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Subject: Why does everyone answer me in English?
Date: Sunday, November 06, 2005
Name: Debra
Message: Hi everyone, I am in the process of learning French as my husband and I are hoping to retire in France in a few years. Our attempts to try out my limping French are very often met with an answer in English. This has happened to us in Paris, various other areas in France, and while in Switzerland, in Geneva. Truth be told, I'm a little perplexed by this reaction and a bit embaressed when it happens. My French friend assures me it is because the French love to practice their English on the obvious non-fluent... maybe I'm being paranoid but it takes a lot for myself and my husband to get the courage up to say anything in French and to be answered in English always makes me feel as if the person is thinking,"God, let me answer in English before these poor things continue to make a fools of themselves!" I'm not sure how to respond when this happens.. should I continue to try in French? English?? This must have happened to someone else out there! Thanks for any opinions... dazed and confused, Debra

Replies Posted 5.

Name Debra
Message Hi D, Thank you for your advice. I will certainly continue to study and speak French first always when in France....I guess we didn't know if it would be rude to continue in English if someone answered in English or to try to push foward in French! But , as you've suggested, to ask if we can continue in French is a polite response. As Francois said earlier , people may make a natural assupmtion that tourists do not know much French and are trying to assist us. My French friend writes half of her letters to me in English and half in French which is a great way to make me think and write in French!I prefer to write in French as I have the time to formulate my thoughts and not struggle in person but that is something that needs to be overcome.Most people are extremely patient and kind when words fail us!


Name D
Message Keep practicing your french, My partner is french but we always speak in english as he is now very flutent and does not want to loose any ability in his language and constantly tries new words, He is more flutent in my native tongue than me now...LOL (and would speak english to you also)

Just tell them you want to try in french as I do, they smile and speak french with me. Most are very plesant, Let them use their english also. You have to understand they do this being nice to you.

I have a fench friend and she will not let me use english and I think she does know some english not for sure.

Simpley say, I want to practice my french, sil vous plait. If they continue speak in english, be polite and allow them to do so. (they french should also be able to practice their native language)

As with me and partner if he answers me in french, I just continue answering him in french. This is true practice and more beneficial since I know he understood me in his native tongue and I have to think how to respond in french.

oui, oui,

Name Debra
Message Sorry for misspelling your name Francois! I have no accent for the "c".

Name Debra
Message Hi Francoise, Thank for for being so encouraging. It was great to hear the perspective from someone French also. As I'd said-- I'd been a bit paranoid about responses partially due to the language being fairly new and my shyness about speaking it incorrectly.In retrospect, perhaps those people thought they were helping me... making the situation easier.We love your beautiful language and country and want to continue to speak French at every oportunity that arises. And I wouldn't mind someone correcting me-- It can only help!

Thank you again for your kind comments... or should I say, merci bien! :-)

Name francoisparis
Message Dear Debra,

I am answering in English, since it is an English-speaking site.

As a French citizen, I think you should not worry too much about people answering to you in English, and keep learning French. If your intention is to live here, you will need it! In France, and I imagine in other non-English speaking countries, the practice of English varies with social background,age, and exposure to international tourism. As a tentative explanation, I think that the French with the most contacts with international visitors simply have the basic assumption that most of those visitors do not speak French beyond the bonjours and au revoirs. As you suggested, some can also be proud to show they can speak English.

Therefore, I don't think you should consider this type of response as a judgement on your beginner's English,let alone on your supposed hopelessness. In any case, whatever follows, always speak to people in French first,especially random people in the street.

You will also have plenty of encounters with non-English speakers, in which your French will be helpful. Some of these people will be eager to correct you, and maybe you will find this equally irritating!

Fran├žois, Paris

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