French in Paris..advice needed!

May 19th, 2007, 07:48 PM
  #21  
 
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My partner, who speaks no French, caused a lot of smiles and helpful responses when he said: "Je suis desole (I am sorry). Je ne parle pas Francais (I don't speak French)." It even rhymes and they love it. Sorry, I don't know how to put the accent marks on desole, but you pronounce it: des-soul-lay.
nancy1652 is offline  
May 20th, 2007, 01:33 AM
  #22  
 
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It doesn't really matter if you don't speak French, just don't be rude about it. I lived in Paris for a while and I saw many people (usually British and American) just approaching people and speaking English without asking first if they spoke English. I mean, common sense tells you not to do that - imagine if you were working in your hometown and someone came up to you and started speaking French. You wouldn't be too pleased. Just put yourself in their position - greet them properly, ask if they speak English in French and don't forget to thank them. They may still be rude - no big deal, don't let it ruin your day. They deal with thousands of tourists every day, it gets irritating so don't take it personally. Just do your best to be polite and nobody can fault you!
IrishGrl is offline  
May 20th, 2007, 02:14 AM
  #23  
 
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>You wouldn't be too pleased.
Well I would be rather pleased and try to start a longer conversation and I believe most people here would do the same. In no way would I find it rude. On the contrary, people would try to find out how they could help. Rude would be standing on the left side of the stairs in the train station or sitting on them, forcing people to walk around you like many tourists do. Language isn't an issue.
logos999 is offline  
May 20th, 2007, 03:59 AM
  #24  
 
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FWIW, désolé and français don't rhyme.
AnthonyGA is offline  
May 20th, 2007, 04:03 AM
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Désolé and français can rhyme if you don't speak French.
Padraig is offline  
May 20th, 2007, 04:09 AM
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the common language of the EU is english. most parisians are cosmopolitan enough to speak at least some english. there are some who refuse to speak english or who can't speak it (you wonder how they can get by outside of france - perhaps they don't or they just go on group tours). for the most part, you won't find very many people like this in paris.

that said, learning some french will make your trip much more fun and easier.
walkinaround is online now  
May 20th, 2007, 04:12 AM
  #27  
 
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>the common language of the EU is english
Definitively not!
logos999 is offline  
May 20th, 2007, 04:48 AM
  #28  
 
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<<désolé and français don't rhyme.>>

hmmm... interesting
robjame is offline  
May 20th, 2007, 05:31 AM
  #29  
 
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">the common language of the EU is english
Definitively not! "

However, I've read more than twice that "more people in the EU speak English than any other single language." Is this NOT true?

I do beleive that more Germans can speak English than they can French or Italian, and more Italians can speak English than German, etc. Add in all the people in the UK and Ireland who speak English only, and I'd think the above statement is probably true.
NeoPatrick is online now  
May 20th, 2007, 05:36 AM
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Come to the continent and see for yourself.
logos999 is offline  
May 20th, 2007, 05:40 AM
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logos, I've spent over a year total on the continent in the past 10 years. And yes, I think that's true. Rarely do I run into anyone in France, Italy, or Spain who doesn't speak at least a little English. Germany is the country where I find the fewest English speakers. Of course, my experiences are more with professionals and those in tourist related industry, but even in smaller towns and off the beaten path, I often find a lot of people who speak some English -- certainly a lot more than I'd find in similar places in the US who speak anything other than English.
NeoPatrick is online now  
May 20th, 2007, 05:59 AM
  #32  
 
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>more with professionals and those in tourist related industry,
That's the point. You need at least a little knowledge in French, German, Spanish, Italian and Russian to get around (almost) everywhere. English is only a common language as it's used in advertisement where they make up funny new words that sound "cool". However most people have no idea what they might mean. They speak their local language. You havn't got the slightest chance on a decent job without the local language, however.
I remenber translating to a Portugese girl from an Italian. The Italian only spoke her own language, while the Portugese was able to understand my French. Well, we managed to communicate. Sometimes English works, in most cases, it doesn't and you need a third person.
logos999 is offline  
May 20th, 2007, 06:20 AM
  #33  
 
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I agree with the strategy of getting a good phrase book and learning as much as possible in advance with tapes, etc. I can still get by reasonably well with my high school French and in german and sometimes those languages help in other European countries.

