French people never speak English. Or do they?

You dream of spending your summer on the French Riviera.

You already know all the places you want to visit and you already booked your hotel.

But you heard that French people never speak English.

It scares you.  But is it even true?

Do French people speak English?

French people speak EnglishA lot of people claim that French people do not speak English and that finding someone speaking decent English in France is mission impossible. Well, like many stereotypes, that’s simply not true.

According to the Eurobarometer report 2012, 39% of the French population speaks English. That includes people living in the countryside. Which means that in a big city like Paris or Bordeaux where there are a lot of tourists, the percentage of people speaking English is likely to be much higher.

How come it’s so hard to find someone who speaks English in France then?

In my experience, finding someone who speaks good English in a city like Paris really isn’t that hard.

The problem is that people always assume that the reason people don’t answer in English is they don’t speak English. Which isn’t necessarily true. Many factors can push someone to speak French rather than English (although they know you probably don’t speak French that well).

  • Fear
  • Pride
  • Laziness

Imagine you meet a French tourist in your country.
He obviously doesn’t speak English that well and you happen to know some basic French.
You could probably speak French with him and help him.
But wouldn’t you be afraid to speak French? A language you don’t speak fluently. What if you make mistakes?
If you are like most people, you certainly would be.

Or maybe you would feel irritated if a French tourist came to you and spoke French. He is in your country after all. Shouldn’t he make an effort and speak your language? You would have the right to be irritated.

Yet many tourists visiting France come and speak English directly (French people also tend to do that abroad).

As a French man, I find it really irritating. You are a foreigner, you don’t speak French, I get it. That’s totally okay.

But learning some basic vocabulary before visiting a country doesn’t hurt.
In fact it shows people you care about their culture, and it can make your time abroad much more enjoyable.
You won’t simply be seen as a tourist among millions of tourists.
You will be seen as someone with a genuine interest in the country. And people will have a desire to help you, and make your time in their country extraordinary.

So please, next time you go abroad, at least take the time to learn a few words. It takes 5 minutes and can considerably change the way people interact with you. A simple bonjour instead of hello can go a long way.

How was your experience in France? Was it hard for you to find English speakers?

Photo credit : tang90246 / 123RF Stock Photo

122 thoughts on “French people never speak English. Or do they?”

  1. I think the French are very proud of their language, and they are not interested in making an effort to speak another language. For them, it is your problem not to speak French and they will not make any additional effort
    They will only speak another language, for example English, if they really need it, not you

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  2. Recently I had visited Paris from London and I was not sure if I could communicate with the French speakers. But, to my surprise I found everybody from the station staff to taxi driver to bartenders to hotel receptionists, speak English with ease and in many cafes, there is an English menu as well. Barring few locals, who did not speak in English, most of the Parisians I have come across did speak in English to my ease.
    I loved the French culture and architectures and looking forward to visit France again.

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    • I am German, and do speak French quite well, since I lived in Paris for 2 years as a kid. True: Last century when I visited Paris, you had to know French to communicate. Nobody would understand, let alone speak English. But in the last few years this has changed. I made the same experience as Anindia: Everybody immediately switched to English, even if I started to talk French. Actually I had to pretend to not speak nor understand English to be able to practice my French in Paris! This might be different in the country-side, but I had similar experiences in the East of France, where folks easily switch to German to talk to me, when I approached them speaking French.

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  3. I have spent many months in France, and the problem I encountered was les Françaises (it was almost always the women) who pretended not to understand me when I spoke French to them. For example, in a Resto U, I was offered a choice between fish and spaghetti. Clearly “le poisson” and “le spaghetti” sound nothing alike (and spaghetti is pronounced nearly the same in English as in French) but the server stubbornly pretended not to understand me when I said “le spaghetti, svp” and pointed right at it. “Comment?” Comment?” she kept saying until she grudgingly conceded, “vous voulez le spaghetti?” Another woman at the train station didn’t want to sell me a ticket to Reims until I pronounced it EXACTLY RIGHT (and this is a difficult word for English speakers.) We went through a whole exchange where she said “Reims” and I repeated “Rance” as best I could but she just wasn’t having it. I’d just like to hear her say “this is my mother’s thing” in English without a trace of an accent!

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    • Honestly, I highly doubt they did it on purpose. What sounded clear to you probably just wasn’t clear to them.

