Thursday, February 28, 2008

English, and other languages! spoken


I often get messages from people asking me if they'll manage to get by in Paris without speaking French. I always reply that there is no problem, because more and more French people can speak English nowadays - I'm sure you noticed it, if you already came here. I looked on the web for stats (number of French people able to speak English) but only found 1991 figures. Anyway, to illustrate our "opening to the world", I photographed the entrance of this restaurant in Montmartre where they claim to speak English, Italian and... Monegasque (that is French!)

67 comments:

  1. But if i come to France, i WANT to speak French! It'll be poor, but i'll still do it!

    Lovely wooden doors here Eric.

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  2. Paris is fluent in any language you want of course! But with such accents! ;)
    Your shot is very "parisian" (nothing wrong!), i like this wood façade...very typical

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  3. oops. I honestly WAS going to bed, Guille... LOL I really felt sure you would beat me and i slowly clicked, you must have been making more muffins. Eek. Night night now, definitely!

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  4. You know what Lynn? That's the difference between you and me: you posted maybe 4 seconds earlier just because you didn't think about your grammar...Sob.

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  5. That's exactly what i was going to say Guille. If you had commented in French, you'd have beaten me for sure and therein lies my unfair advantage :( YOU win, Guille!

    G'night, Eric x he he

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  6. FYI Lynn, in French sob does not mean what you think!! But means "I'm sad/crying" kinda like LOL means "I'm Laughing"
    Guille meant she was sad (more bitter, I take it!) because she has to think twice when posting

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  7. Don't worry i guessed Eric, though it could have meant something else LOL. We also say sob, like a cry in the throat but it's a genuine word, not an abbreviation. She does indeed, i realise that. I think Guille at GF time you should use French? x night

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  8. Over the past few years, I have happily, zealously, and even relentlessly encouraged my friends to make France - in particular, Paris - the focus of their first major overseas trip. Of those who have succumbed to my spiel, none have returned disappointed. I, on the other hand, have been appalled by their steadfast reluctance to learn a single word of French before their departure.

    Now, I know that some people find learning a second language - let alone speaking it in a foreign country - an intimidating prospect. On top of that, there is the (generally false) impression that the French are intolerant of foreigner's attempts to speak their mother tongue. This may be so in some cases, of course, but could never be entertained as universally true. Indeed, as someone who was expecting the worse - having only a very limited vocabulary and no experience of an actual conversation in French before my first trip to Paris - I found the French (at least the ones I spoke to) to be not only lenient, but positively masochistic in their efforts to accommodate and encourage me in my struggle to make myself understood.

    The pain was worth it, as the gains were exponential. By the third or fourth day, I was actively seeking out potential interlocutors, needing very little pretext for an impromptu chat. (Later, when I took up French at university, such bravado proved incredibly useful when it came to oral exams.)

    Thus, I applaud the French for making more of an effort to speak English. If nothing else, they are setting an excellent example - one which I hope my friends will take note of before they next pack their bags for destinations where languages other than their own are spoken.

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  9. Has anyone been to the cafe in Montemarte with the lyrics written all over the walls? It's somewhere between the Metro station and the funiculare. They had the best vegetable quiche! Anyway, I have been to France three times and I don't speak any French but I was able to get by without a problem. Everyone was always very nice and patient with me.

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  10. I have been vacationing in France since the 70's up until the late
    80's with only my bad Spanish and Italian to help me(it didn't much). Then I became a flight attendant. As a very late starter, I decided to learn French. I was just tired of not being able to express myself well.
    Now that I can speak a bit, with the WORST American accent, I have had a wonderous new world open up to me, and every layover is a thrill with different kinds of experiences open to me than I have had in the past.
    The funny part,is that now when they hear my accent, I get spoken to ....in ENGLISH!

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  11. Nice photo Eric! As a recent first timer to Paris, who knew the minimum conversation essentials, I felt comfortable and welcome when attempting to communicate. My daughter had studied French more recently, and made more of an effort (with great success). My mother, who has been to Paris several times since the mid 70s, reflected on how much more "friendly" Paris has become to English speakers. But alas, the women in my family are partial to France.

    I do agree with Lucio, though. Half the fun in traveling to a new culture (imo), is in the preparation. Learning the language, the customs, the history and then getting to use your skills and knowledge is so satisfying!

    My friend is currently in a French immersion program in Villefrance (I am so jealous!)

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  12. I'm French Canadian so when I go to Paris and speak French to the various merchants and always the local market (my friends live in the 9th, moved from the 11th) people think I speak funny and my accent is "cute" LOL

    We're the little cousins from Canada :) but I'm finding that I have to think a lot more about what I say because we definitely have a different way of saying a few things :)

    Great shot, I enjoy your pictures Eric.

