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Moving abroad? Learn the lingo!
by TournesolKate • Sun 30 Oct 2011 17:46

I was just wondering how many French people that decide to move to England would walk into a bank or an insurance company or some other such business and ask for somebody who spoke French? And what sort of reaction would they get if they did!
I'm not trying to pick on anybody, I was just reading through the forums and I found so many posts from people asking for an English speaking this or an English speaking that.
When I first moved here, I refused to speak to anybody until I felt I had learnt sufficient French to hold my own in a conversation, needless to say, my first few months here were pretty lonely.
I did have a massive advantage though, my other half is French speaking and he translated for me a lot. But I couldn't go on like that for long, it's so frustrating to not be understood or to not be able to voice your thoughts and opinions.
We moved here in Sep 09 and I took up French lessons the following January. After my first couple of lessons I actually drove home in tears after having not understood a thing and convincing myself that it was too hard and I would never learn! But I kept it up and I got better and I now have a job in a hotel in Aubusson and far more French friends than English. (In La Creuse anyway!)
I still occasionally mix up my verbs and get stuck with the conjugations, but the important thing is that people understand me and I understand them.
So, my point is that since coming here I have met so many people who claim that they "can't" learn French, there's always a reason, they're either too old or the language is too hard or they can't find lessons nearby and so on. But in my personal experience, if you really want to do something, you will do it and there is no such thing as "can't".

Any thoughts?

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TournesolKate
142
Oct 2008
Re: Moving abroad? Learn the lingo!
by Leighngrae • Sun 30 Oct 2011 18:31

I agree, i have been attending french lessons for the last seven years .I speak passable french and understand quite abit.However I do think that in making major money making decisions it would help some people-not as confident or assertive as yourself perhaps--to really be sure about what they are signing upto!

Leighngrae
90
Apr 2007
Re: Moving abroad? Learn the lingo!
by Annik • Sun 30 Oct 2011 18:41

I agree with both of you.

However, I always try to speak French to French people when dealing with them in shops, restaurants, tourist attractions etc., but sometimes have the surreal situation where I have been identified as someone English by the other person who is then determined to speak dodgy English to me while I resolutely speak dodgy French to them... It can make for very strange conversations, until one of us gives in!

Annik

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. (Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.)" Groucho Marx
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Annik
1246
Jun 2007
Re: Moving abroad? Learn the lingo!
by Leighngrae • Sun 30 Oct 2011 18:50

Ha ha ,yes i have had that happen.Always happens when I've done my homework and checked all the vocab I need.I have to say i have found the french in our beautiful Creuse to be really helpful and patient when
you have a go with the language. :)

Leighngrae
90
Apr 2007
Re: Moving abroad? Learn the lingo!
by fairport • Sun 30 Oct 2011 18:54

I agree with much of what you say regarding us 'Brits' and the French language. My wife and I, both with minimal knowledge of French, hope to move over to La Creuse permanently next Spring and we are determined like you, to gradually make ourselves be understood and us understand the local French speaking population. We are already looking for suitable courses, either in a class form or on an individual basis.

However, although we should not perhaps expect banks, electricity suppliers, etc., to have English speaking staff, in the early stages after re-locating it would be extremely difficult for us to arrange such services if such companies did not employ staff with a knowledge of English.

Therefore we currently welcome the opportunity to converse in English as it is making the transition from UK to France a lot easier. However we accept that although helpful and at times essential, this should be only short-term and it would be wrong to become solely dependent on the French helping us out by speaking English.

fairport
6
Jun 2009
Re: Moving abroad? Learn the lingo!
by TournesolKate • Sun 30 Oct 2011 20:56

I absolutely agree with all of the above.

I suppose my original pondering was how tolerant the French in general seem to be to those of us who have little or no knowledge of the language and whether the Brits would be as helpful if situations were reversed. Then I just trailed off on some other stream of thought!

Leighngrae, I wouldn't call myself particularly confident or assertive, BUT learning French gave me that extra ounce of confidence that I desperately needed to help me find my feet out here. Although on my first day at work I was so nervous, I was literally shaking and I'm sure I nearly gave myself a panic attack! I definitely wasn't feeling very confident that day.

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TournesolKate
142
Oct 2008
Re: Moving abroad? Learn the lingo!
by Leighngrae • Sun 30 Oct 2011 21:24

Yes I think the french are very tolerant and helpful generally.I am always amazed at english friends who comment that the french aren't friendly! Perhaps we live in a particulary friendly area. I think its brilliant that you are working and conversing in french regularly--if you weren't confident at the start you must be now---definately throwing yourself in at the deep end.I think the secret is to plunge in and have a go and laugh at your own mistakes.I shall definately be continuing with french classes when I live permanently in the Creuse.

Leighngrae
90
Apr 2007
Re: Moving abroad? Learn the lingo!
by virtdave • Sun 30 Oct 2011 22:54

The secret (well, for me) to learning a foreign language is to accept that one will surely make a fool of oneself for a while. And 'a while' can last many years. We've been spending half the year in Creuse for six years now, and for twenty years before that came over frequently. We found the best (tho very tedious) method was to listen to language tapes whenever we were driving--mine were based on a program for American diplomats, and included such very useful phrases as "There are too many people at window 13" and "He has been posted to London, and we cannot consider a project of such a scope in his absence".
Watching French TV (especially programs in French with French subtitles) can be helpful. And there are many wonderful French authors who are not translated much into English==I particularly enjoyed books by Marcel Aymé, some of which are children's stories, like Les Contes du Chat Perché....tho they're amusing at any age...