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      • Sorry you find that someone passing through your country for a couple of days doesn’t know french is irritating to you, but this is total idiocy. You are literally the only country that has a problem with this. Its assenine and my guess the reason is pure snobism, because you think everyone should know french. Then you go on and say ‘we get it you are foreign’, there is nothing to get, the fact that you make it sound like foreigners speak in english on purpose to be annoying to you, just confirms the fact that snobism could be the reason behind it. Beautiful country but very unfortunate behavior for the most part. I can confirm from personal exeperience.

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        • I just spent a couple of weeks in France and had nothing like the experience a couple of you are portraying, found everyone I met to be friendly, accommodating, and very helpful. I know very little French, but everyone seemed to be happy that I was just trying. Perhaps it’s something in your attitude that’s the problem rather that your words. Remember, most communication is non-verbal.

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  4. First, I live in France, but am not French nor a native Francophone.

    I have difficulties to understand why French people (in general) have such issues with this? I’ve traveled to many countries, and I’ve seen French travelers who rarely speak anything other than French or English (and once, Spanish in Spain). What I mean is that when French people go to Japan, they aren’t speaking Japanese to the locals. Maybe they will say “excuse me” in Japanese, but my experience is that they usually use English (or French in some places when able). If you are going to be so intense with the idea that people must respect your language when they visit your country (visit, not live), then be prepared to do the same when you visit non-Franco or non-Anglo countries.

    Another note: as a French resident, my experience is that (in general) French people who are fluent in other languages, especially English, find it irritating to speak those languages in public. Why? It is one thing to be embarrassed about your language skills because you aren’t very good. I get it; I was the same when learning French. But I am speaking of many French people who ARE fluent in English. They seem to detest having to use it rarely in France. Now that I speak French, I am excited to speak French, no matter where in the world I am! And wow…if I can help someone in French, it would really make me happy (and it gives me practice). So I find it a bit strange that people who actually took the time to learn another language would be so rejecting of that. Perhaps Parisians who are bombarded by tourists get a bit of a pass, but there is the rest of France, which has plenty of English speaking French people. Most of them are not speaking English all of the time; why not help someone in English and then go on about your day in French as normal?

    PS: let’s remember that not all English speaking people are native-Anglophones. Most of the English speakers I’ve met while living here are from elsewhere in Europe (not UK) or south America.

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  5. Why does this article describe french people as being
    LAZY….
    PROUD…. aaand also (SCARED??).
    I am not french but if somebody described me with words like Lazy, scared and proud. i would not be happy.

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  6. Bro, if i remember correctly it wasnt french nobility that spoke english for like 3 centuries(11th to 14th century). If i remember correctly it wasnt french aristocrats in the 1700s and 1800s that spoke english trying to be like them. The english fared better in wars but that didnt change the status quo of french cultural supremacy.

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  7. The US has no official language, and if you are in DC or NYC or LA or many other major cities (not tiny towns or fly over states), it’s not uncommon to hear a lot of different languages being spoken. If someone came up to me and was speaking french and needed help, I wouldn’t take offense, I’m sure we could find some common ground and find a way to communicate. The US is pretty terrible about second languages in education. Most children in European countries learn a second language pretty early in school, some even learn a third later in school. Most public schools in the US don’t teach a second language until 8th grade (13/14 years old) and even then only two years is required for credit in high school, no where near enough to be conversational. Spanish is the second most common language. 41 million of the 238 million people in the US speak Spanish, but so many of my friends don’t learn it, it’s so dumb. That being said, I definitely can see why people would take offense in France if you just walked up to them and started yapping at them in English. France is not the US. I’d definitely still plan on learning some helpful phrases when visiting.

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    • Yes, “the US is pretty terrible about…education” as a whole, that’s why being mistaken for one of them when you speak English means being mistaken for stupid, monolingual and uneducated. And as to why a French person would want THAT, I’ll never understand.

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  8. I am not a frenchman or an Englishman. I think i can give a neutral point of views of what you said. The English have always been opportunists in every wars. They switched their alliances many times and they have known many military fiasco too.
    The country is acting more like a 51st state of america in Europe today and no one cares about the differences between the US, Canada,Australia, etc…
    Despite all the moaners, France is still one of the most visited country of the world ( statistics never lie) Especially by tourists from english speaking countries.
    Why? This country has a soul that doesn’t exist anywhere else.
    Despite the fact that the US, Canada, Australia are large places with a lot of things to do. I was amazed by the huge number of english speaking tourist from all the world coming in Paris and many other places in France.
    Probably they look after a culture they don’t have.

