December 19, 2013, by Guest blog

Determined to speak fluent French…even if everyone else is speaking English

Having now spent six months in France, I feel it is a good time to reflect on how much my French has improved. I went out in June with very high expectations that I would come back almost fluent. I realise now that this was a very unrealistic aim!

The main thing that I feel really held me back with my language acquisition was the fact that everybody speaks English! Despite refusing to speak to people in English and explaining that I was not there to speak my own language, people would continue to try to speak in English to me. The most annoying thing that I found was how easily a conversation could turn into English if one person in the group didn’t speak French. For example, there was a Polish girl who hung around with us for a couple of months who didn’t speak a word of French and would complain when everybody around her spoke French! (Don’t ask why she was in France…) Conveniently however, everybody did speak English so this became the common language every time she was there. I actually stopped going out at this point because it annoyed me so much and I felt it pointless hanging around with people who were speaking English. I also found it extremely demoralising that these French people (who in no way considered themselves linguists as they all had jobs or were studying other subjects such as sciences) spoke better English than I did French – especially as French is supposed to be my strongest subject! I started to feel like it was pointless even learning another language which I have honestly never felt before.

Another big problem with my language acquisition was that I felt my job was almost counterproductive to improving my French. As I was translating from French to English, I had to think in English all the time which was frustrating as I could tell it was having a negative effect on my French every time someone spoke to me and I failed to form any kind of coherent sentence! Nevertheless, I suppose I have gained a lot of vocabulary (albeit extremely specific vocabulary about houses and property…)

I must say that I do feel a little disappointed with how much improvement I have made in my spoken French. However I am sure that I have learned a lot without realising it. I have definitely picked up a lot of colloquial phrases and I’ve learned a lot of things that I quite simply don’t know how I didn’t know before (for example the phrase “du coup” which you hear in just about every sentence but which I had never heard before going to France!) I realise now that six months is not enough to make any proper headway in language acquisition but it is a good start. Despite feeling very demoralised at times, I am in no way going to give up on my goal to becoming fluent in French!

Posted in Language acquisition