This is not about survival French but more general tips.
If you plan to practice French while you are traveling in France, this is a reminder about French people speaking English. France used to be a country with a big international supremacy over the past centuries. For several centuries, France ruled the world. The French language used to be the language spoken by the nobility in England and Russia for decades. Now it’s different times and France needs to compete with all the other countries. Until recently, French Academics didn’t think they have to teach a foreign language to French people. English is very important but also because everything is translated in French here (dubbed movies, almost no English signs even in Paris, one of the most visited cities in the world!) I already told you here (Why French Are Not Good At Languages And How You Can Use This To Improve Your French), that I was surprised on my first trip to Germany in the late 90s English programs were not dubbed. When I visited major cities in China, I saw English signs everywhere and announcements in English.
Adding to that, French people are generally not confident when speaking English (Paris is different. Paris is not France, I tell you more about that below), maybe for the reasons I explained earlier (no opportunity to learn). So French are quite shy about speaking English and are ashamed of their French accent when speaking English (without knowing that this French accent also can sound nice and romantic to some!).
Which place to go in France to practice French?
There is a famous quote saying “Paris is actually France. (Paris est à proprement dire toute la France)” by Heinrich Heine. It means Paris represent France and even more. When you visit Paris, it’s like you visit France. You don’t travel to a foreign country named France, you travel to Paris! Paris is actually very different that you might expect in other cities. France is small compared to other countries but the soul of each city is very different. France is also a “centralized” country (opposed to Federal). Which means everything important takes place in Paris. And that’s why we have a small dispute between Paris and La Province!
That being said, Paris is more international and touristic so you can expect to meet more English speakers than anywhere else. In touristic places French people, waiters etc. are used to speak English to foreigners and they will not give you a single chance to finish your sentence unless you have already a certain level. And even if you are fluent with a little accent, there is a good chance they switch quickly to English. That’s why La Province is the perfect place to meet your new guinea pigs to practice your French!
If you go outside crowded touristic places, non-English speakers will try to escape or avoid your request but because their English is not always good, they are more likely to wait and be patient with you. Even though they are not used to tourists and foreigners like Parisians are, you will have maybe more chance to find a Non-English speaker. Some good French immersion programs are located in distant areas where people don’t really know English. That’s definitely one of the best options. Even if you don’t attend the French immersion class, you will live in a real French environment and you’ll have a lot of opportunities to practice French. Adding to that, you can definitely find cheaper accommodations in less touristic places. Both sides win!
What to do to practice French in France?
Nowadays you have handy tools like Meetups and internations.org so there are always many activities you can do in French. I suggest something you also love, for example, wine tasting, cycling tours, cooking lessons, as long as you do it in French. Plus, when practicing in situation brain tends to remember better than if you learn at school or by a book. See the cone of learning: Doing helps to memorize better.
5 Must-know French Phrases
- Bonjour, s’il vous plaît, merci! You can’t use those ones too much 🙂
- Combien ça coûte? To ask the price.
- Où est….? To ask a direction.
- Je cherche… If you are looking for some
- Pouvez-vous m’aider s’il vous plait? If you need help.
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