An unexpected hurdle I have come across whilst learning French in France is how eager some French are to speak English. It seems the myth that the French and English don’t get along really is a myth as a lot of people, particularly the young are not only very good at English but extremely keen to practice. So, when they find out I’m English many people are very excited and can’t wait to talk in my mother tongue which is wonderful but I have not come to France to do a French immersion course and speak more English than French. I am soon to change to the C1 level and I’m hoping to do the DALF C1 exam preparation in the coming months so I need all the practice I can get. So, I have compiled a list of phrases that I have found particularly useful for encouraging the locals to keep speaking French to me and enhancing my progress on my immersion course. The results have been great.
Could you speak a bit more slowly please?:
- Est-ce que vous pouvez parler un peu plus lentement s’il vous plait ?
- Est-ce tu peux parler un peu plus lentement s’il te plait ?
- Dites ça plus lentement s’il vous plait ?
These will be some of the most useful phrases as sometimes it can feel a bit like all or nothing when speaking with French locals. You either talk in English which you understand perfectly but don’t get a chance to improve at all or you speak in French and you can’t understand at all as they speak at their normal pace which is often too fast for French students.
In French, please:
- En français s’il vous plait?
- En français c’est bon
- Non, certainement en français s’il vous plait ?
Just saying this quickly if someone starts speaking to you in English is a good way to get back on track.
I really need to improve:
- J’ai vraiment besoin de m’améliorer
- Je dois m’améliorer en français
- C’est très important que j’améliore mon français
If they know that you have a good reason for wanting to talk French the locals are normally much more inclined to do so.
I understand more when you speak simply:
- Je comprend mieux quand vous parlez avec simplicité
- Je peux comprendre quand vous parlez simplement
Slang and familiar language can sometimes turn a sentence that you should know into something much more difficult but when your partner knows they should talk a little more officially so you understand it’s a lot easier.
What is it in French?:
- Qu’est-ce que c’est en français ?
- Comment dit-on ça en français ?
- Comment dites-vous cela en français ?
I only want to speak in French if that’s ok:
- Je voudrais seulement parler français si ça vous va?
- Je préfèrais juste en français s’il vous plait
Explain in French please:
- Expliquez-le en français s’il vous plaît
- Veuillez l’expliquer en français s’il vous plait
Often when you arrive at something you don’t understand the easy route is that your French counter-part will revert back to English and thus just translate the word for you. This isn’t all that bad but if you want to really do things properly an explanation in French is the best; then you will have in your head the word and associate it with the French words you first heard to describe it.
Thanks for being patient with me:
- Merci pour être patient avec moi
- Merci d’être patient avec moi
Make sure that the person knows that you are doing them a favour and that you appreciate it , they will be much more inclined to help you as I’m sure you would in their position.
It’s really essential for me to talk in French:
- C’est vraiment essentiel pour moi de parler en français
- Je dois parler en français autant que possible
Hopefully you will find some of these useful as you continue your voyage of learning French in France. From what I have read and experienced myself stopping translating in your head is very important and will take your French immersion to the next level. It’s important to maintain a constant stream of French to achieve this, obviously be considerate as sometimes the French local you’re talking to might have a real need to be able to communicate with you quickly. For example, if you are at a busy bar and the server has 40 people waiting for a drink and speaks perfect English it might not be the kindest thing to insist he speaks French to you. Outside of those situations though I really recommend being friendly but firm and asking that people speak in French to you. After all that is why you are doing a language stay in France and the vast majority of people understand and appreciate that.