France is a beautiful country. However, there’s is popular saying making the rounds on the internet, that it’s rude to speak English in France.
If France is your dream country you may find this worrisome if you don’t know how to speak English. So, is it rude to speak English in France?
No, it isn’t rude to speak English in France. However, because of some personal experience, some people may find it rude to speak English in France because French is the official language in France.
Nevertheless, France is a large country and you’ll find people who speak English if you’re worried you may not survive without speaking French.
Also, it’ll be a lot easier if you can start a simple conversion in French.
In this article, I’ll explain why people think it is rude to speak English in France and why it isn’t.
Also, in the end, you’ll find out why the French don’t like speaking English and what you should do before speaking English in France.
Why Do People Think It Is Rude to Speak English in France?
There are a lot of reasons people think speaking English in France is rude. This belief has a lot to do with their experience, what they see on the internet and what they hear from others.
First, according to the Eurobarometer report 2012, 39% of French people can hold conversions in English. And that’s not to say they’re fluent.
So, if you visit France you may be unlucky and meet the other 61% who don’t understand English. And when you speak to them and they don’t respond to you, you may find it rude.
However, even 39% may be reluctant in responding to you even when they understand what you said. Why does this happen?
When you speak English to someone, it’s because you expect that they’d understand you. So, the French may find it annoying and may ignore you if you approach them in your tongue which may seem disrespectful to you.
Therefore, what’s actually rude is approaching them in English without stopping to think they may not understand what you said. After all, it isn’t their native language.
Below are more reasons people think it is rude to speak English in France:
They Don’t Understand Basic English
If you’re visiting a foreign country for the first time, it’s ideal to learn simple conversions in their language. This is important to be able to at least tell locals you don’t understand their language.
As earlier established, it’s rude to expect all French men to speak English, when you don’t know anything about their language.
So, if you don’t understand simple French, the French man may not be inclined to respond to you, if you approach them in English.
So, when people experience this, they’re quick to conclude that it’s rude to speak English in France.
They Conclude on What They See on the Internet and Hear People Say
Another interesting reason people think it’s rude to speak English in France is because of what they see on the internet.
And while many of these people haven’t visited France to have the experience, they’re quick to believe that it is rude to speak English in France.
Also, some people who think this way hear it from their friends who might have had some experiences and shared them with them.
Why It Is Not Rude to Speak English in France?
It isn’t rude to speak English in France for different reasons. First, some French people are willing to learn English.
Also, in the French educational curriculum, the English language is the prevalent foreign language.
For instance, many young people are studying English at University and so you’ll find more younger people who can get by with English.
So, there are French people who speak English, particularly among younger people and in renowned cities. Therefore, it isn’t rude to speak English in France, it only depends on your manner of approach.
Below, I’ll give more reasons it isn’t rude to speak English in France:
You Can Get By with the English Language if You Meet the Right People
If you don’t have any idea of the French language and you’re visiting France for the first time, meeting the right people will be a lot easier. The hotels and tourist centers in big cities are your sure bet to get by in simple English.
Most hotel staff are trained in basic English and some managers employ those who are very fluent in the language just so they can accommodate visitors and tourists.
So, if you need a place you can converse in English, hotels or tourist centers are your best bet. No one will frown at you if you speak English.
French People Are Ready to Speak English if You Make an Attempt with French
Yes, the French people who can speak English are ready to engage you in the language, if you show a little care for their culture.
For instance, if you approach a French man attempting to speak French, he’ll be happy to help you because you showed concern. You may find many of them switching to English to save you stress.
You may not get this same treatment if you started with speaking English with them. Many of them may get irritated because you expect them to know a foreign language. And this is what makes people think it is rude to speak English in France.
So, to win their heart, it won’t hurt to know a good morning in French (bonjour) and please do you understand English? (s’il vous plaît, comprenez-vous l’anglais). It’ll make them more welcoming.
Why Do the French Refuse to Speak English?
The French people are often associated with their reluctance to speak English. However, it’s a myth that they don’t know or won’t speak English.
As I earlier said, 39% of French can hold simple conversations in English. And some are learning in Universities too.
Nevertheless, you may find a good number who don’t have any idea about the language or may refuse to speak it even when they know.
Especially if you approach them in English, the French man becomes more reluctant to speak the language. Below, are the reasons why:
They take pride in their Language
The French are people who take pride in their language. They’ve got a very rich cultural heritage and so are very unwilling to compromise.
So, one of the reasons you’ll find a French man who won’t speak English is because of the pride they take in their culture.
Especially, among the locals, you won’t find many who are willing to speak English even when they know a word or two.
These set of people prefer to converse in their language even with foreigners. And so, they’re more welcoming to foreigners who can speak their language.
They are not comfortable speaking English
Another reason you’ll see a French man who won’t speak English is that they’re uncomfortable with speaking it. You too will feel the same way.
If you aren’t familiar with French or any foreign language, you’re very likely not to try even when you know a few words. You do this because you don’t want to sound ridiculous.
So, so many French locals who know a bit of English refuse to speak it because of their strong French accent and the fear of not getting it right.
What Do the French Think of the English Language?
The French people see the English language the same way you probably see a foreign language, with reluctance in learning it.
Although English is a Lingua Franca, the French show some reluctance in learning the language, probably because many people show some reluctance in learning French too.
According to statistics, French is among the least countries with knowledge of English. The French are deep into their culture and heritage and so don’t find it necessary to learn the English language.
However, things are changing and the number of those learning English keeps increasing in France. So, while you’ll find a larger number not fluent in English and showing no form of interest, there are others who think differently.
Some French people find English interesting and are always willing to try out a few words or sentences. So, it goes both ways.
What You Should Do Before Speaking English in France?
Visiting France? Here are some things you should take note of before speaking English there.
Learn a Simple Conversation in French
It’s very important to learn a simple conversation in French before you jump into English. It doesn’t only show your care for their culture, it’ll also make the French man more friendly to you.
What’s more, it can make your stay a bit enjoyable. Something as simple as “bonjour” and “merci” should work.
Look for Places That Speak English
When you want to get by in France without knowing French, you should target places that can accommodate your English. In this way, it’ll be easier to get by easily.
Places like big hotels in cities where they’d have trained staff who understand basic English. Tourist centers are also a good place to try your English.
Target the Younger People
Younger people in France will understand English better than older people. This is because many of them are learning the language in school and some are equally eager to try out their skills.
So, if you visit France and you’re looking for who to ask if directions, target the younger ones who are more likely to understand your English.
Avoid the Locals
Another thing you should take note of before speaking English in France is villages and French locals. You may want to avoid these places and the people because your luck with English is very slim.
This set of people is very likely to ignore you if you attempt to speak English with them. So, your focus should be on bigger cities and that means you may not enjoy France as much as you want.
It isn’t rude to speak English in France. What is rude is you expecting all French men to understand and speak English for your sake.
In France, you’ll get a higher chance of getting a French man to speak English with you if you know simple conversation in French.
Also, the hotels and tourist centers are places where you’d find a higher percentage of people who understand English.
So, to survive in France with English, you should take time to know simple French, ask questions from younger people, hotels, and tourist centers and you can as well avoid the locals.