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    • It is true that the English, like the US Americans, can be very arrogant and speak in terms of their own country above that of others. But please don’t group those from other regions of the U.K. along with them. They ARE NOT English and don’t have the same attitude issues. A point that is worth mentioning is that the idea that French people reasonably expect foreigners to speak French in their country is hypocritical and misplaced. Firstly, English is the accepted International language, hence the reason that it is the official language of ASEAN for example and the reason why in so many countries people will automatically speak to you in English. The French had colonies of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. When have you ever heard of French tourists to those countries who have learned the languages of those countries. NEVER! , yet they state that people visiting their country should speak to them in French. This is the height of hypocritical nonsense.

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    • Whenever I speak English anywhere, even though I’m Irish and French, I get immediately called an “American” and I’m sick of it. I threw a plate at the last of my fellow English people who started with “where in the States are you from” too bad I missed his racist head. When I lived in Canada the racist ol’ British did the same thing to me. One reason we French may resist speaking English is that if we do it we get called “Americans” and we may not want to go to prison for assault. How the hell is “born in France to an Irish father” an “American,” people??!!

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      • Because people are stupid and think that English = American. As an American, I get tired of that as well. It is a lazy way of thinking. Outside of the USA, most of the English speakers I know are not American!

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      • Well, assuming you are from the US by Americans is not actually depicting hatred of your actual country and race, is it? How dare you throw a plate at someone who simply assumed something? I am not from the US. Now, if I were in the US, speaking an English, people are not going to assume I am American. I have a British (sort of, accent) I am mixed, tall, tanned. I am not from the UK either, but I grew up adopting a slight change in my accent from exposure to the world. I often am asked if I am English, and of course the answer is no. Do I assume they are being racist? No. Do I fling plates at the person? No.
        If I were the mother of that person, you would be in strife with me, as I will not abide by anyone hurting my children.

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      • Not feeling love from you. I don’t like being mistreated because of where I’m from either. I’m not living the “American dream”, but I can’t help where I was born.

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    • “This country has a soul that doesn’t exist anywhere else.”

      That sounds like a crazed Francophile. No where else in the world has soul or culture? Are you kidding? Most countries have multiple cultures and beautiful sub-cultures. Sub-cultures that France uses, might I add (look at the history of Jazz in France. Jazz did not originate from France). These countries may not be like France, but France isn’t like these other countries either.

      I live in France and I think that France gets so many visitors because it has had some AWESOME Public Relations. It is beautiful (the French got lucky on that), but other than beauty and food dishes…why the arrogance? One can go on about the food, but most days, I am not eating high level cuisine, and neither are most French people.

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  9. They were proud of their Language, but until the point they are lazy to speak English, to me, is a bad thing. Eg: Their French movies doesn’t have English subtitle while more than 10 millions tourist come to Paris and their cinemas have like 50% free seats.
    And the truth is, if you are speaking a few words of French, and you speak English, they will not try to make effort to “connect” with you, instead, they will speak French with their friends. So they are tend to be and always be in their comfort zone in the label of “Being proud of my language”

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    • I’ve experienced the same, Jeremie. In fact, many will only speak a language other that French if they are forced. Whereas I find many other nationalities are proud of being able to speak another language, even if it is just a few phrases, and will use it whenever they can. This goes double for native Anglophones, who are marred with the stereotype of not being able to speak other languages, despite many British and Americans having non-English heritage. It seems that bi or multilingual British and Americans often jump at the chance to not speak English.

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  10. I went surfing with two French children. It was their first time and my second time. I tried to ask in French how far we were still going. At that moment we were already 100 meters away from the coast. I now tried english with the simple sentence: Can’t we stop? But still they did not understand me. I didn’t know what to do and before I could even think we were out the “bayenne” this is the place where the rocks break the gulf. and 1 sec later I got hit by afgulf of 3 meter high. I needed 5 try’s before I had my board back after staying underwater for 5 times for 20 sec. I guess you can understand that thiswas not only exhausting but frustrating as well. nobody on he coat coulkd help me! Nobody spoke english!

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  11. Yeah French people often won’t switch to English until you ask them to. I think it’s because we want to encourage people who try to speak French but this can also be confusing sometimes.

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    • I studied in Belgium in Wallonia for 3 years for my Master’s degree; Wallonia is the part of Belgium where people speak only FRENCH, and still, I find that when I start speaking French to either French or Canadian-French people they immediately switch into English with me. Belgians tell me that they do it to them too, they who were born and raised in Wallonia or Bruxelles. Then they tell me it’s because “they think you’re speaking English.” The Belgian “accent” is “you have a Dutch accent.” It’s bloody infuriating. I want to go nowhere but straight back to Liège.

