French Tips: Stop French Conversations from Switching Back to English

Engaging in small talks in French is a great way to hone your French conversational skills. Inevitably sometimes, even if you got the right tense and accords for the verbs, the person you’re speaking to answers you back in English and that’s an obstacle right there! You want to keep the conversation in French… but how?

In today’s lesson, you’ll tackle the common circumstances and the ways on how to politely switch and keep the conversation in French. Let’s dive in!

Did you like this episode? A very common mistake is the use of « vous » and « tu ».
Click here to watch « Tu or Vous? 5 rules to help you choose. »

Et toi ?

Did you ever feel frustrated when a conversation switched back to English?
What do you do when it happens?
Which other technique would you recommend?

Share your experience (in French if you dare!) in the comments below. We can all learn from your story. The comment section is the best place to start discussions and ask questions!



Join the conversation!

  • Pine-apple? En francais? Comme en allemand; “Ananas” :-).
    Yes one time a french gentleman talked to me hours in English. Because we were as visitors in a partner-town in France. And he had required to meet only a person who was able to talk in English. About labour, unemployment, social problems. A lot of severe problems of the french society was he trying to discuss with me. But his English was awful, hardly to understand, gurgling. But I am able and fit to discuss this themes, also in English, no problem. Unfortunately I have inhibitions to talk francais. But he ignored all requests I made to get him talking French and I would reply in English. Out of that my husband required me to translate in German. Which was to much for me and he grew jealous because he could not understand anything. Well, the man despite of his English attractet me though, to be honest.
    After all, I was totally exhausted. One man jealous and angry, one man disappointed, because he understood…What a mess 🙁 Jean-Luc and I talked really only about the big social problems and politics. ..What to do in a situation like this?

  • Parfois, les gens n‘ont pas la patience où l“envie de servir comme sparring-partner et il vaut mieux le respecter. Et essayer de nouveau la prochaine fois.

  • Les vidéos comédiens du dernier leçon étaient vraiment dur à suivre pour moi. C‘est peut-être le principe de la comédie; si elle est compréhensible facilement, elle n‘est Pas drôle. Hein?

  • Pour moi, qui seulement lit le francais, ces lecons sont formidable! Merci mille fois, Geraldine.

  • C’est utile, cette phrase..”il faut que vous parliez avec moi en Français, SVP”, but some of yours may be more subtle! Mille merci! Evelyne T-C (2022)

  • Geraldine, le mot “interlocuteur” ou “interlocutor”. Il me semble que ca se dit assez souvent en français, mais moins souvent en anglais. Je cherche un synonyme en anglais sans succès. Alors, est ce que ce mot se trouve dans la langue verbale ou plutôt dans la langue littéraire? J’aimerais le savoir! Et j’aimerais aussi savoir un mot plus commun pour ca……aussi bien pour le français que pour l’anglais! Merci bien!

    • Bonjour Barb,

      Oui, je crois que “interlocutor” en anglais serait un terme plus formel qu’en français. Peut-être, suivant le contexte, on pourrait utiliser tout simplement “speaker”, “conversation partner” ou “person someone is speaking to.”

      Bonne journée,

      Comme Une Française Team

  • Tres bon-c’est exactement quoi je veux!Je suis en Inde et quand hommes parlent en Hindi(qui je ne comprend pas),c’est les techniques que Je m’aide.
    Was that ok?did I make sense?

  • I mainly understand what has been said in French but, often, by the time I am ready to speak, the conversation has moved on. I have used the phrase you suggested “vous pouvez parler un tout petit peu plus lentement, s’il vous plait” and it really works. At one of the Paris salons de vin last year, in order to speak with the vignerons (who come from all across France with different speeds and accents) I found it useful to say first of all “je suis desolee, je suis anglais” and, after they stopped laughing, I continued with “mais si vous parler un tout…etc, je vais comprendre mieux”. And the wine helped too.
    By the way, it was my multi-lingual wife who suggested I follow your course and she was right – your videos are so helpful and encouraging. Merci beaucoup!

    • That’s wonderful John! 🙂 I hope you have fun and learn more!

