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Languages for Expats in France

Submitted: October 2013

It is often said that the French will not be very welcoming to someone who is unable to speak even a little of their language. Expats should bear this in mind and ensure that their French language skills are at a level that will at least allow them to go into a shop, café or restaurant and place their order in French. If this is too much, an expat should be apologetic about their inability to speak the national language.

However, the best thing to do is to learn French prior to moving to the country. Websites such as https://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/french/ offer free online lessons composed primarily of videos and games and can be a good starting point for any beginner. Bonjour.com (https://www.bonjour.com/) students can learn simple phrases, numbers, the alphabet, days and months etc by listening and repeating the words. The website also offers a free online dictionary, spellchecker and translation tool.

Another option is to attend a French language school in France. Lessons are usually structured not only in a classroom setting but also encompass practical elements such as a variety of social events that include opportunities to talk to native speakers. There are a vast number of schools throughout the country with Paris offering the widest choice of teaching establishments. The accommodation offered by language schools can vary, but usually includes the option of staying with a French host family, enabling the student to practise their newly acquired language skills outside of the school.

A student is able to choose not only the type of accommodation that best meets their needs, the student can also pick the location in the country. Anyone knowing well in advance where in France they will set up their new home could chose a language school in that area and get to know what the region has to offer prior to settling there.

Many English speaking individuals elect to settle within a British or at least English-speaking enclave, ensuring they are surrounded by individuals who share a common language. Reading various blogs on the internet, the message that comes across loud and clear is that French nationals are not keen on these settlements and are generally reluctant to assist individuals with day to day French language issues when they feel that no real effort has been made by the foreigner to integrate into the community and learn the local language.

Some long-term expats with good French language skills often offer French lessons for those eager to learn. These individuals often advertise in local newspapers or shops.

Preparing for the move to France by learning sufficient French prior to arrival in the country should be a priority for any would-be expat. Having at least some knowledge of the language and being able to greet one’s French neighbours or going to the local shop and asking to sample that delicious looking piece of cheese will go a long way to making a new expat feel at home and integrate into their new way of life.



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