Rachel in Paris

Rachel, a senior President’s Scholar majoring in political science and foreign languages in Dedman College, with a minor in English, is spending spring break 2010 doing research in Paris. She plans to study French slang by conducting interviews with speakers of “Verlan,” a language game involving word inversion.

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Some answers, more questions

My final interviews were as instructive as my first ones, and I was even able to have impromptu conversations about Verlan with an adorable group of five 13-year-old boys who go to a bilingual school and two girls from Congo and Algeria.

I also had time to go to a couple of Parisian parties the night before my flight left. It was great to see Paris at night, and to speak French in a casual setting. It was funny, though, because nobody believed that I was actually studying Verlan. For them, it’s just a funny word game that they play – and sometimes they aren’t even conscious of the fact that they are using it.

There may also have been some confusion due to the fact that saying “Je suis ici pour etudier le Verlan” can be translated as either “I’m here to study about Verlan” or “I’m here to learn to speak Verlan.” I think people thought I was in Paris to learn to speak like a French gangster.

Now that I’m back in Dallas, the most interesting (although less adventurous) part of my project begins. I am eager to begin listening to my recordings, interpreting the data, and organizing my findings into meaningful categorizations. As I reflect, however, I’m realizing that, while my research has answered a few of my questions, it has opened the door to many more. I could easily spend a lifetime studying the slang language of Parisian kids.

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