      Have a great day,

      – Arthur, writer for Comme une Française

  • Quand je me trouve de ne pas comprendre bien dans une conversation, je répete ce que j’ai compris terminant avec une question, comme: cést ça? ou n’est pas? Si j’ai fait une erreur de compréhension, on explique habituellement une autre manière ou plus lentement.
    si j’ai compris rien, j’ajoute comment?

  • Je utilise le program Duolingo, une classe en ligne (90 minuits par semaine), je écoute la radio (FIP, Radio France), l’internet pour les journals et les blogs, et – bien sûr – Comme Une Française. Merci, Géraldine!

  • I will work on this and one day be able to do it in French. I live in the Canary Islands. My Spanish is pretty good, but sometimes people want to practise their English on me. I am a Politics graduate and left Britain over 40 years ago, so the present situation is not my fault. When I tell people I don´t speak English, it is true. I don´t because I don´t want to and never will again. Not sure about claiming a language you don´t speak though; what if the other person does? I told someone at an airport that I spoke Dutch, which I am learning, and they started speaking very fast in German. The two languages are similar, but my Dutch wasn´t good enough to handle the difference. Luckily they called my flight then.

    • Hi!

      It’s a complicated question!
      Short answer: “yes.”

      Long answer:
      1) “Vous” is used in the high professional world (and even there it’s kind of fading out), and with old people. It’s more deferential, but it’s a bit “stigmatizing.” We don’t want to specifically address our audience as “old” – whatever their age is.
      2) We’d rather want students to feel at ease, than deferred to. Make everyone part of the community on an equal footing, close the distance, build relationships on more than a business level.
      3) “Comme une Française” wants to share the French you need to make friends in France and build relationships. For this, you’ll quickly need “Tu.” So using “Tu” ourselves will give students more examples of the modern French they’ll need.

      ALSO it just feels weird using “Vous” a lot – because yes, it’s becoming the norm, especially for us (including Géraldine) who don’t work in big impersonal companies with important executives etc.

      ALSO you should still use “Vous” for service staff (waitstaff etc.) and shopkeepers (bakers etc.) and stuff.

      Finally, there could be a lot of Discourse to be had around the “tu” and the norm and its impact and Society and how it’s secretely bad or secretely good. If you’re more comfortable using “Vous,” or want to keep the “Vous” norm for your own reasons, go for it. It will probably sound a bit weird to modern French people, but they might also find that charming / quirky / more elegant (at the cost of sounding more distant).

      Have a great day,

      – Arthur, writer for Comme une Française

  • If misunderstood I speak Welsh ( being bilingual Welsh and English) and they have no idea what language I am speaking, so a careful attempt at human communicationn takes place and often works.

  • Superbe, cette leçon, Géraldine! Merci!
    La dernière leçon: l’ananas (pineapple).
    J’ai souvent utilisé une gesture de la mains comme ça veut dire arrêter et j’ai dit “encore, s’il te plaît” Ou le même et je après je utile la mains à continuer un petit peu. C’est la vérité que les française parlent avec les mains? Peut-être vous pouvez ajouter un vidéo à expliquer les gestures aux mains.

  • Salut Geraldine et merci beaucoup pour les videos! when would you use merci de et merci pour?

    • Hi Mary! Thanks!

      It’s complicated, but here’s a quick answer:
      – Before a verb (in the infinitive), it’s always “merci de” –> Merci de ne pas fumer. (= Thank you for not smoking.)
      – Before a noun, it can be “merci de” or “merci pour.”

      We tend to think of “merci de” as “please do this, thank you” –> formal, impersonal, polite way to ask something in advance. Especially on public signs or official announcements.

      While “Merci pour” is about a past action, and is more personal / informal / genuine.

      – “Merci de votre compréhension.” = Thank you for your understanding [a message you hear when something’s inconvenient somewhere, like in the metro]
      – “Merci pour le coup de main !” = Thank you for helping me out! [I’m really grateful to you for your specific action]

      (Arthur – Comme une Française Team)

  • I’m afraid I’ll be paying my conversation partners for some time… 😀 I wonder what would be the slower, laid-back French cities or towns where I can stay and study, practice and learn??

    • Hi Jan-Louise!

      I don’t think it depends that much on the city, more that it’s important to find a circle of French friends to do things with, like walking / hiking, art classes, pottery or whatever you hobby is.

