An Analysis Of French And Polish Communicative Styles – Doing Business Within A Borderless Europe

Relations between France and Poland are very tight. Our contacts intensified in the wake of the recent accession of Poland to the European Union. The new reality of the enlarged EU breathed a new spirit to the historic ties linking our two nations.

Pierre Ménat, Ambassador of France (Warsaw Voice, July, 2005)

With a growing borderless European Continent there are many issues to consider on this march to a unified super-state. Each country (approximately 52) traditionally has its own values, beliefs, customs, and identity as well as its own language and style of communication. A monumental challenge in creating a single-state will be to combine or merge all of these national traits into a harmonious, unified nation. This article aims to compare and contrast the respective communicative styles of both French and Polish highlighting areas of similarity and possible conflict and relating the issue to the wider European context.

The Languages

France and Poland are two European countries which both hold strong national characteristics and communicative styles. The French language represents passionate, expressive romance where as Polish represents the more abrasive Slavic language family, more specifically, Polish is a member of the sub-group of Lechitic languages. In addition to being the official language of France, French is also the official language of Haiti, Luxembourg, and more than fifteen countries in Africa. The French language is one of the official languages in Canada, Belgium, and Switzerland, plus it is considered an unofficial second language in many countries such as Morocco, 메이저사이트 Algeria, and Tunisia. Polish on the other hand, is the official language of Poland and has approximately 50 million speakers worldwide. It is also used as a second language in some parts of Russia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

Stereotypes and Common Misconceptions

One of the most common stereotypes regarding the French character is that they are rude and aggressive when communicating with both each other and foreigners. A Telegraph newspaper article in 2005, entitled ‘Europe unites in hatred of French’ identified a number of beliefs and attitudes which other European nations held with regard to the French. According to this respected broadsheet newspaper, the British described them as chauvinists, stubborn, nannied and humorless. The Germans stated that the French were pretentious, offhand and frivolous. The Spanish saw them as cold, distant, vain and impolite. In Italy they come across as agitated, talkative and shallow, snobbish, arrogant, flesh loving, righteous and self-obsessed and the Greeks found them not very with it, egocentric bons vivants. Although the Polish are generally less revered, a recent international recruitment paper prepared in the U.K entitled ‘Understanding your Polish employees’ highlighted the core values and attitudes of the Polish people. These included national pride, religion, family, obstinacy, courage, idealism, stoicism as well as generosity and hospitality. Although widespread consensual opinion regarding the Polish character is not as strong as that of the French, the Polish are famed for their temperament (polski temperament) and tend to be straightforward, direct talking and inflexible with regard to attitude and opinion change.

Communicative Styles

A great deal of analysis looking into communicative style has occurred within the workplace. Typically, this workplace features L2 communication in an L1 context. This ideology was incorporated in the work of Beal, 1990 who found that Australian English speakers held the notion that the French were rude or arrogant after observing their workplace communication styles within Australia. Prior to this research which observed French workplace behaviours found that ‘a vigorous assertion of everyone’s viewpoint, the use of a certain verbal violence to lend those views more weight, and the clash of convictions and interest are part of normal functioning’. (d’Iribarne, 1989:29 cited in Peeters, B, 2000:198). Beal, 1993 stressed that among the French, consensus is not highly valued nor striven for in a conversation, the rationale being that consensus would indicate that a person’s objections were being suppressed and kept to themselves. A complete openness of opinion and attitude is desired by the French when communicating, whilst this creates an intense theatre of conflict, it also provides the basis for a positive exchange of frank ideas which is seen as an essentially element within French society. Like the French the Polish communicative style also values emotionality and disagreement. (Wierzbicka, 1991 cited in Goddard, C., & Wierzbicka, A. 1997:243) stated that Polish culture places a high value on the uninhibited expression of both positive and negative feelings. Opinions are usually expressed forcefully and the distinction between personal opinion and fact is perceived to be minimal or often non-existent. This need for frank expression even at the expense of being hurtful to someone is a core value within Polish communication. It is further illustrated through the use of the cultural scripts approach as proposed by Wierzbicka, 1991.

This notion is also reflected, although not directly, through the standard form of language use amongst Polish people. The imperative form is usually used when making requests or giving advice within Polish communities. Unlike in English, Polish does not have any supposed relationship between conceptions of politeness and the use of the imperative. Polish does though use a large number of diminutives to occasionally soften imperatives and add a feeling of warmth and closeness to an interaction. These diminutives are usually used when talking to someone familiar or a child. French also reflects this practice to an extent, but on a much smaller scale through the use of the intimate language forms such as ‘ty’ and ‘tu’. Polish and French people are warm and hospitable to friends and close relations but remain wary and standoffish to total outsiders. Within both French and Polish there is an elaborate system of grammatical gender featuring a basic masculine and feminine form. Polish though, distinguishes a total of five separate gender patterns: personal masculine animate non-personal masculine, inanimate masculine, feminine, and neuter.

Within Paris the French extreme honesty and directness can be witnessed through the stylized ritual of bawling people out. This is seen as an integral part of a person’s identity as a Parisian and as a means of expressing respect and value to other people. The basic rule for this ritual is; the more offensive you are the more value you assign to the other person’s existence, this also cements the fact that the two people hold a shared membership and identity as fellow Parisians and are therefore entitled to perform such a ritual by right.


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