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  13. I love these doors, Eric. The old wood, the hardware. In Paris, I began taking pictures of doors everywhere we went. I must have photographed every other door at Place des Vosges. I couldn't get enough of the huge, heavy doors with the big cement doorstops. We don't have much like them here.

    I couldn't wait to speak French while I was there, and spoke as much as I could. The Parisiens were tolerant and patient with me, mostly. My companions didn't speak much French so I did most of the talking, and I believe I had the most fun!

    Except in restaurants. I'll have to improve my food vocabulary before I return to France. I don't believe I ordered a single edible thing during my entire visit.

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  14. Eric, this is one of those photos and captions that there is so much to disuss. My first question is about "Monegasque". You say that is French. What do you mean? French for another word or another form of French or something else? Guess I'll have to check Wikipedia.

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  15. Okay, here's what I found out about Monégasque. Although I have to say, it's not exactly French, even if it's spoken in Monaco.

    I learn something every day!

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  16. Interesting story about this language Michael. Thank you. I did not know that. Yes I believe people should learn to speak a little bit of the local language when they visit another country.

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  17. Hi again everyone. I'm sorry to take up space again, but I wanted to share something I just discovered on the portal.

    Niger Daily Photo!

    It is awesome and I encourage each of you to pop over there and leave a comment. I don't think you have many cities from Africa signed up Eric so I found this one to be nice and refreshing, enlightening and more.

    Thank you. We now return you to your regularly scheduled comment box.

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  18. In my experience, Paris is OK when you only speak English with a few bonjours thrown in. It's not as easy for English-speakers as other countries (i.e. Scandinavia) and you do get more funny looks than, say, in Germany, but it's not as bad as people fear either. I think it's worse if they think you're English as opposed to American/Canadian/any other nationality. Ahem.

    I like the photo :-)

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  19. The thing I have always loathed about the notion of a global language - like Esperanto - is the idea that the plethora of unique sounds and meanings enshrined in the various tongues of the world are, ultimately, dispensable. To me, this is the same as saying it would be better to have only one kind of flower - and only one variety of that flower, in only one colour!

    Surely there are emotional and cognitive subtleties in every language that are worth valuing and preserving simply because they represent the myriad ways in which we have striven to articulate the world and our experience of it. Therefore, to share a language with someone is to do more than pay respect to a linguistic custom; it is to take a dip into the consciousness that gave rise to the Other's words and noises - and which, to a large extent, is responsible for the grammar of his/her being.

    Speaking French doesn't make me French any more than drinking Vodka makes me Russian, but it does take me somewhere that my plane ticket can't.

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  20. At first glance I thought these were perhaps separate doors through which each nationality might enter. Ma no, signore! Glad you explained that they represented multi-lingual capabilities. -:)

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  21. I must agree with Phx that it's a bit frustrating when you do make the effort to speak French in Paris, or anywhere in France pretty much and you get replied to in English or simply smirked at! It put me off quite a bit as a teenager but i recovered and always try to speak it when there. I want and need to speak it, however bad it might sound through lack of practise! I would say, you'd get an answer in English 9 times out of ten, after uttering your well rehearsed and coveted French! Tolerant is the right word at best, Petrea. lol.

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  22. Tonight in the race for Golden Finger award i'm going to be writing in French. Prepare yourselves, it will be full of errors but i want to make the playing field level. Guille: Are you on? lol!

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  23. I'll need it, thanks Rose! It will be an amusing disaster i think.

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  24. So, behind door number one, Julie Christy, door number two, Sophia Loren, and door number three, Grace Kelly. And no tigers!
    -Kim
    Seattle Daily Photo
    PS- Michael, I've been visiting the Niger blog for some time now and she has wonderful images up consistently. I'm glad you discovered it ans urged others to visit. She's in a particular city in Niger, although the blog is named for the country.
    -K.

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  25. I agree with Phx, when you speak the local language, even if just a bit, a whole new world opens up to us. I've been studying French so when I was there I only wanted to speak French at the restaurantes, shops, grocery store, asking for information. I had no trouble as everyone was very nice and helpful.

    Whenever I'm visiting a country I always try to speak the language. Of course I won't speak dutch if I'm in Amsterdam cause I'm not that smart! But as long as the spoken language is spanish, italian, english or french, I'll make the effort.

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  26. Lynn, I think that the problem will be, how to speak French without a Gloucestershire - or an Aussie accent.
    After all that study, I suppose the French will pick where we come from, by our accents !
    I can't wait to find out !
    Perhaps you could pretend to be a Breton?

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  27. I have never heard that word Monegasque before...