      (Also sadly adult French people often already have their friends and don’t have time for extra friends, so it’s much easier to become part of a group and be invited to their social events, than trying to build a group from individual French people – as they’ll each be busy with their own groups already)

      But to answer your question with a very personal bias, I’d recommand Granville in Normandy (for a small town near the sea, with a lot of culture and clubs for its size) or Strasbourg in Alsace (for a bigger international town on the French-German border).

      Also we’re setting up a program for conversation partners, stay tuned (or better yet, subscribe to the newsletter) to learn more when it opens 🙂

      Have a great day,

      – Arthur, writer for Comme une Française

  • The problem I usually have is that I understand what is being said, but I don’t have enough French to be able to reply!

    I haven’t visited France for a long time, but I do tend to avoid the more touristy areas, so less chance of switching back to English! I was staying in Huelgoat and asked a shopkeeper “le nom de cette ville, comment ça se prononce?” which worked. Or in a shop where you can’t remember the word for something, “c’est quoi en français?”

  • Salut Geraldine. Merci pour vos conseils – le problème est que c’est généralement moi qui revenir à l’anglais car je n’ai pas assez de confiance pour continuer en français!

  • 2 questions svp Is there a liaison with ‘pas’ et ‘anglais’ or not? Also could you make clear if and when to use the second person singular? You use it all the time… is that now OK?

  • Salut, je suis bresilien et c’est un problème que arrive tout le fois avec moi, merci pour les informations, quelque fois c’est un peu complique quand je ne comprends pas …

  • Salut Géraldine, quand j’étais en France je commence une conversation en disant “J’apprends la langue française, si vous parlez lentement je peux vous comprendre.” Ça marche!

  • I love this!!!!! I go through this problem all the time and I feel like snapping at people when it happens … agh….

  • A very helpful video to a situation I’ve frequently found myself confronted with. Namely, very friendly French natives wanting to be kind and helpful – and keen to practice their English.

    Many years ago, 1989, I think, I encountered a different variant on this. We were in a small family-run restaurant in Narbonne-Plage in the South Coast of France, where we were initially presented with this beautifully written and laid-out menu of several pages which had lots of interesting sounding dishes. Many had really good descriptions, but a few just had titles with local place-names with little detail, or a few ingredients or cooking method I didn’t recognise. I presumed most native French-speakers would probably know what they were. Keen not to miss out on something new and probably delicious I might not have tried before; when the young waiter came to take our order, I think he was only about 10 years old, I asked in the best French I could muster, what was in s particular dish that I didn’t recognise.

    With a broad smile, he asked, ‘Ingleeesh?’. I replied, ‘Oui’, and to our surprise, he excitedly snatched the menus out or hands (not in an unpleasant way) and vanished back into the kitchen. We were left somewhat puzzled until he came back a few minutes later with an even broader smile with ‘an English menu’. This comprises a singles laminated sheet with the menu items replaced with the singles words, ‘Soup’, ‘Fish’, ‘Chicken’ etc with absolutely no description. He couldn’t speak much, if any, English, and became very confused and appeared a little hurt/disappointed as I tried to explain as best as I could that ‘Please may we have the French menus back, because we understood them better’! ‘But, Engleesh, yes?’ ‘Engleesh menu?’

    Eventually he called over what I assumed was his mother. Her English seemed about the level of my French of the time but somehow we eventually managed to get mutual understanding and she got the boy to bring the original menus back amid laughter all-round. It was an excellent meal, incidentally. 🙂

  • salut Géraldine jai entamer une conversation en français qui se deroulait bien et mon interlocuteur me parle anglais et la je crois que je me suis embrouillée et jai finir par fuir

  • J’ai confronte, ca situation plusiers foi, qui me fair beaucoup de soucie. J’etais souvent dire, vous povais dire lentement, comme he ne parle pas courrament. Dites-moi que cette response Best acceptable? Et Merci pour led (tips)?

    • Une fois, à Bandol, j’ai visité un centre de jardin pour acheter un carillon de vent pour ma belle-soeur. Je ne connaissais pas le mot en Français pour ça.
      J’ai dit:”Monsieur, je cherche un truc pour le jardin, mais je ne connait pas le mot en Français. Il y a des batons, et quand le vent souffle, les batons font de la musique.”
      Il a compris. 😊
      Maintenant, je pense que c’est “ils composent de la musique.” C’est difficile!

