As someone living in France, who talks English at home and whose work is in the English language it would be very easy to remain a non-French speaker. It would mean I remain dependent upon other people for things it is necessary to speak French for and that my experiences would otherwise be massively curtailed to those available in English. This could still allow a large element of activity; there is only one all French cinema – so there are three (here & here) that show films in English with sub-titles, the Strasbourg Cricket team operate in the English language and I’ve just got involved in one of a number of theatre groups in the city that do so in English, there is also the English Speaking Community of Alsace (ESC) who put on a monthly pub visit, coffee morning and regular events like quizes and a bonfire night. So, as long as you have a French speaking partner who can take care of the bureaucracy, you can live an active life and have a circle of friends without eve learning the language.
But then why live in France if you don’t learn the language? Yes its difficult but then things worth doing sometimes are. Why live in a place and miss out on a lot of what it ha to offer? As a result I learn French once a week in a class for an hour and a half and exchange an hours French lesson for an hours English lesson. I have resumed the fencing lessons which were the instigation for writing this blog and they are done in French. Most importantly the kind of work available to someone who only speaks English means that, unless you do something like the childcare, you have little independence and you rely upon your partner.
It takes time but the work to learn the language is worth it. To restart fencing I needed a certificate from my Doctor to say that I am healthy and fit enough to fence. The precautionary principle providing a stark contrast to the more English approach of relying upon the individual to know what is good for them. I just went to the local Doctor and waited to see her and I felt such a sense of achievement upon leaving with my certificate having carried out the conversation in French. At work, apart from my fellow English speakers I deal with the other staff in French and it is good to be able to do so.
At school I did one year of French and did not get on with it. Some of it was as a result of a clash with my French teacher. On reaching 11 and being given the choice I opted for German and fell in loved with the language, country and people although it was not always reciprocated – particularly the results in my exams at 16. For the last three years I’ve been working to be able to speak French and there has been a lot of progress but there is a lot more to do.
Tony Blair’s book has just ben launched in a French language edition and last night he was on a programme where he was interviewed for an hour about the book. I was pleased to be able to follow the interview and pick up some of the nuances that were talked about. Watch yourself at: