Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Fundamental Difference Between French and Americans

Frenchman: "My English isn't very good."
American: "Ooh it's not so bad. I can understand you."

American: "Je ne parle pas très bien le français."
Frenchman (with a grimace): "No you don't. Your French is pretty bad. Let's just speak in English."

37 comments:

Evolutionary Revolutionary said...

oh ouch. But YUP! That's it!

kiwi in france said...

haha so true!

rhonalala said...

That is soooo true. I tried using my French skills in Strasbourg only to be dismissed and made to speak English immediately. The same happened in Germany.

Crystal said...

aww that sucks! I wonder how they'd feel if they went to the States and the Americans criticized their English. Personally, I've only ever had encouraging remarks from Frenchies about my French but then again most of them think all Canadians are bilingual anyway.

Clare and Gary said...

I find Parisiens mostly dismissive, as you travel around France they seem more happy that you've actually tried to speak French, rather than shout English at them!

Roaming Gnomette said...

I think oftentimes they'd just like to practice their English, and I generally get complimented on my French.

There is the occasional jerk, though. A self-obsessed guy in a French Lit class I was taking once laughed at me for asking to borrow a "feuille de papier" as opposed to just asking for a "feuille." I ignored him and asked the girl beside him for a "feuille de papier."

Daniel said...

I believe it depends on the language level of the two people.

If an american try to talk to me in bad french I will tend to jump in and speak english because I feel it's more fluent and easy.

If a chinese speaks to me in broken french I'll just think "ok it's still way better than my chinese level".

Of course if you are just too pretention it is a problem

Poulette said...

SO true! "Why totally butcher my language when i can butcher yours?" Truth be told though, The French really are pretty damn good at English, on the whole. Evil geniuses.

Touring in brittany said...

c'est vrai... On est très arrogants!!! mais moi j'adore vos accents !

Rachel said...

Pretty much what my now husband said on our first date when I attempted to show off my French skills.

Emily said...

I couldn't agree more. If you'd been with me at the swimming pool the other day, you would have "enjoyed" the following, very typical, conversation:

Me: Bonjour, je vais prendre un carnet de 10 entrées, s'il vous plaît.

Cashier: Ouh la!!! Vous avez un drôle d'accent, vous!

Me: Un accent ou un drôle d'accent? Parce que ce n'est pas tout-a-fait la même chose, quand même.

Cashier: Ben, je veux dire, vous n'êtes pas d'ici, quoi! Vous êtes quoi alors? Anglaise? Américaine?

Sigh. So then I went on to tell him that I was Canadian and ended up having to explain (as I do practically every single day) that Vancouver is NOT the same as Quebec, that my dad doesn't go ice-fishing, and that I don't know Céline Dion. But that's a whole different topic...

tiamaria said...

So true, L'Etrangere!
And I love how Daniel proved your point.

BBlogger2 said...

So true and so very sad!!! Although the few times I have been to France, the French have been kind to me in my attempts to speak French! Can't wait to hopefully move and spend some time there!! :-) Awesome mini blog! I'll be posting your blog on my other pages!

kay said...

haha, excellent blog btw!!
check us out, still got a long way to reach your level but hope we are help a few expats along the way :)
http://www.theparisienexpat.com

Alida said...

too funny!

In Russia they are thrilled that I can speak their language... I still get corrected on my grammar at least once a day but hey... my Russian is usually better than their English!

Lau said...

Reading this is kind of frustrating.

French people get criticized all the time because they can't speak English. That's not new. But now, what you're saying is that if they make an effort and speak in English to you when they realize you're not fluent in French, they're rude.

I'm French, I live in Paris and, yes, I have answered in English to people who asked for my help in a broken French. (Although I certainly appreciate the effort.)

I never meant to be dismissive, I just thought I was helping. Now I'm not sure if I should apologize for trying to make it easier for you guys.

Anyway, point taken. Next time, I will ask if the person would rather speak English rather than deciding for them. But please, realize people are probably just trying to help.

Arielle said...

Hey this is arrogant indeed, however you could also think of it this way :

American: "Je ne parle pas très bien le français."
Frenchman (with a grimace): "No you don't. Your French is pretty bad. Let's just speak in English."

Frenchman: "My English isn't very good."
American: "Ooh it's not so bad. I can understand you. Actually not really, but since I don't speak another language let's just keep it this way."

Al said...

I think English speakers are just so much more used to hearing people speak English as a second language. Next time you should just answer in French until they get the message, and don't be put off.. keep trying!

Anonymous said...

@ Arielle, the French aren't necessarily known for their ability to learn other languages (or their interest in doing so). So you might want to consider that before stereotyping Americans.

I'm Austrian and we think of the French as being among the LEAST multi-lingual of Europe.

Hurt feelings needn't be resolved by stereotyping other people.

Piccalilli Circus said...

Réflexion qui reflète parfaitement la réalité ! ;-)

Very good reflexion ! ;-)

Anonymous said...

hilarious and so true!! living in nyc and practicing french conversation at my intermediate level which is not even that bad, and even here, french people who have just arrived do this!!

HLee said...

haha that happens in Geneve, Suisse too!

GoneNative said...

Fundamental? Maybe true.

The french are frank: "You say you don't speak french well, who am I to contradict you."

Americans are perpetually positive (sometimes delusionally so): "You can string together words I vaguely recognize, keep it up, we'll communicate somehow."

Nona Belgian said...

lol! So true for Belgians too! Though the Flemish are a bit more polite

foodie said...

Haha, c'est tout à fait correcte, j'ai du rigoler. Je vais à Paris en Septembre 2011 (de Colorado) pour être assistante de langue moi-même, et je voudrais bien te parler au sujet de tes expériences et ton boulet (une type de "informational interview," si tu veux)! Merci pour ton aide, je te laisse mon email: gowri.v.chandra[at]gmail.com.

Merci pour ton blog, c'est amusant de lire, et il y en a beaucoup d'information aussi!

À bientôt, j'éspère!
Veda

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