  • Chris,
    À Paris, il y a deux ans, ma femme avait besoin de “nail polish remover”, donc à la pharmacie j’ai demandé à la serveuse: “je ne sais pas le mot en français, mais je cherche quelque chose comme “demaquillage pour les ongles” (makeup remover for nails). Elle rigolait et dit que c’est “dissolvant” en français et qu’elle ne sait pas le mot en anglais non plus. Nous avons appris un nouveau mot tout le deux!

  • Great videos! Your lessons are so helpful and I like to show them to my French students. One small comment, wouldn’t you mainly use ‘vous’ when talking to the boulanger or to ‘someone in Paris.’

  • I’m American and I live in Paris. I have a lot of friends in Paris who are French (and from other countries of course), some of them don’t speak English but most do. Many refuse to speak French with me, they prefer to speak English. I think it’s silly that I live in Paris and have to ask native speakers to speak their native language with me instead of my native language. I’m a resident here, not a tourist, and it has become a problem for me. Why? Because I am living here and in daily life you speak French. You can’t go to the post office and start rattling off your request in English. You can’t do a lot of things and expect people to speak English to you. I have an apartment here, and the meetings of the syndic are in French. I need to know French! It’s not why I moved here, I had this dream of being fluent in French by living in France, who would have thought I’d have to go to Meetup language groups to practice the native language of the country I’m living in!

    It’s hard because sometimes I am invited to the family events of my friends, where everyone speaks French, and it is sometimes not so easy when you do not get the practice you need. So now I at least try to really listen intently when I am out and about to improve my comprehension and practice with who I can.

    Géraldine has been a guiding light for me and I absolutely love this site. Merci mille fois, Géraldine!

    • Try to watch television, if you have time.I am French but I live in America. When I first moved to Alabama in 1977 I was lost with my British English we learned at school. Watching ” the price is right ” and ” I love Lucy ” helped me a great deal. But I still have trouble understanding foreigners speaking English with their own accent! Good luck and enjoy 🇫🇷

  • I have co-worker that I discovered is a French native. I asked her if I can practice my French with her, and she said yes. But whenever I see her, I speak to her in French, but she never reponds in French. So I found other people online to practice with.

  • Thanks Geraldine! For me what I have found frustrating is when I say something in French correctly but because of my accent, the other person keeps repeating my sentences as if to correct me. If they have understood what I said, I wish they could just continue with the conversation

  • Great tips Geraldine. It is really difficult to speak French sometimes especially when the French person wants to pratice their English!! I tried one of your tips once in Calais, (One just has to say “bonjour” there and they speak English !!
    I said to a waiter, “Je préfère parler français”
    Il m’a dit “Je préfère parler anglais!! Vous parlez français je parle anglais c’est bon” 🙂

  • The simple demand “En francais, svp” has never failed me, and frankly, a polite phrase can sometimes excite a French person’s native sense of superiority. However, getting the French to not switch to English is not the real problem with the French. The real problem is that they will correct your English. The French start studying English in grade school and, like everything else, they learn the correct way to speak it, and being correct is very important to a French person : all things French are guided by and restricted to what is proper, correct and logical. How many times have you heard a French person protest “mais, c’est pas logique!”? I rest my case. To a French person’s mind, asking her to cease correcting you when you’re speaking your native tongue is an insane demand : you’re not following the rules. My God, if you have to rely on me, a foreigner, to teach you how to speak your own language properly (which, nevertheless, being French, I am very happy to do!), then what hope is there for you, mister? (Translation: “Mon dieu! c’est le debut de la fin! Allons, un peu de tenue, monsieur!”) And you should prepare yourself, by the way, for the linguistic brutalities you might have to deploy while trying to break through the gallic firewall. That said, it is because of French bullheadedness that you will have such stirring political arguments, especially if you dare to ask them their opinion of American politics…:)

    • That’s a bit harsh! I’ve been married to a French man for 35 years. We live in the US and speak English most of the time, but he doesn’t correct me when I am being lazy in my speech in either language. Nor have any family members or friends in France done so unless I ask for corrections. My French has been corrected while in France by people I don’t know, but I really appreciate that. I learn a lot that way….’depuis’ vs.’pour” or ‘en’ vs. ‘dans,’ for example. People are people, & I’ve never found people in France to act as if they are superior. It’s a different culture.