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  12. When we arrived in France 15 years ago, a French friend that was beautifully fluent in English introduced us to her tight group of other French friends. We stumbled along with them for a long time, trying to make our way through the language. Despite the language barrier, we became very close with her group, with regular parties and picnics and so forth. About nine years in, the woman that introduced us all tragically passed away from cancer. At a picnic the following summer, a friend and I got a little deep into a conversation while talking about her, and I couldn’t find the right words to express what I wanted to say in French. “Eets okay,” he said, “you can say eet in English.” Nine years we’d known each other, at that point. Nine years of bungled French on my part. And this was the first I discovered that he spoke any English… !

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  13. Des Francais ne voulont pas etudier langue anglaise. Des Francais etudieront langue russe.
    French people don’t want to study English language. French people will study Russian language.
    Французы не хотят учить английский язык. Французы будут учить русский язык.
    🙂

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  14. J’ai une probleme opposite (?). I’m trying to learn french in France. I start speaking French and they revert to English. So – know any places where there is very little English? 🙂

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  15. I completely get what you’re getting at. It’s only polite to at least try to start the conversation in their native tongue. I think that way they would open up and maybe help you in English.

    Another thing I think, could be the way you approach said person. You could give off a “bad vibe”. So maybe try to approach in a respectful polite manner.

    Just my two cents. I don’t know.

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    • I totally agree Jacques. The issue is that what’s polite in the US for example won’t necessarily be polite in France. I see lots of Americans who enter shops in France without saying “bonjour” which is considered super rude.

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      • When we first arrived in France, I neglected to say goodbye while leaving a shop… frankly, because the person behind the counter was so busy with other customers that I didn’t want to distract him. But he stopped everything, for all the other customers, to call out to me and ask if I’d been raised in a barn. I turned back and apologized and said thank you and au revoir…

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  16. I know it’s not good for business to talk politics, but let’s face it, language is also perceived as a political marker.
    For some, English is seen as the language of neoliberalism and of all the “bullshit” jobs (cf. David Graeber), such as marketing, HR and other consultants who claim an ‘expertise’ in some useless bureaucratic domain.
    Let’s also note that for many French people, ‘English language’ means ‘American English’.
    Lastly, let’s not forget that English has replaced French (for quite a time already) as the dominant bureaucratic language of the EU.
    So while some French may feel irritated at people addressing them directly in English, the situation would probably be different if you tried to speak to them in another language, especially in Italian, or in Spanish (because of the relative proximity).
    Just my 2p 🙂

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    • I’m not convinced using another language than English when approaching French people would make such a difference. It would be interesting to try though.

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    • Hear, hear on the fact that “English” means “American” to most of the world. As a half-Irish, half-French person I’m getting tired of that everywhere I go!

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  17. but what if you take the time to learn how to say fx. “Where is the train station?” and you get an answer in french, you don’t understand??

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    • 1) You smile politely and follow the direction they show with their arm

      2) You ask them to repeat and hope they will speak slowly enough or switch to English

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  18. This is so dumb.

    “A lot of people claim that French people do not speak English and that
    finding someone speaking decent English in France is mission impossible.
    Well, like many stereotypes, that’s simply not true.”

    Actually, the claim is that French people do speak English, only they won’t because their arrogance won’t let them, which, by the way, is proven in this post. Nice way to debunk a stereotype.

    Here’s the thing. If you are visiting country, say, Sweden, you either speak Swedish or English. Why? Because everyone in the world speaks their native language AND English. If you speak Swedish, good for you. If not, the other person either makes an effort and tries to answer you in English, or politely (maybe in Swedish) tells you that they don’t speak English.

    I don’t think that anyone apart from the French would feel offended if a tourist talked to them in English (which may or may not be their native language).

    But don’t worry, we won’t make you learn Spanish to come to Buenos Aires. We’ll try to give you directions in English like anyone from any other country in the world. 🙂

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    • Look. I’m French and I can assure many French people can’t speak English. It’s not just a matter of wanting to speak.

      And I can tell you that I see many German people get pissed when someone talks to them in English. Same when I was in Korea or Russia. The point isn’t that everyone should speak French, the point is that when you visit a country, learning a few basic words is essential.

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      • In Russia maybe. But not in Germany, everyone speaks a little bit English and try to help in English.
        Maybe you was a bit arrogant in germany with your shit?

