious goal for Brits and North Americans, but I have many classmates who are picking up a 3 or 4th language “just for fun”. Why stop with just Portuguese, English and German? Why not learn Japanese, too?

Originally I had ambitions to learn a new language from scratch.  Sometime in April while I was working in Dubai I thought it would be cool to study Arabic.  In August, inspired by the Olympics, I got excited about learning Mandarin.  Then September rolled around and the reality of both the workload and all the great electives on offer set in: do I really want the most stressful part of my MBA experience to be the language requirement?  So I decided to be a lazy Canadian and brush up on my French instead. 

Je suis desolée, mon amour, mais je ne t’aime plus.  Je suis infatuée avec Jacques Cousteau.*

In order to meet the language requirement, you must pass a test for Level 2 in any language you choose. The definition of Level 2 is a bit ambiguous, but at a minimum you should be able to talk to native speakers without making a total fool out of yourself (note: this could prove challenging for me as I sometimes struggle with this in English).   

Excusez-moi, madame.   Vous avez un morceau de jambon entre vos dents.  Un moment – je vais vous aider.*

The school offers elective courses in most languages or you can choose to pay £1000 for each course.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend an elective credit on French, so my roommate Dan (another Canadian) suggested an alternative: take classes through Alliance Français and try to pass the requirement early.

L’habit ne fait pas le moine, mais les talons hauts font la femme.*

Enrolling in classes required writing a paragraph (topic: talk about a recent trip you took with a friend.  My friend and I went to la piscine, we ate une baguette, rode le Metro and we also watched Amelie), and have a brief conversation with an instructor. He talked for about 5 minutes, of which I understood very little, and then looked at me expectantly.  Only two words came to mind: 1) Something close to "zut alors".  2) D’accord.   With that I ended up in French classes on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

Pamplemousse. Pamplemousse. Pamplemousse.  Pamplemousse.* (seriously, one of my favorite things about learning French is having a legitimate reason to use the word “Pamplemousse”on a regular basis). 

Clearly I have some work to do.  My advice for any “monolingual” people applying for next year is to start studying now or take an intensive language course over the summer.  It will save you a lot of time and money once school starts.

*Apologies to all the French speakers for my appalling grasp of your language.  Hopefully I’ll improve!


What fun! I too enjoy 'pamplemousse' for the sheer delight of puckered lips. Thanks for the tips regarding language at LBS.

I can't wait 'til I'm at the point where learning a language "just for fun" isn't a daunting task. The day will come. :)

Thanks for the tips - especially the notion of brushing up on a language BEFORE LBS classes start in the fall.

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