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  28. When I come to France one day, I will be respectful and try to communicate with the French I will study, but would be very greatful to hear English to get me through the hard parts,lol. I took some high school French and can only remember a few key words. I'm French on my dads side so I've been gaining a new interest in French culture lately (I'm a genealogy nut, 'nuff said!) Anyways, I truly love your photographs!

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  29. lol M. Benaut, the Parisians would really be in trouble if they heard a Gloucestershire accent! It's quite broad with long vowels. I don't have it - I'm from London and Surrey. Pretty straight forward i think and hope. French with plain English accent will be bad enough though for sure!

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  30. In my experience,it is hard for a native speaker of another language to differentate American accented vs British accented speak. I get asked if I am from England as much as America.

    As I write, I will contradict myself, as I remember something from my college days in Rome. I was watching Laurel and Hardy in Italian. Laurel, was translated as British accented Italian, and Hardy was American accented Italian.

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  31. What a beautiful photograph and such gorgeous doors. I have such happy memories of places like this when I first visited Paris aged 18. I don't think they've changed the gingham curtains!

    Eric, Monegasque is indeed a language and it's spoken in Monaco by the locals and it's taught in the schools. In fact I have a friend who is Norwegian, lives in Monaco, speaks French - indeed speaks several languages - and he is learning to speak Monegasque at evening classes. The local authority provide language classes for anyone interested.

    When you enter Monaco from France you see a welcome sign in French and in Monegasque. I put this on Monte Carlo DP on the 29 March 2007 if anyone is interested and wants to take a look. The Wikipedia link already given by Michael explains the language so well.

    What might be of interest is that you have to be born in Monaco (I believe of Monegasque parents( to be a Monaco 'citizen' - or you have to marry a Monaco citizen. Everyone else who lives in Monaco - and they are majority - are 'residents'. There are only about 5000 citizens. Only the citizens I believe have the right to vote in the local elections.

    Lovely post. I adore the old Paris cafes like this.

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  32. Oh no Phx it's very easy to differ the british accent from the american accent. I mean, it's clear as water!

    I find it a little bit harder to understand british accent when someone is speaking fast. Probably because I'm much more used to hearing american accents. However, I must say the british accent is so elegant! I don't like the accent from Dublin though.
    And I don't like the accent from Texas either.

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  33. Here's the link to the entrance to Monaco in both French and Monegasque.

    http://monte-carlo-daily-photo.blogspot.com/2007/03/french-and-mongasque.html

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  34. Most men with the right British accent could have me in a minute(just joking Mr. PHX), as it does sound so elegant.
    I cannot differentiate the accents in French, as I am just not there, yet, and never will be.
    The only slang I have become aware of is the pronunciation of "oui" as "way" in Paris, by some people, and that is because I had to ask what "way" meant!

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  35. I have no time to write but
    Lynn I didn't mean that I was the winner! I just noticed that you were lucky not to check your comment before posting, contrary to me. Btw I wondered during long minutes what GF meant!! I got it now ;)
    Tonight for the GF race I'll be here, except if it's after midnight, I'm really tired. And I will write in French too hehe!

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  36. Phx, the French "way" is spelt "ouais", and is used everywhere in France. It's quite like "yeah" or "yep" for "yes"...

    Lynn, your post about Gloucestershire accent reminds me my first "immersion session" in England, 15 (in fact 17!) years ago, when the chemical group I was working for sent me 1 month in one of their plants close to Newcastle! The first 2 or 3 days were d....d (or b....y) difficult as I couldn't catch a single word! To me, the accent there is the worst... though I can easily understand it now ;-))

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  37. Thank you very much Jilly. I had not idea of all this!

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  38. I agree with PHX about the accent thing. I have been leaving in the Uk for almost 15 years and still often can't "hear" the accents. I still can't differentiate accents between New Zealanders and Australians.

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  39. These pretty portals remind me of Coffee Parisien on rue Princesse in the 6th. After flying over the ocean, checking into the hotel (St. Sulpice), I walked to Coffee Parisien for dinner. The young waiter was very patient with my very limitied French, and even helped me with a French grammar lesson. I go back there every time I visit Paris.

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  40. LOL Petrea - I know what you mean about ordering meals en Francais!

    For anyone who wants to practice their French without being responded to in English - I highly recommend going to L'Etole D'Or chocolate shop in the 9th (30 Rue Fontaine - right down the street from the Moulin Rouge). The owner is Denise Acabo - who is one of the most charming French women I have ever had the privilege to meet.

    Not only is her chocolate divine, but she loves to chat. I make a point to visit her every time I go to Paris - she lets me babble on and on in French and then always remarks how amazed she is that I could learn to speak French so well in America! (I know she's just being nice - but it's a lot of fun.)

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  41. Oooh Pont Girl, that's the place for me then, being able to bore someone with my French AND eat chocolate, well!

    Phx yes the ouais foxed me for a long time when studying French.

