https://www.duolingo.com/IsabelDrummond

I'm an exchange student, and everyone speaks to me in my native language

I'm a Canadian exchange student spending a 3 month exchange in France, and I've been going to school here for about a month. Teachers and adults consistently speak to me in French, but almost all the students speak to me in English. They seem to like practicing their English, and I am by no means fluent (as you can see, by me only being on level 15), but I am here to learn.

I always reply in French, and I consistently assure them that they can speak French, yet they still ignore me, even if they seem to struggle thinking of the English phrasing, and sometimes even ask their other friends for French-English translations.

Anyone have any advice, or have been in the same situation before?

1 year ago

36 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/Lorel90
Lorel90
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This is very common. Just tell them, I am sorry but I have to practice French and I cannot talk in English. Avoid people who do not listen to you and look for people who will talk to you in French. You will have to say good bye to some people.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Osnakezz
Osnakezz
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This is basically the best advice. Tell if you want to speak French, and explain why (e.g. ''I want to exercise my French to learn it better. So could we perhaps talk in your language?''). They will be more understanding of what you're doing and appreciate you for your effort. :-)

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Deyan161
Deyan161
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Have had the same experience. Some answers (1) find other people to practise on. This probably means not students, because you need to find people who don't know, or are not confident in, English. I used to buttonhole one of the cleaning ladies in Norway. (2) Even if people insist on talking to you in English, always reply in French. I've even resorted to not understanding English - you can ask them to repeat what they said in French. (3) Be ruthless and only make friends with those who're prepared to let you practise French. After all, it's what you're doing the exchange for! -so they're wasting your opportunity for you if they're preventing you acquiring French. Just say a polite 'Bonjour' to the others but then move on.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/MikeNolan6

Perhaps you can reach a compromise with them, helping them with their english part of the day and you with your French part of the day.

Part of what you're there to learn is how to work with people.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/poa-alpina1
poa-alpina1
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Lot's of expats here in Switzerland have the same problem. People really want to practice their english on them. There is no easy solution to this problem, you will just have to insist and tell them that you are here to learn French and if they speak to you in English you can't improve. If they absolutely want to practice their English, maybe suggest a language exchange/tandem to them.

Also, don't just talk to students: chat with your baker, ask your cashier how she's doing, flirt with the mailman maybe :-D they are a bit less likely to speak English. Also, it is more fun to know the people around your neighborhood.

(edit: you might be underage - if that's the case ignore what I said about the mailman!)

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/knudvaneeden
knudvaneeden
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Just say "I only speak French, sorry" (or thus e.g. "excusez-moi je parle seulement Francais, merci beaucoup") and follow and react to that statement strictly.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mirmyr
mirmyr
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You have to be straight forward and tell them that for the limited time that you are studying abroad, you want to focus on learning the language, thus you don't want to speak any other language but the language you are learning. Now is not forever, so you want to take this language learning experience seriously. Good luck.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/YozakuraHime

I've been in the same sort of situation in Japan. Is it possible for you to maybe join an interest-based club or take lessons in something? Dance, pottery, sports, etc. Anything you're interested in or always wanted to try. When you're learning something with a bunch of other people, the instructions will probably be in French and people might be more likely to respect your wishes to speak in French. Also, I second the idea about trying to get to know more people around you who might not know English. Older people are great for this, and they tend to be less shy about giving corrections too.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Borbotrincess
Borbotrincess
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Been there. Find new friends, get in different situations... Be rude and say that you won't talk unless it's French. And good for you for not accepting your current situation!

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Azais
Azais
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Oui, c'est courant (pas seulement en France !). Je suis française et ça m'est arrivé une fois en Allemagne. C'est très vexant quand on parle allemand et que la personne nous répond en... anglais (surtout que je parle mieux allemand qu'anglais).

Just tell them "Je veux pratiquer mon français" and they'll speak French. Ask for their patience as well :)

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/patbo
patbo
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Try to stop giving an actual reply when they speak to you in English, but just politely ask them to repeat what they said in French. If you refuse to answer their English, using it stops being the more convenient way of communication for them.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Lars200
Lars200
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Really? Where in France did you find a school full of 15 year teenagers who are fluent in English? My experience is exactly the opposite most French youngsters I've met did not want to speak anything but French. If you find it annoying that they try to speak English with you, you can just say "en français, s'il te plaît" and then they probably switch language immediately.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/CaptainCIarky

this is common in france.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/stripedkitty
stripedkitty
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I remember when it was just the opposite in France, and it was expected that you made the attempt to speak their language- maybe there were just fewer English speakers 15 or so + years ago...(?)

