Thursday, May 19, 2011

parlez vous francais

One of the most difficult challenges to overcome if you are going to live in Paris, is the language.  If you have ever been there, I'm sure you will probably agree that very few of the French speak English. Yes, people, it's amazing and it's true.  When you first arrive and hear all the French, you probably think, "how cute". You may even think it's a temporary situation and that any minute someone is going to jump out and yell, "gottcha" and then everyone will start speaking English.  But I say to you "don't hold your breath"  it's not gonna happen!

Some (not so bright) Americans have made accusations that; the French really do know how to speak English but they are pretending that they don't. That's hogwash!  Statistics show that about 10-20% of the French can understand written English and only about 1% can actually carry on a conversation.

Here's how I look at the French language situation, its similar to learning a foreign language here in the US. Most of the French have taken English in school (just like you and I took Spanish, or German or whatever our language of choice). Now fast forward 10 plus years down the road (for me it's been many more than 10 years).  Even if you took 3 to 4 years of a language, how much of it can you speak today? Could you carry on a conversation with someone speaking that language rapidly (especially since they will be using more complicated sentences than the simple "how are you?" and "what is your name?" that you practiced in school).

I read that French schools do not teach much pronunciation or tone to their students, therefore they are very unprepared and somewhat shy about using the little English they know, out in public.

I took French all through high school and got A's.  I can make out the written language fairly well but I had a very difficult time getting anyone in Paris to understand me when I spoke. More often than not, I had to resort to hand gestures. I was pleasantly surprised to find that some restaurants (once they figured out that we could not speak French) kindly swapped our French menu for an English one.  Merci beaucoup!

It's a different culture. Accept it! You will see me repeat this over and over again throughout this journey. It will be a lot easier on you if you are able to accept this fact early on. If you want to live happily in Paris, you will have to.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Make a Note~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I am going to start taking beginners French as soon as the next class opens up. I have to warn you though, the classes are a bit pricey. My class is on Saturdays from 10am -1pm and runs for 8 weeks. The cost is $395.  I think this particular school has about 4 or 5 levels. I can take one level every year and have plenty of time for practice before leaving (and if I average the cost out over one year, it comes out to around $33/mo). Not bad. 
You can check around your town or go online to find classes in your area. I also recommend the  Pimsleur French and Fluenz French to supplement your language training. Even a refresher course before you go will be helpful.  Don't waste time. Start today!


Sir Robyn said...

It comes over time. I've been here almost 2 months now and surprisingly (at least to me), my reading has improved far more rapidly than my speech.

Congrats on the new blog, by the way. :)

Urbandoggs said...

I'll be happy when I can actually understand something said to me by a real live French person. Somehow when they speak it seems like all the words run together LOL

Roberta said...

Okay I take my comment back about Rosetta Stone...the deluxe mega software package is under $ it really isn't as high as I thought. Maybe something to consider ;)


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rather be in paris