Frozen Out

Old Feb 7th, 2001, 09:56 AM
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Frozen Out

I will be staying in Provence near Carpentras this summer. I have limited French but I wish the French would not take offence when we are not able to speak French well. In the past I have found that sometimes they can be very impatient. I suppose that it is understandable but do they not realise that they get many different visitors from all over the world even in the remotest regions of France. I have yet to meet a French, German, Italian etc.visitor in the local towns to me in Thurrock, Essex England and I have been living here for 15 years. The reason people like me cannot speak very much French is that unless we pay for and go to evening classes after a long day at work most of us do not encounter French or any other language in everyday life. London may have its share of foreign visitors but many areas of England are not in the same position. Can you honestly tell me that if French people rarely saw English visitors they would be prepared to pay for and attend evening classes to learn English just in case they visit England for 2 weeks one summer. I would like to hope my experience in Provence will be different and that once again I won't feel punished by the French for not being fluent in their language.

Old Feb 7th, 2001, 10:09 AM
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Somebody get a fly-swatter.
Old Feb 7th, 2001, 10:44 AM
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Dear Buzzy -
You are as original and entertaining as Andrew Dice Clay. Your French bashing has been done time and time again by numerous other people who thought they were being cute or clever. You obviously don't have an original thought in your skull - in fact, you probably have tatter-tots for brains (like Ronald Regan has for all his life). If you're going to try and engage people you might try to be at least entertaining and humorous.
Old Feb 7th, 2001, 12:01 PM
In disbelief
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Sandra, Take your own advice! What a droll troll.

Old Feb 7th, 2001, 12:28 PM
Ronald Reagan
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I think I used to have a brain but I can not remember any more. All I know that there is some skinny little old lady that hangs around me all day and calls me Daddy. I wonder who she is? Do I know her? Gee, I just can't remember.
Old Feb 7th, 2001, 01:07 PM
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Oh dear. What an over reation to an observation and an experience that many people have had. I would hardly take my holidays in France time and time again if I was a French basher.

There are many languages in this world and if we had to learn each of them before we could visit a country we would never go anywhere. I just don't feel we should make it difficult or uncomfortable for others if they do not speak our language. We can all muddle through together if we are more tolerant.

My posting is simply a way of explaining that although in an ideal world people like myself would only visit France when we were able to speak French effectively, life is not like that. Many of us will make our early trips to a country knowing very little of the language.

The remarks made in some of these replies are presumptious and childish. Instead of simply bashing out a few insults on your keyboard, if you disagree with me be a grown up and explain why.

I would love to hear views from people with reasoned arguments not insults.
Old Feb 7th, 2001, 04:55 PM
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I can give you some reasonned arguments:

"I wish the French would not take offence when we are not able to speak French well they can be very impatient."

True, some people take offense and can be very impatient when you you don't speak the local language. In a lot of places. London is a very good example, IME.

"they get many different visitors from all over the world even in the remotest
regions of France" : three answers, here :
1) Do you really believe that the average clerk/peasant/accountant/ whatever cares if there's foreign visitors or not? Do you think he intend to learn english just for that reason?

2)I live in Paris and work just by the musee d'Orsay. I think I'm adressed by a foreign tourist perhaps once a month. Apart in the major beach resorts or in Mt St Michel, an average frenchman probably meet a foreign language speaker once every two or three years.

"I have yet to meet a French, German, Italian etc.visitor in the local towns to me in Thurrock, Essex England and I have been living here for 15 years.":

I never met, either, a foreign tourist in the place I've been brought up and where I come back at least once a year.

"The reason people like me cannot speak very much French is that unless we pay for and go to evening classes after a long day at work" :

Same here. Plus the fact that few people have any interest in learning foreign languages

"most of us do not encounter French or any other language in everyday life." :

Same here with english

"Can you honestly tell me that if
French people rarely saw English visitors they would be prepared to pay for and attend evening classes to learn English just in case they visit England":

No..they wouldn't. And in fact, since they rarely see english visitors, they don't. And even those who happen to live in a place where there's a lot of visitors have no interest in learning a foreign language to please them (apart the tiny minority whose income come from visitor's wallet, that is), so they probably wouldn't care to learn english. And actually, they don't.