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/susanstory
susanstory
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My penpal in France wrote me in one of her letters many years ago that they had an exchange student from Alaska, staying in their house, and was saying that this exchange student never made any attempt to speak French and that all she wanted to eat was hamburger. To her, "hamburger" was disgusting. She wrote in her letter that there was a MacDonald's around there and that they never ate there, because to them, hamburger was disgusting.

Well, escargot is a delicacy there but I wouldn't eat it.

I don't know how they got along because my penpal didn't know any English. We always wrote in French because I could understand her French better than her English.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Dutchesse722
Dutchesse722
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Sounds like that exchange student was in the wrong country!

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/susanstory
susanstory
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Yeah, probably. In the early 1990's I was working for a woman who was originally from France. She kept complaining about how everything here isn't like it was in France, and that it was so cold here in winter.

When I mentioned that to some people, one person said, "Why is she here?" and another guy said, "Tell her to go back."

She was driving me crazy. When I wrote to my penpal in France about her, she asked me what part of France she was from. After I told my penpal how this woman was driving me crazy, she wrote me a French proverb in French which translated meant to just work and not listen. Something like that.

We always wrote in French. She only knew a few words of English and her husband didn't speak English at all. He wrote me a couple letters many years ago and was saying "Bravo pour votre francais" and that they appreciated that I always wrote to Mireille in French all those years.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Dutchesse722
Dutchesse722
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Some people never adapt to living in another country, be it temporary or long-term.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/elvper
elvperPlus
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"they still ignore me". This is quite common among young people in certain European countries, but the main reason isn't them wanting to practice English - or at least not all of them. It's rather because of impatience, they don't like to speak their language with somebody who doesn't speak it "good enough". They won't tell you this when you ask them why they don't speak their own language though, they'll just use the "I want to exercise speaking English" as an excuse.

You'll notice that once your French gets better to a point where you've got some fluency they'll stop speaking English with you, proving that it never really was about them wanting to exercise English. The French (and people from some other European countries) just really hate (not every single person obviously) to speak French with somebody who is quite bad at it (not fluent enough). Thus to resolve your issue you simply need to keep practicing French and the more fluent you get the more people will be willing to speak French with you!

I know people will likely down vote this because they prefer to think it's because of nicer reasons, but I'm just bringing in some reality. There are many people who'd even rather ignore you than speaking with you in their native language when you don't speak it "fluent enough", they simply hate doing it. If I may say this - especially with English speaking people who try to speak French - as this is often perceived as "cringy" because of the way English speaking people often pronounce French.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AmineHadji1
AmineHadji1
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It's a bit more complex than that, but you're right. The problem is that you can't reduce this phenomenon to a single case. As she said, some of the students struggle with the English phrasing and still, they want to practice their English. So, they "hate" hearing someone struggling in French but they don't mind struggling in English? It really depends on people, some don't want you to struggle in your phrasing, some want to practice their English....

Anyway, even in the case you explain, there is a slight problem. As a French-native, I don't hate speaking with someone learning French because it sounds "cringy", I hate speaking with someone learning French because I feel I'm limited in my way of speaking. I can't use slang, I can't speak as fast as I want, I'm obliged to rephrase some of my sentences... All that really bother me, and even now as I'm on the other side (I'm learning the language of the country I'm in and everyone replies in English), I can't really blame them.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Deyan161
Deyan161
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As a UK native English speaker, I've found (for instance in youth hostels) in a group of people using English as a lingua franca, that I can't talk normal and be understood - I have to rephrase almost everything into a kind of textbook simplified English and also adopt American vocabulary. Also native English speakers get very used to interpreting mangled speech forms and bad accents - I think the same should be extended to us if we're making an honest effort to speak someone else's language and not behave like the stereotypical little Englanders.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/piguy3
piguy3
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This resonates strongly with me, and I'm American. Obviously I don't have to shift my vocab in an American direction, but I tend to fall over myself somewhat trying to figure out what speech forms my interlocuter might have a shot at understanding. And I get sort of nervous and self-conscious as I try to artificially slow my speech, which I'm sure makes me difficult to understand in an entirely different way.