  • Pour moi, c’est difficile de comprendre quand un parleur natif parle trop vite. Alors, d’habitude je dis que je ne comprends pas de tout, Repetes plus lentement, s’il te plait. D’habitude cela suffit. Mais, avec les quebecois, l’histoire est différent parce qu’ils sont habitués à parler avec les parleurs en anglais et des certains m’a dit qu’ils en ont preféré

  • Salut ! Somehow i don’t feel frustrated if people change from French to English. I find it sweet in one way, because that person trying to communicate with me or maybe just wanted to show that he/she also can speak English.

  • Irish friends who have lived in France for a long time, started to order, in French, in a restaurant. The French waiter told them that his English was better than their French so please order in English!

  • I used to say: Je suis desole!….mais je suis etrangere et voudrais parler comment vouz, es que vouz puvez repete s’il vouz plait? they would kindly repeat and even had a noisette with me 🙂

  • En mon avis, je n’ai pas aucune problème avec cette question. Si je veux parler en français, je le fais. Si quelqu’un me répond en anglais, je lui demanderais parler en français, bien sûr poliment. Les doigts dans le nez!

  • My mother tongue is English, and as I lived in Kenya for 30 years of my life, I find myself sometimes drifting into Kiswahili during a French conversation! – Hakuna Matata (aucune probleme!)

  • Merci pour la vidéo, ce sont des conseils très utiles! J’ai remarqué pourtant dans les sous-titres (vers 4:05) une petite faute de frappe: “Le pain est chocolat est comment?” au lieu de “Le pain *au* chocolat est comment?” Je me demande s’il est trop tard pour corriger la phrase…

  • When I don’t completely understand, I sometimes also use, ” c’est normal”, mais faites attention! I often meet people in France who either: a) start speaking English; or b) think my French is good enough they start going too fast. I nod and smile a lot! 🙂

  • Je suis d’accord, Géraldine, les Françaises sont très fier de leur belle langue !

    Donc, quand je demande à quelqu’un de parler moins rapidement, d’abord, je dis : « J’adore votre belle langue » ou « J’adore la belle langue de Molière ». Et, comme tu l’as dit, toujours avec le sourire.

  • Bonjour Geraldine:

    Uneautre bonne lecon. J’ai juste arrive de Montreal, et c’etait une probleme. Malheursement tout le monde parle le bien anglais.La prochaine fois je vais utiliser ces phrases et mots.

    Comme toutes les semaines, j’ai aime apprendre de nouvelles choses!

  • L’été dernière j’étais dans l’hôpital en France. Les aides soignantes ont parlé trop vite pour moi. Quand je leur ai demandé à parler un petit peu plus lentement, elles ont parlé plus forte.

  • I find it amusing that when I reach that point of not understanding, and ask them (in French) to please repeat or say (in French) that I don’t speak French very well, they switch to English right away. And I wonder, “How do they know? Is it the accent?” Perhaps it’s just that English is the next most common language there? An amusing (to me) event occurred on my last trip where, as I was at CDG waiting for the TGV, the authorities needed to evacuate the station due to a security issue. To the directive, I replied, “Je ne parle pas tres bien francais…” and he asked, “Do you speak English?” To which I replied, “Oui.” But he did tell me in no uncertain terms, in English, that I needed to exit the station!

  • Dorothy (and Anna),
    From my experience, always use “vous” with people you don’t know and people who are older than you. For your teacher, I would also use “vous” as a sign of respect, even if your ages are similar. I have found that the person I am conversing with (especially native speakers) will tell me to use “tu” with them, when it’s time to make the change (“on se tutoie?”), or they will fall into it naturally. As a last resort, you can always ask.

  • Salut, Géraldine
    Ça m’arrive souvent: je dis quelques choses en français correctement et la réponse est en anglais. Vraiment, je me sens un peu blessé. Il est comme si la personne a dit ” on se voit que ton français n’est pas bon ” ou bien ” mon anglais est meilleur que ton français. ” Peut-être je suis un peu trop sensible, mais pour éviter de perdre dans ce ” concours ” généralement je n’essaie pas de parler en français. C’est fou je sais. Maintenant, armé avec les phrases de ton leçon, je vais avoir le courage de parler en français, et de continuer en français malgré une réponse anglaise! Merci, Géraldine!