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        • Als ich in Deutschland neu war, wollte außer eine einzige Frau, keine mit mir Deutsch sprechen. Also Arroganz geht in aller Richtungen 😀

          When I was a newcomer in Germany, except for one solitary woman, nobody else wanted to speak in English with me. Looks like arrogance goes in all directions 😀

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          • …and when I addressed a lady behind a bar at Hauptbanhoff Berlin whether she spoke English, she looked rather surprised. „Of course” came from her mouth, and her eyes were saying „why are you asking such a stupid question?”

    • Is that a joke ? I’ve traveled several times to Spain and, except in Barcelona, NO ONE speaks English AT ALL !!!

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  19. French people know and they also study english language, more than americans french language. But they are big nationalists. They are very proud to their language, their country, their nation. So you will never, but literally never see them speaking in english on TV.

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    • The question is: why would French people speak English on TV? French TV targets a French audience, so speaking English doesn’t make much sense.

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      • They never do. Even on events like the Eurosong or anything where many nations speak on english, French speaks on its own language. They respect their language, not that they don’t know.
        As far as I think, the French language is officially second language in the world, after English.

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      • I had a job interview with a French guy in Moscow. When he found out that I had Russian AND American holidays in my Google calendar, he said he didn’t like me putting American holidays in my Google calendar

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  20. I’m french and the real problem is that school in France is not enougth to speak a good english (too much grammar). If you don’t work outside school such as watching movies in english or travel to an English speaking country, you may be not able to talk and understand the language.

    Why Nordic countries are the best in English?
    > Unlike France, TV shows, Cinema are not dubbed, so you start learning and listening english from birth but this is not possible in France…

    (I try my best, I hope one day I will be bilingual)

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    • I agree. The good thing is that watching lots of TV shows in English is pretty easy, even in France.

      I’m sure you’ll reach your goal, you seem motivated and that’s the most important :).

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  21. I think you forgot one of the main reasons why we (french people) don’t speak english. It is not mainly because of fear, pride or laziness but because our school system isn’t sufficient. At school, unlike other countries, we almost never speak. We mostly learn how to write english, but if we ever speak, we are ashamed of our terrible accent and afraid to make mistakes because teachers and students in France tend to make fun of one an other in, sometimes, a mean way.
    I find it pretty irritating to read an article about stereotypes that only provides readers with more stereotypes. How can you define a nation with those three words ? Fear, pride and laziness. It would have been relevant for you to look into the french school system and try to explain it to others.

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    • I know the French school system. I’m French and I only left high school a few years ago. There is nothing bad about being afraid to speak. Everyone is afraid to speak a foreign language at first.

      But blaming the school system is too easy. I’ve friends all over the world, I taught in Korean schools and saw how languages is taught in many countries. Almost all countries focus way too much on grammar and not enough on speaking. The reason Northern Europeans better speak English isn’t that they’ve a better school system, it’s because they watch a lot of movies in English and don’t simply rely on school to teach them a language. I don’t know anyone who became fluent after going to school.

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  22. I’m french and I’m happy to see that some english people make the effort to speak french ! I know, the french language is a very hard language ! Even for the french natives… All that grammar, that complicated vocabulary… I can understand that’s difficult to learn french but if you never give up, I’m sure you can become bilingual ! I’m young (I’m in middle school) but I love english and I can understand that when you are tourist in France, that you don’t speak french and that you meet no one able to help you cause people don’t speak english, you have to be irritated. But that’s the same thing for the French speakers. When we are in England, it’s hard for us to find someone speaking french. So we speak english. As my english teacher said, english language is the ” passport language ”. And that’s so true ! It’s for this reason that I try to speak english fluently and I’m hoping a day I’ll be perfectly bilingual ! I think having finished. Sorry if there are mistakes but I’m a french schoolgirl and I’m not bilingual. Bye !

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  23. Why do a lot of people think that french surrendered every wars? This is completly wrong, i saw all french battle and they won so many ! I don’t understand, can someone help me?

    Ps: according to some people, french surrendered very quickly during WWII, but they forget that only the gorvernement surrendered, not the french 😉 i remember a professor who used to “un-brainwash” us by explaining the french resistance during WWII, and i loved it!

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    • Oh you know what people think doesn’t really matter. And this surrendering thing is like most stereotypes, it doesn’t necessarily have lots of truth behind it.

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  24. Tourist help boost your countries economy so try being a little bit more compassionate and, a lot more grateful.