Our family spent a week in Rome in early march, and I was glad to have an Italian phrase book for the basics and ordering in restaurants and stores. Our 16 year old son made a point of learning Italian phrases, too. He was rewarded by having several people complement him on his efforts.

Vttraveler is online now  
May 20th, 2007, 06:24 AM
  #34  
 
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Let me restate my point. I don't speak more than a smattering of phrases in any language (hello, thank you, etc.). In my 12 + months of European travel in the past 10 years (not counting the UK) I could list on one hand the number of times I've had any serious problem "communicating".

When we stayed in a small hotel in Germany and the owners didn't speak A WORD of English, we managed to select our room, order our breakfast, pay our bill, and wish each other well with no difficulty.

When we traveled by car in the very south east of Italy well "off the beaten track", we never had an issue with being able to have a great time and "communicating", even when we encountered people who don't speak English. Pointing to a map and looking inquisitively to a person can get you a response as to which way you need to go. Smile, say "Grazie" and you're on your way.

I'm an expert at charades and there are many ways to communicate without having a full fledged verbal conversation.

So I would disagree that "Sometimes English works, in most cases, it doesn't and you need a third person."

That has NOT been my experience.

Don't get me wrong. Speaking a language would get you further and could add greatly to your appreciation of a place, but it is NOT necessary. And frankly, I don't believe I could learn enough of a language in a couple months to fully comprehend either what I'm saying or more importantly what I'm hearing.
NeoPatrick is online now  
May 20th, 2007, 06:41 AM
  #35  
 
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>>>>>
You havn't got the slightest chance on a decent job without the local language, however
>>>>>

to get a good job in europe, you need to speak english (in addition to the local language-but increasingly even this is less of an absolute requirement). having worked for many years all over europe, i have sadly seen many people who have had their careers shut down because they would not or could not learn english...mostly middle aged people.

almost all real business in europe crosses national boundaries within the EU and commonly outside of it. this business will almost always be conducted in english. just look at logos' hometown...to get a good, real job with siemens, bmw, munich re, hvb, allianz, etc, you need to speak english. these are multi-nationals that have little use for insular local types that can't work at a global level. if you want to get an mba in munich you also need to speak english.

to say that english is only used in munich for novelty 'cool words' (that nobody can understand) is so far from reality, it's disturbing. it's also very insulting and fails to recognise that munich is not an insular city.

only jim thompson of germany steadfastly refuses to see any of this. most real germans are happy to get on with participating in the global economy...and this means speaking english.
walkinaround is online now  
May 20th, 2007, 06:41 AM
  #36  
 
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You're correct, there isn't any foreign language needed to "communicate" anywhere. I loved China where travelling without them understanding me, or me understanding them was easy! All the basic things very easy to get across. However the flaw in the argumentation that many people understand or speak English in Europe ist that when people are approached in English, they'll try to answer in that language, even if they only know very litte. If they tried i.e. French in Italy they would be amazed that it generally works better than English.
logos999 is offline  
May 20th, 2007, 06:43 AM
  #37  
 
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Well, walkingaround, we are on different levels. I'm not coming down to yours
logos999 is offline  
May 20th, 2007, 07:00 AM
  #38  
 
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<<Speaking a language would get you further and could add greatly to your appreciation of a place, but it is NOT necessary.>>
Certainly that sums it up nicely and addresses the OP's quandry.
robjame is offline  
May 20th, 2007, 08:02 AM
  #39  
 
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A common 'mistake' I see people makingn is to freak out when they are somewhere they don't speak the language.

Instead just stay calm and observe how things are being done around you. How people line up, how the person in front of you does it at the grocery store (in Switzerland you bag your own, for example).

My friend who has lived in Europe for quite some time reminds me, they are a shop (restaurant, whatever) and want to sell you, what you want to buy... you'll figure it out together.

suze is online now  
May 20th, 2007, 08:49 AM
  #40  
 
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With just a review of the basic French phrases and words in my guidebook, a foggy remembrance of conversational pleasantries from elementary school, the occasional glance at a list of foods to make sure the entree wasn't pork, and many humble looks and "sil vous plait's" and "merci's" - we functioned very well for a week in Paris. Most everyone we met spoke English (when recognizing that our French was limited to Bonjour, Bonsoir, L'eau, deux, Merci, etc.) because we were in tourist areas, and they did so happily. We were always humble and appreciative, and there were no worries.

You'll be fine!
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