Tag Archives: Language

Speaking French in France

I think that trying to tackle the French language in its own country may be one of the scariest things I have ever had to do. I did French at A-level, but it is now very rusty, and it shows. Every time I’m at reception and the phone rings, my heart sinks. I know I have to answer it, but I am simply dreading the French person on the other end of the line who will speak quickly and is almost unintelligible thanks to the crackly reception we receive in the Alps.

I went on the bus ride from hell in Nepal. This is worse.

I am scared, terrified even, of flying. This is worse.

It’s not because I don’t want to speak to people – I actually love meeting new people and having a conversation with them. But there is so much technical language about hotels and ski passes and ice skating that, even if my French wasn’t shaky (at best), it would still be incredibly difficult. I had to ask a priest about church times and attendance – don’t ask – and I was terrified. How do you even address priests in France? Père? Ministre? And then you have to negotiate the minefield that is pleasantries, and simply reacting to the conversation that is being thrown in your face at such a break-neck, rapid speed.

I had to work unexpectedly yesterday, and thinking it was my day off I had got pretty drunk the night before. Negotiating a conversation in your mother tongue is a bit tricky when tired and hanging; in a language you can barely just remember sober it is close to impossible. Add in your boss sitting next to you as you try and you’re on to a winner for “Worst Day of the Year Award”.

I’m not an overly confidant person. Put me out of my comfort zone and I’ll adapt, but it may take a few days. But that’s in English and now I’m juggling a completely different language while trying to adjust and negotiate rock climbing prices.

For people  who complain about the person at the other end of the phone not being fluent in slang and having a strong accent – yes, I agree it can sometimes be annoying, and it will raise your blood pressure. But at least be thankful that it isn’t me answering the phone saying, again and again, “Je suis désolé – répétez s’il vous plaît?”