    Guille i know you didn't mean that, but i did! French tonight then ! Eek.

    Yes Thib, Newcastle is even difficult for me! That's very difficult, as is some Scottish; i am completely lost. On news bulletins sometimes i can't pick out a word!

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  42. Thanks, Thib. I didn't know there was a spelling for that.
    Pont girl: Although I am quite lazy and love the fact that people will sometimes speak back to me in English, I was excited to learn about your friend and the chocolate shop....two good reasons to seek it out when I go back.

    I am such a fan of PDP, for the pix and the bloggers.

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  43. salut, je voulais juste te dire qu'il n'y a pas que paris en france! les autres villes sont belle elle aussi!
    thanks!!

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  44. my problem is that i have a pretty good accent when speaking french (i also speak spanish which i think helps). parisians tend to speak very quickly so it takes me a couple of days to get into the rythm, but once i'm there i just love it!!!!!

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  45. Make a blog from one of the other towns then, Japanlov90 and we'll visit!

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  46. When we were in Paris in '06 we told everyone we were from Canada and they seemed to believe us.

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  47. LOL Petrea you're mean! Did you add an "eh" to each sentence when you were pretending to be canadian?!

    Pont Girl thanks a lot for the tip about the chocolate shop. I did not know this one, one more item to my TO DO LIST in Paris...

    Japanlove90 of course we know there are many other lovely and beautiful towns in France. I like to visit them too. I think the entire France is absolutely beautiful.

    But my heart belongs to Paris. Just today I was browsing a little shop near my house when I found a magnet from the film "Paris Je t'aime". I bought it right away and it's now on my refrigerator door!

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  48. Eric, concerning your post from a few days ago, I read the news today about Ingrid Betancourt and it's sad to say it's not looking good. I hear Sarkozy offered to go there and bring her back if the FARC releases her, but her son said that if she's not set free in the next few days she might not make it cause she's too fragile. That's very sad.

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  49. I know Monica, it's awful. I heard that too. Apparently she's got hepatitis B and it does not look too good. I do hope she'll be freed.

    I'm off to bed now, I posted earlier than usual, but I have an important meeting tomorrow morning.

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  50. When my wife and I visited Paris last Summer, we found the vast majority of people to be helpful as long as you attempted to start the conversation in French, however bad. We had no problems at all even on the Metro when an attendant spoke back to me in fluent English once I'd made a mess of asking for directions in French!

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  51. Paris is a great place where different culture come to meet each other...and the geography helps !

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  52. il y a plein de ville a visiter! il y a des villages en montagne, vers la mer, en provence. c'est vrai que paris est beau car en plus c'est la ville où il y a le plus de monuments.
    et je trouve que c'est énervant que les gens disent qu'il y a que paris alors que les autres villes sont pareil, ou presque.
    et bon courage à ceux qui veulent aprendre le français, car même les français ont du mal a parler leur propre langue, mdr !!

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  53. Japanlov90 you should create your own blog dedicated to those cities other than Paris that you might especially like. Before complaining you must remember that this blog's name is ParisDailyPhoto. For a Japanese person you write very good French. The few grammatical and spelling errors are nothing compared to the fluency.

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  54. chm, i'm not japanese, i'm FRENCH! Sorry for the spelling errors! ce que je voulais dire avant c'est que beacoup de personne pense que paris est la seule ville de france!
    désolé, mais je ne vais pas faire de blog mais je veux bien mettre un lien où il y a des photos d'autres villes :

    http://www.photos-de-villes.com/photo-marseille-1.php

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  55. euh, enfin que Paris n'est pas la seule ville où il y a des monuments, par exemple! c'est vrai que c'est une belle ville et que c'est la capital donc une ville importante! je suis allée à paris que deux fois dans ma vie alors je ne la connais pas bien!

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  56. Japanlov90, I had a sneaking suspicion that you were French, because you don't write like a foreigner would. As far as I can tell, this blog is foreign oriented and since you understand English why don't you try to write your comments in that language. You'll probably make no more mistakes than you do in your own. Sachant que vous êtes française, les lecteurs comprendront que vous faites un effort louable et vous en seront reconnaissants. Merci pour le lien, il paraît intéressant, j'y reviendrai.

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  57. ok thanks! on the site, there are all cities of france with picture!

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  58. So many luxuries we have here and now. Yes? In 2008, I mean. What a joy your blog is. Thank you, sir. :) peace, love, amie.

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  59. hi there how I wish I could visit that place.,..good morning

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  60. Hmm, have to say I make it a rule to avoid restaurants that say they speak English or have menus displayed outside in English since they tend to cater to tourists. You run the risk that the quality of the food is not going to be good.

    I also avoid any menu that has crudities as a Hors d'oeuvre :)

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