That said, I'd tend to think you're trolling, but since I already heard these arguments twoce in real life, you could be genuine too...Hence my answer.
Old Feb 7th, 2001, 09:53 PM
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I don't know if I'd call Buzzy a troll....the two explanations provided seem awfully long & detailed to be a troll. Giving Buzzy the benefit of the doubt, here's my 2 cents:

I don't speak any French, but love France the most! I just roll with it and have a good time. I bring my French-English dictionary, and when I want to ask for something I open it up and point to the appropriate word in the dictionary. People often look at me with amusement when I do this. A couple of times I attempted to speak French and ... well, we all had a good laugh about it. On the flip side, in some small towns a local person might frustratedly struggle in English to explain something to me. But overall, everyone has been so nice to me. Bottom line is, no one has ever iced me out or mistreated me because I don't speak French. Maybe I'm just lucky. Or maybe I don't carry myself like I'm afraid or defensive. Just relax, bring your flash cards, and enjoy yourself.
Old Feb 8th, 2001, 12:01 AM
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Thankyou Clairobscur that's exactly the sort of reasoned argument I was talking about. I am British and I totally agree with you about London. Many people there are ignorant about foreign languages. I am not for one minute saying the British are any better. In fact I would say the reverse is true. All I am saying is that all over the world there are references to the English language which means that one does not necessarily have to go looking for it deliberately. This does tend to lead to other nations knowing far more than they think they do about the English language. In Britain the culture is not like that we do not see foreign languages referred to on signs etc. As a result of this we are far more ignorant about them and find it much harder to adjust when abroad. I think this is a problem with the British culture which has recently been addressed by the British government saying that ministers and the general public should all learn anotherlanguage. I must say once again I have encounted a frosty reception from some people in France when I have not been able to make my requirements known in French. I know I am not the only person who has had that experience but it is not politically correct these days to mention it. I am saying that we should all get real and realise that the world does not revolve around any one country. I no more expect a French person to know English than he should expect me to know French. It's not the end of the world if we only know a little of each other's language and we should not judge each other on those grounds. Some French people do unfortunately dislike the fact that some visitors do not have a good grasp of the language.I have been told by two French friends who now live in Britain and teach French over here that their friends out in France have a good laugh making life for visitors difficult by pretending not to understand them even when they are trying very hard to speak French. When I told them of my experiences they found it highly amusing that I had obviously encountered this.
Old Feb 8th, 2001, 02:49 AM
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Buzzy is 100% right, but visitor rates have nothing to do with it.
The French do get snooty about the fact that they can speak your language, but what they don't tell you is that they learned it from Hollywood - films & sitcoms.
This is embarrassing for them, due to their paranoia about American cultural imperialism (or I as call it, the French choosing to abandon part of their culture).Some (not all) of them get out of this embarrassment by being nasty to the "stupid foreigner" - its the only time they can get back at us!
This just gets them in deeper-if English speakers are so dumb why should they copy us.If you really want to upset them ask (innocently) if its its true that their kids will need to learn English to get a good job.(& stand well clear.....)
A Dutch couple we were having dinner with told us that their daughter was having to write her PhD in English.
They were surprisingly OK about it(well, not surprising if you know the Dutch)& said it would be a waste writing it in Dutch - nobody would ever read it.The Dutch are a pragmatic bunch.The French aren't.They will doggedly pursue an idea which they believe right in principle even though it's clearly unworkable.(God bless 'em)
In Holland they get peeved if you try talking Dutch to them!
There is no need for anyone to ever feel they "should" learn someone else's language or to put anyone down because they can't.Here in Scotland more people speak French than Gaelic, but we don't worry about it.We know that Gaelic is dying - sad but there it is.
We worry that we should have learned Spanish instead of French....
Old Feb 8th, 2001, 07:25 AM
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Franck, you're wrong. French people don't learn french from movies or sitcoms.

First, you could watch movies in a foreign language for weeks, I you still wouldn't be able to understand or speak a word of it.

Second, french people don't watch movies/sitcoms in english. They're dubbled. Only famous movies from the 30's or such films displayed on TV at 11 pm are subtitled (and they can be in japanese or russian). In the same way, the vast majority choose a dubbled movie instead of a subtitled one when they go to a movie theater. And even those who choose the subtitled one quite never understand the speech and merely read the subtitles. Finally, while all the teenagers (and adults, for that matter)
listen to american songs, you'll have a hard time finding one who understand them, as strange as it may seems for an english speaker.

French people learn english at school, that's all. And they usually forget all what they learnt as soon as they leave the school. Anyway, the teaching of languages in france isn't that efficient.

It seems to me that you overestimate the knownledge frenchs have of the english language and also their exposure to this language, wich is extremely limited for more or less everybody.

Something I'd like to add is that it's not because someone is able to speak some limited english that he's able to understand it,especially since:

-the native speaker is likely to use a lot of words not known by the local :if the latter don't know the english word for "piscine", he won't understand your question, even if he actually knows where the swiming pool is and would be perfectly able to give you the direction in english.

-The native english speaker will speak quickly, and often with a strong accent.
Nothing like what the local used to hear
15 years before when he attended english courses in high school.