    • Bonjour Christopher,

      Ils essayent juste de t’aider et/ou de pratiquer leur anglais. N’y vois rien de personnel. 🙂
      Courage !

  • Thanks for the helpful tips. I have a comment and a question. In my experience, living part of the year in Southern France, most educated French people will modify their language when they realize I am not a native speaker — they use simpler vocabulary, speak more slowly, and adopt a more conventional (Parisian?) form of pronunciation. Unfortunately, less educated and younger people often do not make such an adaptation. My question echoes an earlier comment. I see that Geraldine almost always uses “tu” in her video examples. However, most of my interactions in France are with people I don’t know well, such as tradespeople, doctors, shopkeepers, etc. Surely here the “vous” form is most appropriate?

  • Good morning, Geraldine!
    I really love your French lessons, and hope that someday I will be able to speak it to my satisfactionl

    Buen día,


  • Bonjour Geraldine
    Great video and I love your clothes! Just wish I could see your shoes! I am newly retired and miss the chance to wear dresses to work. Right now I’m looking at a week of high winds, rain and pretty brisk temperatures.
    Re: approaches when the French person reverts to English. I often get a sense, that like you suggested, they are wanting to practice their English and why not? I usually complement them right away on their clarity or pronunciation as I believe everyone benefits from encouragement. If I really want to struggle back to French, I say something sort of long and very fast in English.
    I watch for the stricken look on their face and if so. I know I’m good to go back to French.

    • Encouraging French people who speak English is SO kind, Patricia ! 😀
      And great tip on “speaking fast”, ahahah, that’s pure genius.

  • Géraldine, merci pour tes conseils. Je remarque que tu tutoies, est-ce que ça va, même avec des marchands, par exemple ?

  • Hoù la la mais c’est juste horrible quand ils changent pour anglais :p
    J’avais énormément de situations comme ça. Au début ça m’agaçait, puis j’ai trouvé une méthode qui marche TOUJOURS 😉

    Alors si je parle français et il y a qn qui essaye parler anglais je dis
    – “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you speak french” 😀 puis j’entends
    – “Bah, bien sûr que je parle français…” –
    – “Alors, pourquoi vous me parlez anglais si j’avais commencé en français?”
    – “J’avais pensé que vous êtes un étranger”
    – “Oui, c’est vrai, mais qui a dit que je parle anglais mieux que français?”


    Bonne journée à tous ! 🙂

  • Tom Campbell

    Pour terminer …. Problème typo. Helen et moi sont arrivés en France pour la première fois en 1966, et sommes descendus à l’Hôtel Saint Louis. Malheureusement, après trois ans d’études classiques à l’Université de Sydney, on s’est très vite rendu compte que nous n’avions pas même la capacité de demander un petit verre dans un bar. Je t’assure que depuis nous avons bien réctifié cette énorme corvée au cours d’au moins quarante visites auxquelles nous avons fait plusieurs très bons amis, dont la plupart sont venus au moins une fois partager avec nous la merveille de ce que c’est l’Australie.

    Bon courage, et merci infiniment

    Tom et Helen Campbell

  • Salut ! C’est vrai, le polonais est ma langue maternelle. 🙂 Quand je vais en France, j’essaye de parler français, mais j’utilise l’anglais aussi (si j’ai beaucoup de problèmes avec des mots français et je dois communiquer efficacement). Il y avait un autre étrange cas dans ma vie: j’ai écrit un e-mail en français et… j’ai reçu une réponse utilisant l’anglais :-). Mais ma réponse était: “Pardonnez-moi, mon anglais est très faible” et je pouvais continuer en français. Honnêtement, tout le monde devrait apprendre le polonais à l’école. 😉

  • Géraldine

    Cet épisode est de loin le meilleur de tout! Tu as capturé de façon tout à fait géniale l’essence de ce que c’est d’être l’apprenant d’une autre langue. Je pense que j’ai droit de te le dire en tant que prof de français au secondaire à Sydney, Australie, depuis 1963, maintenant bel et bien en retraite, ayant passé pas mal de temps en France, y en allait au moins quarante fois (avec les vingt-quatre heures de vol que cela implique

  • Maybe because I tend to stay away from the tourist areas in France, I don’t come across this problem too often – but “désolé, pouvez-vous parler lentement pour que je puisse vous comprendre” helps (is that grammatically correct?).

