Portrait : Thiago Penteado


"At the Alliance française I have found social bonds again"

Paris, the ‘City of love’. A very suiting nickname as far as Thiago Penteado is concerned. After all, love made him leave his native Brazil to follow his wife to France, and raise their child there. A country of adoption that never ceases to surprise him with its diversity, especially the linguistic one.

In April 2019, Thiago Penteado put his life, his routine and habits, and his six months of French lessons in a box for a radical change of life. ‘’Love is what brought me to France" he states, in a warm voice.

Until then, he had been living in Rio de Janeiro, where he had been working in marketing, and more specifically in the world of education. A few years earlier, he had met Charlotte, a French expatriate, and it was love at first sight. "Charlotte spoke perfect Portuguese, so the question of French didn't come up right away". 

But when they decided to start a family, the question of language suddenly entered their conversations. "It has always been important to us that our children knew both languages of their roots. The problem was, I didn’t speak French at all! So, I started taking classes at the Alliance française in Rio’’. 

Perfect timing, one could say: shortly after the birth of little Joaquim, Charlotte was offered a very interesting professional position. But in Paris.

A culture shock, in a good way

The little family then embarks on this new Parisian adventure. "Of course, integration is really facilitated with a French wife. It has inevitably helped me, even if France is an open country, where the values of fraternity and hospitality are generally widespread!’’.  

In the early stages, Thiago set about absorbing his new country. ‘’I had been to France on vacation in the past, but this time I experienced a culture shock. But a good one! Everywhere, wherever you go, you are confronted with the past, with the cultural richness. Every wall, every square tells you a story, each region has its own identity in this sense, and Paris concentrates all of this. There are people here from all over the world, and this city is perpetual invitation to wander, to merge into this urbanization made of streets and green spaces. It's fascinating’'.  

Rediscovering a social and professional life

But soon, Thiago Penteado's level of French became a hindrance to his integration, especially his professional one. "I had only been learning French for a few months when we came to Paris," he says, "and even then, in a world where all my interactions were in Portuguese, which left me little room for practice. Suddenly, I found myself in a position very new to me, for I had always been very independent. Since I didn't master the language, I was very dependent on Charlotte, who started her new job as soon as we arrived. I really needed to get back to my professional and social life. So, based on my experience in Rio, I contacted the Alliance française de Paris’’.

There, he begins an intensive apprenticeship. "The most difficult thing for me, beyond grammar of course, is the different levels of formalities in French. You don't talk to a friend like you do to your parents, or to people you don't know, you don't express yourself in the same way in oral and written French, which is always more formal. This is still a challenge for me!’’. 

Mais cette expérience à l’Alliance française de Paris s’avère également très riche sur d’autres plans. « J’y ai rencontré beaucoup de personnes qui se trouvaient dans la même situation que moi, quel que soit leur parcours, à recommencer une vie finalement. J’y ai retrouvé du lien social ».

Apprendre au rythme de son enfant

Un lien social qui le conduira à rebondir professionnellement, puisque Thiago Penteado a retrouvé un travail dans le marketing. Celui d’une cave à vins, pour être précis : difficile de faire plus français. « Oui, s’amuse-t-il, je crois que j’ai bien adopté l’art de vivre à la française ! ». Aujourd’hui, Thiago s’est affranchi des cours de l’Alliance française.

Même s’il continue d’apprendre, avec un tout nouveau professeur : son fils Joaquim. « C’est encore une nouvelle motivation, parce que, si je continue à parler en portugais à Joaquim, pour qu’il conserve ce lien avec son histoire brésilienne, lui commence à utiliser en français des mots que je ne connais pas. Il faut que je garde le niveau, je ne peux pas baisser la garde ! »