    Also I used to think like you about English but after reading your smug xenophobic article no longer will I it is very unrealistic and indicative of national exceptionalism to expect somebody that doesn’t plan on immigrating to your country and is only visiting for a very brief period I am talking maybe a day or two to spend time perfecting the language to the point where they can start communicating with you in your native tongue.

    English is a more widely spoken language than france anyway. Fine it irritates you that I don’t speak your language well it frustrates me that maybe just maybe I am having trouble picking up on your language and you chalk it up to an excuse it’s callous.

    There is a major difference between immigrating and tourism being a tourist should be carefree and exhilarating because hello you are sight seeing and vacationing. Get over yourself.

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    • Nobody expects you to speak French fluently. I am not saying you can’t speak English in France, you are free to speak whatever language you want after all. All I am saying is that you can’t blame French people for not speaking English the same way you can’t blame Americans for not speaking French.

      When I went to Poland a few months ago, I said hello, thank you and goodbye in Polish. I don’t plan to learn Polish, but learning some basic vocabulary is simply a matter of respect. It shows you care about the country, and will make people much more likely to speak English.

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      • @ Benjamin okay I get you. It is normal for it to be frustrating when there is an language barrier.

        Believe me I can relate I worked with immigrants but I was still a lot more tolerant than one of my other co workers because there were times where I’d use a language translation app speaking of that I will at least have that on my phone and use it when I can which I feel is like a decent compromise and, I’ll try to memorize a few words but I have memory issues atm or, travel to sections where more people use English or have no qualms about it than not because I always want to feel welcome and never aim to intrude. Have a good day.

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      • well i still blame people for not learning english, because through english we all can understand one another

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      • @Benjamin this is that I was never sure about. I am working for an internation company that provides IT support in several languages, also French is supported. Some time ago one of the French customers set the confition that only native speakers may be employed as they dont want people to take French calls who do not speak the language on a native level. They didn’ care how well someone spoke french, only native speakers were allowed.
        This reason I was/ I am still hesitating to start learning French, as why should I if it is not appreciated by the native people? I am hungarian, I speak english, german, studying russian, and considering also french, but this makes me a bit hesitant.

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        • I’ve found that there is discrimination against non-native speaking Francophones as well, and I’ve learned this while living in France. I’ve learned French, but I cannot understand why, if I can speak the language and my accent is not heavy, is this such a problem? I feel like Francophones are pushing away those who would help keep the language alive.

          As for the tourists: I’ve seen many who are not native-Anglophones. Most tourists will at least start with a “Bonjour” because that is easy, and this gets a polite response but only SOMETIMES. Other times, the Francophone is still annoyed that “Bonjour”, “Merci” and “S’il vous plaît” are the only words a tourist knows. They’re a tourist for crying out loud.

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      • @Benjamin, I’m Polish, and the entire notion of learning some words from my language as a sign of respect is utterly ridiculous to me. I don’t think literally anyone from Poland would make that connection.

        Polish is a language that foreigners notoriously struggle with, butchering its grammar and pronunciation. People who try to say at least a couple words in it to me sound just like funny tryhards trying to entertain me. I mean I appreciate the attempt to be “respectful” to me (maybe they have read too many French blogs), but I don’t feel like I need or want this. I prefer tourists to not talk Polish at all and simply talk to me in English straight away so we can communicate efficiently. Because you know, that’s what languages are for, and that’s why I’ve learned English in the first place.

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    • Ok, but if you speak English in France you will be treated like either an American or British, either of those things are “like the enemy.” Just sayin’. Take all that goes with that.

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  25. It is really sad! The French are in language preservation mode or either just too arrogant. I’m inclined to believe the later. They would be nothing today if not for the medieval Arabs making them who they are today. I received the same cold shoulder from the French, whether I am in France or abroad. Please let’s get over ourselves and socialise a little.

    Au revoir

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    • It doesn’t seem unrealistic for me to want people to at least say “bonjour”. but then I don’t know what kind of bad experience you had.

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      • I’ve had several of those. However, I do not let it prevent me from being the social butterfly that I am. Cheers

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    • merci dropstep, the french people have to atleast try talking avec nous, et apprendre un petit francais, alors ques nous sommes fairons communications entre leurs, n’est ce pas?

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  26. Something else, the list you use for your reference shows the percentage of English speaking people in France including the 19% immigrants (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_to_France). I can’t find anywhere how many of those are English speaking, but you can conclude that the real native french population that speaks English is actually lower then the 39% :).. Not that it really matters when tourists visit France, but is does say something about the french culture!