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virtdave
1112
Sep 2008
Re: Moving abroad? Learn the lingo!
by Jeanne • Mon 31 Oct 2011 07:22

I do agree with everything that has been said. I wasted some time initially going to some pretty bad French lessons which I regret. I found you learn so much more by joining in on things which perhaps you would not do in the UK, just to mix with French people and every one of them has been so genuinely friendly.

I have been embarrassed by many Brits who almost shout at cashiers in English expecting them to understand and even met a lady who had lived here 8 years at a group for integration and told us that we had to speak in English because she couldn't speak French. I have no idea why she bothered going.

I have found French far more difficult than I thought it would be but I am getting there.

Although I have sufficient French, I do think it is useful in a bank sometimes that the manager speaks a couple of words if you get stuck. And when you have mastered the telephone you know you are getting there :)

Jeanne
232
Jun 2010
Re: Moving abroad? Learn the lingo!
by Dave • Tue 01 Nov 2011 09:54

Without a doubt, learning French is the best preparation that you can make before moving to the Creuse, however it isn't always a disaster if you can't speak it and you certainly shouldn't delay your move until you are "fluent". There are some great ideas above to help you improve as you go along - and this is the fastest method to understanding.

My French is terrible and it's never been a major issue although I have often said completely the wrong thing or made some horrible social blunder, smiling happily though it all. I never resort to English unless prompted by the other person. My wife does know French well and chats with our neighbours a lot - which she still finds it difficult to comprehend fully at times (the creusois often only seem to have one vowel sound in full swing so context is everything to understanding).

There is nothing wrong with favouring English speaking services when you are still learning but it's a crutch that you should try to use less and less over time. There is no reason for anyone on Pont Noir to make fun of you for not speaking French all the time, after all there are French speaking forums for the Creuse and yet many people still prefer to seek help, advice and banter in English (and on the larger English speaking forums there are plenty who lambaste each other all day long for having or not having French language skills). It is certainly possible to live in France full time and not know or speak any French, but I imagine that it must be much more difficult and stressful.

Tip: on-line translators are your friend to help you understand a letter you received but your enemy when writing a coherent reply.

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Dave
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Aug 2004
Re: Moving abroad? Learn the lingo!
by Fred23 • Wed 02 Nov 2011 09:04

I think that the thing that I find particularly annoying are those people who continually ask for an english speaking chimney sweep/hairdresser/gardener etc. I can well understand that one would want decent communication with doctor/dentist/banker/lawyer etc but to not even have an attempt at speaking with the french where communications mistakes are relatively unimportant is pretty pathetic!

Fred23
3
Nov 2011
Re: Moving abroad? Learn the lingo!
by TournesolKate • Fri 04 Nov 2011 18:38

If you're clever enough to be able to learn French before you live in France, then well done! I think the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it completely in the country, talk to people, watch TV and read newspapers. I tried CD's DVD's and online courses before I moved here and they were all useless (for me). But then, I do have a very short attention span and it all reminded me too much of school homework.

I have to disagree with Fred though (sorry!) I think that complete understanding is extremely important in hairdressing! For women it is any way, maybe not so important for men.

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TournesolKate
142
Oct 2008
Re: Moving abroad? Learn the lingo!
by cmchsmjm • Mon 07 Nov 2011 08:50

I find that my French improves dramatically after the 2nd or 3rd glass of Ricard!

Throwing yourself in the at deep end and being out of your comfort zone is a great way to advance your knowledge of French.

Our neighbours continue to be friendly and patient with our efforts to learn the language and will always bring out the dictionary if we get stuck!

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cmchsmjm
58
Jan 2010
Re: Moving abroad? Learn the lingo!
by alldown • Wed 09 Nov 2011 20:17

I have posted this on a previous thread some time ago but thought I would warn people again Beware of local meanings to what appear harmless words :oops:

I once told a neighbour that he was being a taquin after looking up tease in my very large french/english dictionary. He and his wife were in fits of laughter and his wife rolled down the neck of her sweater exposing some of her shoulder and fluttered her eyes as our neighbour told us that it usually means a lady who teases a man in a sexual way :censor:

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alldown
253
Sep 2005
Re: Moving abroad? Learn the lingo!
by virtdave • Thu 10 Nov 2011 13:14

Also, be aware that to repair a pipe is not best translated as refaire une pipe, as I learned when I used that phrase with a local plumber.

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virtdave
1112
Sep 2008
Re: Moving abroad? Learn the lingo!
by TournesolKate • Fri 11 Nov 2011 18:35

Hahaha! Alldown, that's hilarious!
I'm always getting teased at work (in the English sense of the word!) I usually resort to "tu te fou de ma gueule!" to make them stop, which basically means "you're taking the p*** out of me!"

Yes, you don't want to mix up English pipes with French tuyeaux!

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TournesolKate
142
Oct 2008
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