When he talks, he talks, he talks and I can’t get a word in edgewise…
It is sometimes a very embarrassing situation for learners to have worked hard beforehand to be able to participate in a conversation and to find themselves in an exchange where a native French speaker monopolizes the floor without leaving any room for the interlocutor who is making the effort to speak in French. It is even worse when our learners understand 90% of the information that is transmitted and there is no particular problem with vocabulary or contextualization.
This generates frustration and also doubt about one’s ability to intervene, to speak and to interact with native French speakers. Indeed, it is rare to have at one’s disposal a “talking stick” that allows one to regulate speaking and active listening times…
A vague sense of shame sometimes overwhelms the speaker who has not been able to engage in the conversation: “I didn’t meet his expectations… I should have spoken up more… Why did I stay silent… I wanted to speak…” A sense of failure can have a lasting impact on future conversations, yet it’s not very fair.
What must be kept in mind is that in an exchange, the responsibility for the quality of the information transmitted lies with both speakers. If one of the two is obviously very voluble, it is necessary to RELATIZE and not to take for oneself an incapacity to speak.
En prenant un peu de hauteur, ce qui est essentiel, c’est l’objectif de cette conversation :
What information did I need to hear and what information did I need to convey?
To find a place in this exchange, it is necessary to provoke breathing times thanks to a tool: the art of reformulation.
Here are some standard phrases that may be useful in such cases:
Peut-on faire une pause pour reformuler ce que nous nous sommes dit s’il vous plait? : Can we take a break to rephrase what we said to each other please?
Est-ce qu’on peut faire un bilan de notre conversation ? : Can we take stock of our conversation?
Est-ce que j’ai oublié quelque chose d’important? : Did I forget something important?
Si, j’ai bien compris, ce que nous nous sommes dit…: If I understood correctly, what we said to each other…
Si je vous comprends bien, vous avez essayé de me dire que… : If I understand you correctly, you tried to tell me that…
Vous me dites que… : You’re telling me that…
In conclusion, in his world-famous practical psychology book, How to Make Friends, Dale Carnegie gives 28 tips, and the 9th one is: “Encourage others to talk about themselves.
It says, “To get a discussion started, you can ask simple questions. Find common ground and focus on the topic you both seem to know so well! You may lose your tongue. But don’t panic, because this gives you a golden opportunity to focus on what matters: THEM! It’s always good to let others talk about themselves, both to get to know them better and for the simple fact that people like to talk about themselves.”
So, if our learners couldn’t place one in the discussion and it turned into a monologue, they may have made one more friend, a French one at that! With the hope of fruitful exchanges… for the next discussion, of course!