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  27. Here is an interesting list of countries with their average English skills which show France on rank 29. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EF_English_Proficiency_Index

    I’m from the Netherlands, which is on rank 2, and my experience with french people which I’ve met on festivals is that they almost don’t interact with other language speaking people, or really minimal. Also asking for directions didn’t go too well.

    To me, it wasn’t really like as if they didn’t want to speak English, but indeed, just like the English Proficiency Index list shows they aren’t just that good in speaking English to begin with. Why even try speaking English when you don’t even know what you’re saying!?

    In the Netherlands there isn’t anything rude about asking for directions in English, but that’s because we’re really good at it. I can imagine that french people would find otherwise when being greeted in English, because English just isn’t a language they speak. I think that finding it rude all depends from person to person. It makes a lot of difference if they are liberal and well educated about the world, or close minded and have never been in touch with other cultures.

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    • You have a point. I think the rudeness of French people comes more from cultural differences and the inability to communicate in English than anything else. I noticed that it’s mainly Americans who find French people rude, other Europeans don’t seem to have this experience.

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      • No, it is more than just Americans that I’ve heard this sentiment from, and I am a foreigner in France. I also work here, so I have another perspective. I do agree that the way some French people respond to the inability to speak English comes off as “rude”, though it depends on your perception. Apparently the non-American foreigners I’ve spoken with take the same perception, so it is something more than just being from the American culture, if it could be described as such. .

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  28. lol you suk… french are just arrogant… althought they understand english they just dont use it because they fkin EXPECT the other person to understand them… how arrogant is that

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    • It would be a vast improvement if when/if I ever get back to France, people treated me like they expected me to understand French. Rather than the way the rest of the world is treating me like I “look too stupid” to understand French let alone to BE French. If I’m communicating too much in English people are f***ing surprised that I’m French! I want to SLAP the next person who’s surprised that I”m French!!

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  29. That’s true. But most French people don’t seem to want to learn English, and you can’t really blame them for that.

    People working in the tourist industry should make more efforts though.

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    • well i think we should blame the french people for not wanting to learn english because we love their country, and when we get there we want them to explain to us a little bit more about their country. yes i know we have to make an effort to learn their language but what if at some point i don’t understand him or her its going to be a problem, which means that also french people should try to learn english.because if they don’t, then they’ve got a lot to lose

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      • Dude, you’re in their country… Just speak the damn language lol. You’re speaking like everyone in this world must speak english… YOU should be the one worrying that they might end up confused because they don’t understand sh*t. Just saying 😉

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        • Hey, I’m French. I know some visitors come I. France said ” they are not friendly ” ” they don’t try to speak English “. It is false, see I can speak. The problem is not we don’t try to learn English and speak but the problem is we don’t have a good education on the language during our school and the old peoples don’t know how to speak it because they don’t find a reason for it. If you want to find a good person for a indication of something else just ask someone look like 18 or 25 years old. That it !

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      • What do you want actually is the French people to learn english language, so when you go there, in French, they could talk with you in english? Wow, this will never happen, never with French people.
        Use and learn some languages, instead sticking only to english. People already speak few languages across the world and it’s normal. I, myself speak three.

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  30. Je suis alle a France pour un stage le derniere ete. Avant de mon voyage je ne parlais jamais le Francais, mais apres du stage j’ai bien apprende. Fais un effort de parler avec les gen en francais et tu vas passer du bon temps!!

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    • est ca c’est tres formidable mais, quand il est tres difficile pour toi a parler avec leurs, ils doient etre en etat, ou ils expliquer pour lui, n’est ce pas mohamed?

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  31. I don’t think the French should speak English if they don’t wish to. Why should they? The foreigner must speak French or politely ask the French person if they speak a foreign language. It’s that simple..

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    • I totally agree. Many foreigners go abroad and speak their native language without even making the effort to try to speak the local language at all.

      And that’s also true for French people abroad. I live in Germany, and I sometime see French people who go to a shop and speak French like everyone ought to speak it.

