Parlez-vous anglais?

23 02 2009


I know that I promised to post pictures of my apartment, but I lied. I just absolutely had to get this off my chest.

I’ve been in Paris for exactly a month, and as much as I love living here, there’s one thing that’s been bothering me for the past month. I find myself speaking English way too often. If anything my experience in Paris so far, has been the exact opposite of Lyon –language wise.

Most people that know me know that I’ve lived in France before as a language assistant. When I was initially applied as a language assistant, on the application you were given the choice of three regions. I remember choosing the Academy of Lyon only because I knew that Lyon was the second largest city in France — no matter how much I travel, I can’t seem to adapt to small towns. I figured that as a smaller city it would probably be less international than Paris. After my language experience in Tokyo, where I lived for 2 and a half years without picking up much of the language — other than the basics — I figured that I would have the chance to speak French more often in Lyon than if I were living in Paris.

In the end I got placed in St. Etienne, a podunk town without any redeeming qualities, located an hour train ride outside of Lyon. And although I resented being placed there during those initial first 9 months in France, in retrospect I am extremely thankful that I had the full immersion in French culture that I would have never had in Paris and am still not getting.

And as much as I know that people mean well, it drives mean absolutely crazy when I meet a French person and as soon as they find out that English is my first language, well then we absolutely should speaking it. It doesn’t matter than we’re in France. Obviously I want to spend every moment of my time in France speaking English! Gahh! See I feel better now.

With that in mind, my language skills have plateau-ed. Although I speak French fluently and without any difficulty on a day to day basis, I still don’t feel like I’m quite where I want to be. Particularly after the feedback that I received from an interview that I recently had (which is another story altogether — best saved for another post). So with the recommendation of a new friend that I’ve made here in Paris, I’m going to take language classes at the Sorbonne — schedule and finances permitting, with the hopes of passing the DALF C1 exam.

I’ve reached as far as I possibly can on my own — and because I never took a single language class the entire time I was previously living in France. I seriously need my ass kicked by the grammar police. Especially when it comes to writing.

p.s. I do hope that you like the cosmetic changes that I made to the blog. The other look was just too boring for words. And that picture of the streetcar — lame!




17 responses

23 02 2009

i hear ya, i have been speaking WAY too much english since moving to paris!!

23 02 2009

If you want to speak French, Paris may not be the best option.

23 02 2009
Miss Bliss

Yeah, that’s what I’m beginning to realize. It takes some serious effort here (and being way more assertive) if you want to improve. It’s also way more fun living here than in la province, but you definitely don’t get that “real” French experience.

23 02 2009

Paris is not France, I’ve been saying it for years…
(by the way, I’m French and I speak as much English as French in Paris…)

And I disagree with Paris being more fun living here than in the rest of France (I despise the word Province, it’s Parisians way to say “France”)). 🙂

24 02 2009

But David, don’t you know that non-Parisians are genetically programmed to dislike Paris?? I think the government must have inserted the gene into the population back in the late 70’s/early 80’s, when they were pushing the whole décentralisation movement & trying to improve life en province. lol

Seriously though, I can’t even tell you all the horrible things I heard about Paris all those years in Bretagne, and not a single one of them is true! Parisians are nicer, friendlier AND the customer service is a million times better. There’s much more to do, a wider variety of cultures, it’s easier to travel elsewhere in France and Europe – what’s not to love? 🙂

24 02 2009

Sam, it’s not genetical, it’s a learned behavior that comes from the different interactions non-Parisians have had with Parisians since their youngest age (in real life, through the media, you name it).

(and by the way you lived in Brittany before… if there’s a place that’s worse than Paris in France, that’s Brittany indeed).

1 03 2009

in the meantime, while you wait for registrations at the Sorbonne to open again, you could go to Gilbert Jeune and buy one of the C1 prep books, or some other FR language book? I was going to buy one but I think I’ll wait and see what kind of grammar stuff I get from my classes.

You could also join CIJP (, they have language meetings and other social events. I think they focus mainly on international students getting to know France and stuff, which hopefully means more French speaking. I’ll let you know how it goes. 🙂

btw, I’m thinking of going to Lyon or Bordeaux for a weekend (I don’t know when yet), would you be interesting in coming too?

1 03 2009
Miss Bliss

Thanks for that info. I was wondering where I could buy C1 prep books.

