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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We are an english family thinking of moving to france and aldo have to young children

is it really possible though if you dont speak the language, i would take a class before we go but that would only teach me the basics.

Is it really possible to get through day-to-day life without full knowledge of the language.!!
 
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It really depends on your financial means. Do you need to work? If so, in what line? Are you looking to move to an area with a large expat population? How well do you know France?

Small children quickly pick up the language. Adults can take an age - there's a huge difference between French class French, and the strange lingo actually spoken between the locals.

To answer your question, yes it's quite possible - I know plenty of Brits living in France with pretty basic French. But they've mostly got independent means, and have chosen to be more involved with the expat community.
 

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I'm going to take a slightly different position than frogblogger here. I think you need to be committed to learning the language in order to make a go of living in France. The British expats who stick primarily to the expat community are bitterly resented in many parts of France. Even in areas with a large and diverse expat population (i.e. not all anglophones), you'll find that the locals are wary of foreigners who aren't interested in mingling.

You don't necessarily need to speak fluently when you arrive. But you do need to be willing to take the time and (especially) the effort to learn the language and interact with the locals in order to develop at least a functional fluency.

The big issue, though, is making a living. If you have young children, I assume you're still working for a living and in France, that means you have to speak, read and write some French - even if you're working from home, you have to register your business, pay taxes and cotisations and carry out various administrative tasks. The French are pretty intolerant of those who don't speak their language, and there are few if any translations available of laws, rules, forms and instructions.
Cheers,
Bev
 
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I was really just answering the question "can it be done?" rather than making any value judgements. As I've said plenty of times before, I think picking up a decent knowledge of the language is very important for successful long-term integration.

On the other hand, although I agree with Bev to an extent, I wouldn't overplay the resentment thing. Unlike Bev I would say it is particularly true in areas with a big expat community - but even in those parts, there are plenty of French who are either indifferent to their presence, or who actually profit from it. It's by no means the sort of outright, outspoken intolerance that is often seen with respect to those of North African extraction.

I know plenty of anonymous small groupings of expats that pass pretty much unseen in parts of France that have relatively few expat residents. Some of those speak very little French, but get by ok. Some retired folk for example - not in the least resented for their poor knowledge of the language, so long as they are polite and respectful.

Not saying that the phenomenon doesn't exist - just that it's not the same animal as the feelings many French have with respect to those from across bigger cultural divides, and Moslems to boot.

Bev's advice to make every effort to integrate makes perfect sense nonetheless. This can bring larger opportunities, both in terms of useful contacts, friendships, jobs. To give an example from personal experience, I lived for a few years in a Savoie valley ski town. The surrounding resorts have a sizeable, self-sustaining British community, that mostly keeps itself to itself. It is both hated and needed, the locals having a pretty ambivalent attitude towards them as a result. But the real power and influence remains in the hands of the French. I mixed with the French almost exclusively, and in France if you need things done it's like anywhere else - it's who you know that usually counts.

The other issue is why move in the first place, if not to take full advantage of the experience of living in a different culture.

But the original question was is it possible to get by without full knowledge of the French language, to which the answer is of course yes. Is it as much fun? No. Does not having a decent knowledge of French handicap you in any ways? of course. Especially if you need a job, in which case most people struggle to survive, a sizeable proportion of whom ending up going home with their tails between their legs.
 

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While in theory, I guess it is possible to get by in France without learning the language, I'm not sure how satisfactory the experience would be. "Resentment" may be too strong a word for how the French feel about the English who "refuse" to learn the language.

Oddly enough I haven't heard the same complaint about the Americans - though I think sometimes the Americans lean a bit too far in the opposite direction. (For example, I refuse to speak French when dealing with anyone at the US Consulate. Give me a break - it's the one place I shouldn't have to worry about speaking French, no?)

I think the key thing here is that it's not so much that you need a "full knowledge" of the language, and you certainly don't need to be completely fluent before you arrive. But doing most day-to-day things (like getting your bread at the local bakery) takes a certain amount of courage and determination to simply try using whatever French you do know. It gets easier over time - and as long as you make the effort, most folks will pretty much let you blend in with the crowd.
Cheers,
Bev
 
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I think my attitude to this has changed a little, since living in Thailand. I'd never stayed for any length of time in a country where I didn't speak the lingo before; France, Spain, Italy, Germany (never lived in the latter, but travelled there a lot on business). Turning up in Bangkok, every sign in sight written in hieroglyphics and not being able to understand a single syllable, came as a real shock to the system. Very few Thais have any English at all. If they do, they rarely make any effort to speak it. Yet for the most part, so long as a proper effort is made to respect Thai people, their culture and traditions, they couldn't be more welcoming - even if your knowledge of Thai is limited to good morning, "sawatdee krap".

On the other hand, they obviously loathe - in their quiet, unaggressive way - the yobbish, loud, smug, culturally patronising Western foreigners who make not the slightest effort to respect Thai customs... even if they do speak some Thai.

So yes speaking the language is a plus - but only if it is combined with genuine respect for the ways of the people and culture of the country where you are a guest.
 

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While in theory, I guess it is possible to get by in France without learning the language, I'm not sure how satisfactory the experience would be. "Resentment" may be too strong a word for how the French feel about the English who "refuse" to learn the language.

Oddly enough I haven't heard the same complaint about the Americans - though I think sometimes the Americans lean a bit too far in the opposite direction. (For example, I refuse to speak French when dealing with anyone at the US Consulate. Give me a break - it's the one place I shouldn't have to worry about speaking French, no?)

I think the key thing here is that it's not so much that you need a "full knowledge" of the language, and you certainly don't need to be completely fluent before you arrive. But doing most day-to-day things (like getting your bread at the local bakery) takes a certain amount of courage and determination to simply try using whatever French you do know. It gets easier over time - and as long as you make the effort, most folks will pretty much let you blend in with the crowd.
Cheers,
Bev
When traveling through France, I tried asking for directions/information from the locals in English and Spanish. Almost always when I spoke to anyone in English, they made a face or outright refused to speak to me at all. In contrast, when asking for directions in Spanish, everyone at least attempted to help me. Now, this is just in an attempt to get by with trivial things when on vacation. I can imagine getting by with more important things like finding a place to live and work would be a million times harder if you did not speak French at all. I can sense some of that "resentment" would surface more clearly.

Like frogblogger said (or implied), it is worth the effort to learn a language and assimilate into a culture when you move to a different country, or else what's the point really of moving at all?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
well we would like to be fully intergarted in the french community and would hope to become fluent eventually. But this obviously takes time and we would be starting of with very basic knowledge!!!

My partner is a builder so not sure how easy it would be for him to find work with a basic knowledge.

Thanks for all your input,

Megan
 
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