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      • Well, Paris-France is a very tourist place and there are people all over the world visiting it.
        When i went to france i before took an english course of 2 months . ( im still have a lot of issues to speak in english as you can see ) and it was truly hard to travel around europe and have to test my poor english skills, any way, the people in germany, holland and belgium trated me very very well… except in France! i would have loved to have some time to learn a little bit of french and speak their lenguaje but it was just too much to learn 2 lenguajes at the time. My point is.. not all the people can be trying to learn all the lenguajes of all the countrys that they go.. the french people should notice this.. lol

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      • Well, that’s more true of English-speakers, namely Americans, than it is of the French. Here in Mexico I’m finding that the only time people speak to me in either of “my” languages and I can understand them is if it’s French people. But because my fellow French expats tend to be mostly White, they too tend to start in with me in bloody Spanish like I “look Spanish” just because I’m IN Mexico, and I call them out on that faster than the English ones. My fellow Irish people don’t treat me like I”m “American” when I’m speaking English, but I digress. We’re talking about the French here…sometimes I just want to lay down and die, and never talk to anyone again in any language because the whole world is racist in the way it treats me no matter which language I’m speaking or which passport I show them, or what I”m trying to get a job DOING.

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    • That would be ok if French people didn’t come to my country almost demanding I speak French to them lol That’s just being hipocrit.
      Also, in my country it’s common courtesy to try to help a foreigner and communicate in english (because they usually don’t know our language, I’m from Portugal). So really, French people are very very proud, I think they loose alot because of their stuborness. I noticed as well that sometimes they fake they don’t understand you because they want to hear you speak their language, in my own country yes. Overall, all other tourists (spanish are like a bit like french but not so stubborn) are really nice and speak in english. Even if you visit other countries people will try to help you in english, from my experience. Even in online videogame where the language used to communicate is english there’s only one country speaking their language in chat? Guess who? French people. So, yea sorry, maybe some people should try harder when visiting France but French people really have to improve their attitude, IMO.

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      • I think French people have the right to speak in their language that they are comfortable with, in an online video game chat. If I were French, I’d do the same, unless I’m talking to a non-French foreigner of course.
        I’ve read that French used to be the international language of Europe, including Britain.
        I must admit that I had a bad attitude when I refused to speak Mandarin and spoke English or Malay instead. Why? I’m ashamed of my pronunciation making me look laughable (ridiculous).

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        • The pronunciation issue is something lots of people underestimate IMO. Many French people I know answer in French, not because they’re arrogant, but simply because speaking English terrifies them.

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    • Also there’s a reason why topics about french people not speaking english exist and things like “portuguese/germans/etc don’t speak english” don’t.

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    • When in France I always try to either introduce myself in French or simply say ‘Bonjour, parlez-vous anglais? Puis-je vous poser une question?’

      That’s probably not the right wording or spelling, but I never took french lessons at school (only Spanish and German) but I figure it’s always nice to try and speak a little of the language when first introducing yourself before immediately firing into a question like ‘Omg can you help me i’m so lost’ in English. I just try being respectful and most times people seem to appreciate the effort. Sometimes people don’t speak English, or maybe say they don’t because they’re running late or just don’t feel like helping (which I understand) but most people are more than happy to help when you at least try to speak their language.

      I also apologise for my sketchy french at the end of some conversations which everyone laughs at 🙂

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      • And that’s usually all you need to do to motivate people to answer :). When I was in Poland, I did the same. And even though my pronunciation was awful and I couldn’t understand Polish, people were willing to help, because I made an effort.

        We can’t expect everyone to speak French, but like you, I believe that saying “hello”, “goodbye”, thank you” and “please” in the local language is simply a matter of respect.

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  32. yes agree a simple ‘bonjour’ will go a long way.. that was the case when i visited paris last december. once i started with bonjour, parisien dont really mind me jumping straight to english (tho i do heard a lot of cliche abt parisien wont speak english to you). and i will end a conversation with au revoir or a bientot..

    but sadly, same i cant say abt lyon tho. finding a hard time at starbucks n orange store.. lol. but tht made me determine to learn it.. hope i can muster a simple conversation soon 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi 🙂

      Yeah the mere fact to start the conversation in French make people realize you care. And that’s a lot.

      People in Lyon see less foreigners, so they may really not speak English that well. But I never went there so I don’t know.

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    • A late comer to this conversation. Throughout history, the French have never fared well against the Brits, i.e. the French lost at virtually every encounter. The English had the nerve to imprison their Emperor, not once, but twice, on remote places in the Atlantic Ocean. And, horror of horrors, it was those Anglo animals that saved France, not once, but twice, in the 20th century from those nasty Germans. In time, the French developed a feeling that they were, what, inferior? To overcome this totally unwarranted sense of inferiority, they put on airs of superiority, and privately swore that English words would never issue from their collective lips. A couple of years ago, the French government spent a handsome sum of Euros trying to teach French-persons to be more polite to English-speaking tourists. Even when their wealth was at risk, the French could not bring themselves to speak the language of winners.

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