This year on our trip to the Dordogne I’ll admit I was pretty happy with myself. When we first went to France as a family, I was the only one who had a smattering of French – and that was seriously rusty from the long hiatus since my GCSE days. Over the years and holidays it’s slowly improved, and the whole family has been getting better as we try at every opportunity to get by with French rather than expecting the locals to figure out our English. But I’ll admit it’s a slow painful process.
This summer we revisited an old favourite restaurant from that first French holiday, hidden away in the back streets of Duras. We had a wonderful meal, stayed until the restaurant was nearly empty, and consequently had a lovely chat with the owner – who spoke very little English. My French was just about good enough for a stilted, halting conversation, chatting about how long we were in the area, the fact that our children are home educated, that we had visited years before… nothing remarkable, but I was SO proud of the fact I had managed to be understood and hold up the conversation (with a lot of willing help on her part!).
But at the same time, I was incredibly frustrated with myself. If I had just got my act together and started learning properly like I swore I would every year, it wouldn’t be a struggle any more to chat with lovely restaurant owners. It’d be a simple pleasure – and far more courteous.
We’ve just come back from a short break in Verona, and though my Italian is nowhere near as good as my French, we still make every effort to get by and be understood in Italian (frankly it’s a bit disappointing when the waiters and bar staff answer us in English – where’s the fun in that?). But I was shocked at how many (British) tourists we overheard who made absolutely no effort whatsoever to try and speak Italian, and simply expected to have their English understood. Honestly – if I were Italian, I’d feign total ignorance for those who weren’t even willing to try!
So this is it – we are setting out to learn French. We’ve taken on the challenge from Rosetta Stone, and are determined that by the time we head across the channel next year we will be able to converse with ease, even if we’re not fluent.
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You can try a free demo here, and get 50% off your new language (you don’t have to do French with us, you can choose any of the 24 languages they offer) when using my promo code
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