Either Lyon or Bordeaux sound great and I would be up for either! But I think I would lean more towards Bordeaux since I’ve never been to that part of the country before. Maybe sometime in April? I don’t know if you were thinking sooner?

Talk soon!

2 03 2009

Yeah, April would work because my brother will be here around the 13th because I have a long break. I was thinking of doing a long voyage from Paris to Bordeaux, then Marseille, and then Barcelona. I don’t know though… I need to plan.

Where’s the best place to buy train tickets online?

2 03 2009
Miss Bliss

If you need to buy train tickets for France then the site is If you need tickets for Spain, then the name of their train line is RENFE. Train travel in spain is much cheaper than in France, especially if it’s done locally.

I love planning trips, so I would also recommend the following itinerary ;
A) Bordeaux – Biarritz – San Sebastian – Bilbao – fly to Marseille
B) Bordeaux – Biarritz – fly to Madrid – Barcelona (if you have the time)
C) Lyon – Marseille – Montpellier – Barcelona

I would love to join you on either part or all of the way depending on my schedule…sounds like a fun trip! When is your break?

2 03 2009

from the 13th to the 26. My brother is going to be here for a week I think, and I have to be in Paris on the 17th to explore the university I’m interested in attending for graduate school sooo…. how much could we do in a week? Maybe B or C (I really want to go to Barcelona. Have you seen “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”– one of the best Woody Allen movies ever!).

It’s good that you love planning trips, because so far I’m horrible at it (I’m suppose to be meeting a friend in Italy in two weeks and I have no idea what to do… :/).

3 03 2009
Miss Bliss

I loved Vicky Christina Barcelona and I normally HATE Wood Allen films. The only other one of his movies that I liked was Match Point, probably only because it doesn’t have his typical neurotic style.

If you only have a week and you have your heart set on Barcelona, then I would personally fly there directly from Paris. And maybe save Bordeaux or Lyon for a long weekend trip? A week isn’t much time and there is so much to see in Barcelona! Especially for you since you’re an Art History major. Plus you can go up the Coast to Girona and check out the Salvador Dali museum or to Costa Brava.

I spent a week there and I could have easily stayed much longer. There are so many museums, beautiful architecture. I stayed at a great hostel there called Gothic Point. The free breakfast in the morning is massive and will have you full until lunch time! Plus the neighbourhood is great and very well situated. I think I only took the metro two or three times the entire time I was there. I think trying to cram too much in is exhausting and you won’t get to appreciate the place that you’re travelling in.

19 03 2009

I speak way too much English since moving to France as well. I have a French boyfriend and still end up speaking English!

The last time I really spoke French was when I passed the C1 almost two years ago, like you’re doing. Passing one of those exams is a great way to improve your written French… I just wish someone would give a lesson in Verlan!

24 04 2009

Thats interesting because we hear so much of the opposite complaint – that the French refuse to speak English in their own country. And that you can’t get by without French.

But it obviously goes the other way too!

Good on you for taking lessons, I am going to try an intensive Francais course when I get there so I can learn quick smart.


10 09 2009
Samantha Amsel

ah but of course
if you REALLY wanna learn french, best to go à la campagne
parisians have no patience for people who aren’t obviously well fluent and such

10 09 2009
Miss Bliss

LOL! to Samantha Amsel 🙂 Thanks for the comments guys and I apologize for the many many months of neglect to my blog. I’ve been busy working and sadly no longer have internet at home. However, I promise to give a blog update (as soon as I can) on what it has been like working for a French company (in French) for the past 6 months.

So I actually do speak French fluently and have been bilingual since I was 5 years old. I think that’s where my frustration lies. As soon as people learn that English is my first language, they insist on us speaking it.

Parlezvouskiwi – I think that it depends very much on where you live. Obviously if you live in Paris where there are lots of tourists, they are used to English speakers. However if you are living in a small town, I doubt that you’d find the same level of language accomodation. So I very much agree with Samantha’s comment above.

10 09 2009

I actually disagree with that – I lived in the campagne for five years and the people there had very little patience for non-native French speakers. Like you said, I was forced to learn French because of it, but it wasn’t easy and the people weren’t any more accommodating once I did speak fluent French.

Whereas in Paris, I’ve found them a lot more patient – I think they’re so used to foreigners here that nobody looks twice at you if you an accent and they’re actually pleasantly surprised if you speak fluent French.

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