parlez-vous français?



At the very top of my “life list” is one simple wish…to speak French fluently. I was 24 when I first journeyed to Paris and had the chance to put my language skills to the test.  Six years of study in school, French summer camp, courses at the Alliance Française, and many French-speaking friends (and family) had brought me to that moment I had long awaited – the chance to speak French IN France! I was beyond enthusiastic, and spent the entire flight over listening to iPod tutorials to refresh my skills. Upon arriving in Paris, I headed to the nearest café to have my first authentic experience. I was taking such pleasure in listening and observing, that I didn’t even notice the waiter, standing next to my table, with a look of impatience. The moment of truth was upon me, and what did I do? I froze. I was unable to utter a word! I was so embarrassed  and disappointed in myself, and determined to ensure that would never happen again.

After getting over my initial terror, I eased into speaking by starting with the basics, and conversing with everyone and anyone who would talk to me. Previously, I had always spoken French in my safe “bubble” in the states, knowing I could always fall back on English. Even though I knew that most French people spoke English, especially in Paris, I had set high standards for myself. I refused to be that American. We all know the one. Not necessarily the fanny pack, baseball cap, shorts wearing tourist (which is definitely not me), but the one that doesn’t try. I wanted to be able to speak the basics with ease, to show mastery of the vocabulary, sentence structure, pronunciation, and even nail the slang. Quite the linguistic challenge, especially right out of the gate. 

On my subsequent travels to France, I’ve been more challenged by visiting rural areas where English is not widely spoken. I find that those experiences, while a bit stressful, create an environment where I shine. Knowing there is no safety net forces me to dig deeper into my knowledge and allow my instincts to take over. I take pride in small victories – communicating effectively with a taxi driver who doesn’t speak any English, negotiating a wine tasting at a small cottage in Alsace with a kind, elderly woman, arguing with a hotel manager after a frightful stay in Orléans, and even the rare occasion where I am mistaken for being French! With each trip, I grow more comfortable, and much more confident.

I have a long way to go, but I take comfort in knowing I can communicate effectively, although, not always elegantly. To me, the “language of love” is the most beautiful sound in the world and I float off into a dreamy wonderland every time I hear it. When I say something correctly and it rolls off my tongue, it’s hard to disguise my happiness. Of all the endeavors in my life, I hope to one day achieve my goal of fluency and to prove it by eloquently conversing…en français


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  1. You can totally make it happen! I used to start teaching myself Italian and it was outstanding and VERY affordable. Since you already have a base knowledge of French, I think it would be very useful for you!

  2. you and me both, lady! sheesh, I really hope I wasn’t “that person” a couple of weeks ago. I tried hard but my accent is laughable. I had a stare down with a waiter at one cafe when he said something so long and, well, french, that I had absolutely no idea how to respond. I smiled and nodded yes and he chuckled. I would love to learn french now that I am 100% certifiably obsessed with the culture and in the process of figuring out a way to move there ;) (oh I wish!)

  3. I’ll check that out Lindsey…Mr. Fleurishing gave me the Rosetta Stone French for my birthday when we were dating…I just need to dig into that hardcore. ;)

  4. Kayla, I am certain you weren’t “that person”…and all that matters is you tried. I’m with you on finding a way to live there…although I also know the difficulties of doing that as well. Most of the time I try to forget that though, and continue to dream…:)

  5. Hey Susan,

    I read your text with much pleasure! When you speak about the struggle learning a language can be, I could not only recognize myself but much of the feedback we receive from our users.
    Our head of support – Anne – has collected 11 language learning-tips you might find interesting as well (

    I wish you much fun and the power to keep up learning French!


  6. Thank you for visiting my blog Marvin, I am flattered by your kind words! I am absolutely going to look into what Babbel has to offer, merci!

  7. Good luck, Susan! I hope you’ll reach your goal. I have the same wish for multiple languages but perhaps I should start small since just German is proving to be so difficult!

  8. Bonjour to all of you and Susan the blogmaster,
    As a Frenchman, I am deeply moved to hear such a love for the French language and I’d like to encourage you to carry on. One thing I can tell you for sure is that the locals (ie french people) are not so good as it seems to speak English and will ALWAYS appreciate you speak in their language and will appreciate it. Don’t worry about mistakes or accents (we have regional accents here too so everybody has an accent somehow) and just go for it. French people are very lenient when it comes to foreigners learning their language and can be patient. The only thing they can’t bear is when their president speaks like a butcher but that’s a different story which doesnt’t belong in here.
    Bon courage dans l’apprentissage du français et n’hésitez pas à pratiquer partout et surtout pas de crainte!
    Bien amicalement,

    Bernard from Provence (near Aix)

  9. Merci Bernard, quel plaisir de te voir! Je le parle pour l’amour de l’art…je suis plus enclin a parler francais aprés quelques verres! ;)

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