French don't speak english, why? Is it so difficult for us?

Dilon   Tuesday, March 30, 2004, 11:18 GMT
Is that true they never speak english?
Sara   Tuesday, March 30, 2004, 13:58 GMT
True? Almost.
I was to Paris last summer and met a lot of people from different countries.
And as the only French of the group, I was the only one who could order dishes in restaurants for everyone!
Many French people seem to think their language is the only one they need and that anyone who come to France is due to speak it (a bit like some native English speakers).
Then, in my class almost everyone seem to be reluctant to English. They say this language is weird and not very interesting. That's probably because they think it's too hard.
The funny thing is also that my country mates don't make much effort with the pronunciation and tone, even the few of them who enjoy English. Unfortunately, the French English teachers hardly insist on it. So, when leaving high school, a student is only able to understand globally a written document, but neither to understand a speech, nor to speak.
I wonder if English classes are so uneffective in other countries.

This said, I think you can be understood if you speak English out of Paris.
Most of those who say the French don't speak it have been to Paris only.
I for one didn't meet any English speaker there, thought in my place, despite the large number of reluctant people, I've seen some foreigners speaking in English with a local many times.
Could the "Parisiens" be the most reluctant then??
Lavoisel   Tuesday, March 30, 2004, 16:09 GMT
One good reason, in my opinion, is that learning a foreign language is, well, always hard whoever you are and whichever country you are from. Therefore, unless some circumstancies (a good English teatcher for example) arouse a real passion for a language in you, you will tend to avoid to learn one if you can. France has long been a country in which not learning any foreign language was not a problem, due to the past widespreadness of the language of Molière.

This age is over though, and my countrymen are now well aware of the necessity of learning English. Most of them will tell you speaking English is important nowadays and most of them, at least in my area, will feel embarassed if they can't answer to a foreigner.
Yet, a solid problem remains which has nothing to do with our school system (which is as good/bad as in anywhere else). This problem is called reluctancy. While many coutries the language of which never known a real era of glory have long overcome their reluctancy out of necessity, we French haven't yet.

Of course this is probably one reason among many, but the above is the only one I can clearly notice.
nic   Wednesday, March 31, 2004, 07:06 GMT
Most of english native speakers (i leave in Paris) do not ask at 1st if you speak english, they think it should be natural. Some french (and some others) don't like it.
How will feel an american or a british if a foreigner (french for example) comes to him and talk to him in french. He will think this is unpolite. That's what some french think.
Many french speak well english in fact but do not like to do it in public, they are shy.
Another reason is just they feel better with their own language.
dju   Wednesday, March 31, 2004, 07:44 GMT
If you are a polite person, in France, first you should say "je suis désolé je ne parle pas français" or "I'm sorry I don't speak well french, can you understand english?" and the french person will talk to you in english. But if you arrive like the Conqueror and speak directly in english as if you were in your country...NO. It's a colonial attitude. For that reason many french people (and also from other countries) perceive english as an imperialistic language, most english native speakers believe that the whole world should speak THEIR language because THEY are the mightiest. First accept the fact that other languages exist, respect them and afterwards we will speak your language.
nic   Wednesday, March 31, 2004, 08:16 GMT
My wife is british (Scotland), a day i was there i was talking to her father who told me, the french don't want to speak english. dju is right, they are colonialist because they think it's logic everywhere you are in the world, everyone must be abble to speak english. What most of them do not realize is some french only speak one language "the french", and it's the same (even worst) with british or americans who only speak one language "the english". Some english native speakers know that fact.
If they were more "polite" i mean more conscious about that fact, they could have better relation ship with people all over the world.

Of course i know some british and americans who speak another toungue.
Lavoisel   Wednesday, March 31, 2004, 11:36 GMT
Nic and Dju,

it would be, of course, unpolite if a native English speaker would talk to you in English without even bother to say at least "Bonjour". But what if a foreigner whose native language isn't English do that? Would you still find her/him colonialist?
nic   Wednesday, March 31, 2004, 11:45 GMT
I won't think it's colonialist, but he can ask if we speak english. That's waht i used to do when i am somewhere, parlez vous français? No, do you speak english...
And that's true people is more friendly when you do it.
Scivolanto   Monday, April 05, 2004, 20:33 GMT
I think the truth is most French can't understand spoken English (I hardly can). So, if you begin a conversation in English, people won't feel able to help you ! In fact, if perhaps 10-20 % of population can understand written English, yet only 1% of them can really have a conversation in English ! It's a big mistake to consider that because more than 90 % of population learn English at school in developped countries, 90 % of population ca speak and understand English ! I can remember some studies which showed that only a few part of pupils can get a correct level in English (and I don't speak of German !) when they leave school at 18.

But why is it so difficult for us, French, to speak English ? I think that French is a language essentially based on a written tradition, while English has a spoken tradition. That's why we, French, don't focus on the pronunciation. So, even a good pupil has difficulties to speak english in a real situation, because he's not prepared to it ! There is a real cultural difference, I think. And one big problem is also that teachers don't train pupils to overwhelm this difficulty, because in France official exams are essentially written !

NB : Sorry for not giving the source of these studies, I think you should find some of them on the Internet quite easily. If not, then, sorry again ;)
nic   Tuesday, April 06, 2004, 08:45 GMT
If you compare a german, an italian, a spaniard and an english, the german and the 2 others (even he does not have a high level studies) can speak very well french. That's the experience i 've had in France and in a countires itself. When you hear an english who speaks french, it's usually difficult to understand him (pronunciation, vocabulary...).