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France Expat Forum for Expats Living in France Welcome to the France Expat forum. This is the place to meet like minded people who have made France their new home. This forum is ideal for those who have moved to France and those thinking about making France their new home.

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Old 11th September 2019, 06:43 AM
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My wife and I (retired) are relocating within the next year or two. We were thinking of France (maybe somewhere inland in Provence), but the thing is: Neither of us speak the language. I’ve been reading here about french bureacrazy and it seems that you will have to know French to be able to handle it. What would be your advice: Should we forget it?

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Old 11th September 2019, 07:04 AM
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Certainly life in France is better and easier if you have a basic level of French. With better French it is easier to make friends with local people. If you REALLY want to move to France why not undertake the task of learning French?

DejW

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Old 11th September 2019, 07:39 AM
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We have been trying to learn, actually, been to some courses. But when you are not «immersed» the knowledge evaporates quickly.
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Old 11th September 2019, 08:10 AM
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Very true! When I came to France in 2001 I spent 3 weeks at an expensive immersion school in France. Hard work, good fun etc. When I returned to my new home I had'flu followed by bronchittis.
Weeks later when I had recovered I had lost most of my expensive investment!

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We have been trying to learn, actually, been to some courses. But when you are not «immersed» the knowledge evaporates quickly.

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Old 11th September 2019, 08:12 AM
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No matter how you learn French, you'll feel completely incompetent on arrival. I studied French for years in school and had that problem when I first got here. It's a matter of having to make do and force yourself to use the French you do know. (It also helps to be able to laugh at yourself when you make funny mistakes.)

But yes, ultimately, if you retire to a foreign country, you will need to speak (or learn) the local language. While "many people" speak English in the tourist areas, for actually living there, you need to be able to communicate in the language - for practical matters like shopping, medical treatment, getting around (on public transit or driving) and in emergency situations (calling an ambulance, calling for roadside assistance if your car breaks down, asking for help, etc.).

You don't need to be "fluent" by any means, but you do need some basic communication skills.
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Old 11th September 2019, 08:16 AM
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You could easily move to Paris and other major cities without any French.

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Old 11th September 2019, 08:17 AM
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You don't need to be "fluent" by any means, but you do need some basic communication skills.
Smiling works

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Old 11th September 2019, 08:30 AM
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So far I have managed quite well with a very low level of French comprehension. I use Google Translate and also have Voice Translate software that works in both directions on my mobile phone and a little hand scanner that can be used to translate documents when away for a computer and actually speaks the words in both Englsh and French.

I live in a suburb of the City of Toulouse where there are plenty of bilingual people and my employer is a large multinational with a US HQ and Aviation based where English is the Language used so with that and school French from 50 years ago I get by. I am not in socialising so no loss there. I have tried tutors but for me role playing does not work so the only way I can learn French is by rote using lists of vocabulary and verb conjugations.

I agree that if you wish to live in the countryside, not my scene as a life long urbanite, then being able to speak and understand French would be necessary.

Good Luck!

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Old 11th September 2019, 08:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Bevdeforges View Post
But yes, ultimately, if you retire to a foreign country, you will need to speak (or learn) the local language. While "many people" speak English in the tourist areas, for actually living there, you need to be able to communicate in the language - for practical matters like shopping, medical treatment, getting around (on public transit or driving) and in emergency situations (calling an ambulance, calling for roadside assistance if your car breaks down, asking for help, etc.).

You don't need to be "fluent" by any means, but you do need some basic communication skills.
Having had my house in France since 2007, and after learning to understand what people are saying to me and being able to read French, and being able to write it, (but having to look up the words to make sure the gender is correct, etc.), I still have trouble expressing myself in unfamiliar situations.

Things like shopping, getting around and even 'common' emergency situations can be learned and memorised, but being able to discuss a change of hairstyle with the hairdresser or complain to your neighbour when their workmen damage your stone wall, or argue with an insurance company needs a basic understanding of French and a good vocabulary.

I recommend Michel Thomas - he helped me to say "there's a car in the parking lot with only a dog driving", when I first started to learn French!

French classes help, but often you don't understand what's going on at first and when you're not in class you don't think about French at all. Listening to the MT lessons while doing housework or walking or driving or painting or whatever, really lets the information sink into your brain.

In any case, if the OP couple is not coming for over a year, they have plenty of time to learn the basics and they MUST do this! And hopefully the husband will learn as much as the wife and not just let her do all the talking and translating when they live here, as is often the case.

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Old 11th September 2019, 08:38 AM
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Just a note here - having the backing of an employer, particularly one where English is the "working" language - makes a huge difference. You can always fall back on a colleague if you have to for help with translations or understanding documents.

For retirees, the usual route is to have friends or neighbors who (ideally) speak enough English to help you out now and then. It's very do-able, but you do need to put yourself out there to make a few friends on arrival (and, of course, not to overburden them with requests for help).

It is often possible (depending on where you live) to find French people anxious to "practice their English" - and it's often quite easy to strike a deal whereby you meet for a "language exchange": half the time you speak English together and the other half French. Done over lunch, dinner, a glass of wine or just a cup of coffee, it's a lovely way to practice your language skills and get to know someone from the area.
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