I think we can extract a course of action for the OP: just speak English really fast if they speak to you in it. Mumble a bit. Use a lot of phrasal verbs and avoid Latinate vocabulary. They'll be happy for your attempts at French soon enough :)

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Deyan161
Deyan161
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I like this! I feel like saying, been there, got the T-shirt. Speaking fast in your normal speech is indeed the best answer to those so-and-so's who tell you "I speak very well English". When they don't understand, you have the pleasure of replying - v e r y s l o w l y - "I'm sorry, you said you spoke English."

I don't know what part of America you're from, but another technique I've used is to talk in a regional dialect - even a slight shift into regional phraseology and vocab seems to floor the really arrogant ones. I'd imagine a Southern drawl would be pretty effective.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AmineHadji1
AmineHadji1
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Well, your argument is kind of interesting in its own, and I totally get it. I think the problem is a bit more cultural than that. In France, people do believe that if you don't speak French correctly, then you shouldn't speak it, and that works for any other language. And it works both ways, I don't like getting compliments because I'm able to introduce myself or be talked as if I'm 5 years old. It doesn't mean that I don't like when an English-native speaks French, I do, but only when he speaks it well enough for me to have a "normal" conversation with them.

Of course, sometimes I help people with their French and I do basically all that you mentioned, but then I see myself as a teacher (or a tutor), and even though I'm happy to help, I don't enjoy the conversation. So, generally, when I see a foreigner struggling, I prefer speaking his language.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Deyan161
Deyan161
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If I ever meet you, I'll remember not to use French - vielleicht könnten wir Deutsch nutzen?

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/piguy3
piguy3
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@ AmineHadji1

This raises another interesting point. There is no actual reason both parties to a conversation need to be speaking in the same language. One can only ever really control the language that one is choosing to speak in.

IsabelDrummond, another course of action, just keep speaking French no matter what language others choose. Finding opportunities to hear French isn't hard even back home, and you're in France after all, so of course it's completely trivial. The particularly unique opportunity you need to take advantage of is speaking it. As others have said, the problem of replies in English will go away soon enough as you improve.

It's probably reasonable to consider that the other people's motivation is to convey some message to you. It may very well be they find it easier to attempt to get that message to you in English rather than trying to figure out a form of French you can understand, a form that would probably be unnatural to them. Speaking English is of course somewhat unnatural for them, too, but unnatural in a manner they probably get a kick out of rather than finding burdensome. The way to get the most out of your experience, assuming you're there for a number of months yet, is probably to form connections with people in whatever language. They you'll have plenty of people to talk with in just French when your French skills make it easy for all parties.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/AmineHadji1
AmineHadji1
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Entschuldigung, ich verstehe, aber ich spreche nur eine Bische. Mais on peut essayer un truc sympa, tu parles en allemand et je parle en français.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Deyan161
Deyan161
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(reply to your 2nd reply - no reply button)

Bon! Gut! We'll do that!

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HexManiacSarina

I've heard this a lot too, especially with French people.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Azais
Azais
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OMG. You really hate us, don't you ? If we don't speak English with you, it's because we're snobs. If we do speak English with you, it's because we're snobs. What should we French speak for you to like us ? Klingon ?

Le cours est pas encore dispo malheureusement pour ça.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/macatmil
macatmil
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Hi, I'm bilingual and have been living in France for...over 60 years... And yet some people always find it fun and friendly to try to speak a few words with me in English. I have never known people who " just really hate to speak French with somebody who is quite bad at it (not fluent enough)" , as you write. Of course, once you speak well, it's easier to get so involved in a conversation so interesting that nobody has time to practise the few words of English they might happen to know.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KapitanKaya
KapitanKaya
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Tell them not to use you and take advantage of you, because you're the one who travelled and moved to learn French. So they should be listening to you. Go tell your teachers and ask them to make an announcement about only speaking French to you:-D

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/IsakNygren1
IsakNygren1
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In some European countries people prefer to speak English with foreigners than hearing them speaking the language with a foreign accent.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/poa-alpina1
poa-alpina1
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I don't know where you got that information. Most people I know including myself find accents charming.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/IsakNygren1
IsakNygren1
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I have heard otherwise.

1 year ago
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