That said, it's obvious that a lot of french ressent being addressed in english (but you're in luck : those who resent it are the less likely to be able to speak it, anyway). I do not doubt, either, that some of them like to make fun of the foreign tourist trying to speak in halting french (but I doubt it's the only country where you could find such an atitude).

And finally, franck, for most french people, there's no practical reason to learn english : they'll never use it in their professional life, and if they leave the country during their vacations, they'll choose organized tours or international resorts designed to catter foreign tourists where they'll find french speakers in the staff.

One can regret that the teaching of foreign language is not as develloped in france as it is in Netherlands, but the "pragmatic" argument isn't valid, since there's no pragmatic reason to know such a language for the vast majority of the population.

I'll add that, contrarily to several other european countries, choosing english as a second language is not mandatory in french schools. Though it's less common now, pupils often choose spanish because it was easier.Though the wide majority of them will choose english at least as third language, it's not always true.
Old Feb 8th, 2001, 01:18 PM
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I agree.
Old Feb 8th, 2001, 11:02 PM
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Well, guess what, Clairobscur? By the same token, as an American I find NO NEED to learn French at all and NEVER will! And guess what again? English is STILL the Number One and Preferred language all over the world!! Get used to it!!!
Old Feb 9th, 2001, 03:51 AM
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What's the problem, bob? Did I say you need to learn french? That english wasn't the most international language?
That I wasn't accustomed to it?

It seems to me I tried to dismiss the misconception that french people are very exposed to english language or usually need it in their everyday life.

Did you really read my posts? It seems not. You should pay more attention to what people actually say and stop trying
to imagine what they could have said or what they think...
Old Feb 9th, 2001, 08:34 AM
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Clairobscur is quite right. I am sorry if I had a misconception about French exposure to the English language. In general I hold the French in very high esteem and maybe I have credited them with knowing more than they actually do. If as Clairobscur suggests they are struggling in the same way that we are why do they judge people who do not speak French so badly them. Why do they not just accept that we are all subject to the same language problems in a foreign country. Surely the most amusing people on holiday must be Mr and Mrs England who think they can pretend to be the perfect French couple. They arrive in France and as soon as they get off the ferry in their oversized car they insist on speaking their cassette tape French endlessly as if to prove a point to every French person they meet. I'm sorry France. I'm just your average British person. I can speak a few words of holiday French. Please don't hate me when I arrive in Provence in July.
Old Feb 9th, 2001, 12:47 PM
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"If as Clairobscur suggests they are struggling in the same way that we are why do they judge people who do not speak French so badly them"

Do they judge those people so badly? Is it more true in France than in other countries? Is it different in english-speaking countries toward non english-speaking people? I don't know. Probably, you, english speakers, are more able than me to know if you're treated more poorly in France than in other countries.

If it's true, I'm not really more able
than you to give any explanations. A greatest commitment to our own ways, culture and language? A lack of openness? A reaction to the misconduct of other english speakers? A ressentment towards the "cultural imperialism" of the english language? Possibly all these reasons together.

And also :Is it only true for english speakers? For all foreigners? For all tourists?

You wrote also "Why do they not just accept that we are all subject
to the same language problems in a foreign country".

Do these people have the slightest idea about the problem a non native speaker may face? Have they ever traveled in a foreign country?

Sorry, I can't give any answer....
Old Feb 10th, 2001, 05:06 AM
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Thanks again Clairobscur for your valuable insight. I can understand fully why almost any country in the world would not have much affection for England and its culture. So many of our people travel abroad and misbehave. They drink as if alcohol is going out of fashion. I am disgusted with them and ashamed to be English when I see it happen. I also feel that the English appear to be far too insular often not trying local foods and sticking to their usual bland diet of frites wherever they go. Perhaps by the time I tend to arrive in France in July August the French have already had more than enough bad experiences with us horrid English and wish we would all go back home again.

I have not had experiences like this in Spain but part of the reason I prefer France is that I find the French a very proud nation. They have struggled against so many of the negative influences in the world to retain a sense of tradition in their buildings, countryside, food, wine etc. They have a wonderful perspective on the correct priorities in life. They do everything to promote good family life and do not believe children to be a burden to be got rid of like we do in England. I rarely see drunken yobbish behaviour amonst the men. Alcohol is there to be savoured in reasonable amounts with good food not gulped down in pints as in England.Women do not appear to be excluded from events as in England where a men only culture with too much alcohol is still prevalent. In Spain I think they go too far to try and please the English with thir cafes offering English Sunday diners and Egg and Chips etc. They are risking losing their identity. I love France because It won't cahnge its Frenchness for anybody abd I hope they always keep it that way.

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