    If they do speak English then I use it as a learning opportunity – if I don’t know how to say something I will get as far as I can in French and then say “errrr, ummmm, quel est le mot français pour …….?” Then practice the phrase with them and get the pronunciation correct. 😎

  • Ça m’arrive tous le temps. Très très frustrant ! Merci pour les conseilles. J’ai rencontré il y a quelques années une couple d’ Isle of Mann et nous avons discuté le même problème. Ils m’ont dit qu’ils parlait en langue d’ Isle of Mann si leur interlocuteur donnait une réponse en Anglais. Le prochain fois je crois que je vais essayer être Polonais.

    • Soyez Polonais, s’il vous plaît – notre langue a besoin de vous ! Tylko proszę nie zapomnieć o poprawnym akcencie! 🙂

  • I’d also like to know how to address my French teacher. She’s about the same age as me, in her 50’s. (I sit in class formulating sentences using the infinitive instead of a subject pronoun tu or vous, and risking it being the wrong one. LOL)

    • Bravo Géraldine! Des conseils très pratiques! Avec mes amis (et leurs amis), pour la vitesse, j’exclame (avec un sourire) ” Ahhh, trop vite! trop vite! Dou-ce-ment (et je ralentis) s’il te plaît. Je veux tout comprendre! “

      Quand on me parle en anglais, je réponds ” J’adore la langue française. Si ça ne vous dérange pas, est-ce qu’on peut continuer en français? ” Avec mes amis, je dis: ” Quand je suis en France, on parle en français; quand vous viendrez aux Etats-Unis, on parlera uniquement en anglais, d’accord? ” Euh… je pense avoir déjà oublié la leçon sur les guillemets…oops!

      P.S. J’avais essayé de répondre directement à Dorothy, mais le lien “Reply” en dessus n’a pas fonctionné comme il faut. Désolée.

      • Dorothy, scroll way down for a reply to you.
        Et mince alors! The answer for Dorothy showed up en bas, and the general post, which originally showed as being at the bottom, showed up here!! Va savoir! Go figure. I know I was in the right place to begin with! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!! Sorry!

    • I’d say : use “vous”, unless she uses “tu” with you.
      Happened to me A LOT too, in France. No worries, this is a very common issue, even for locals.

    • I would use ‘vous’ because the two of you are in a somewhat professional setting. She is not a friend or a family member. An exception would be when addressing a young child, even if you don’t know him or her.
      If your teacher invites you to use ‘tu’ that’s a bit of an honor, so do so!

  • Bonjour Géraldine

    I’m up early this morning staring at my PC,
    and so I can send a quick reply to this week’s
    lesson. Your suggestions are very helpful as
    this is, without doubt, a tricky area .. how to
    keep going in French when they reply in English.
    The trouble is .. the whole world wants to practice
    their English !
    Nevertheless, a lot of us want to practice our French
    as well, and I’ve always found that polite perseverance
    goes a long way to maintaining some of the conversation
    in French at least.
    Years ago I did a few French conversation classes here
    in England. Of course, all of the students were English
    and usually the teacher was as well. I always found it
    frustrating when the whole class would revert to
    English the moment a problem occured .. you must
    persevere, but with a smile on your face.
    I remember hitch-hiking through Switzerland
    once upon a time (il y a très longtemps) and
    speaking to the owners of a campsite in French
    until they asked for my home address, at which
    point they switched to English, telling me that
    it would be easier for me ! No no no !! .. what do
    you think I’m doing here ? But they meant well.
    So .. we must keep going, and keep smiling and,
    I have found, the progress slowly but surely
    happens 🙂
    And incidentally, the only word in Polish that
    I know is jingua (and I’m not sure about the
    spelling) which means thank you. If I try your
    idea Géraldine and they ever speak back to
    me in fluent Polish I’m in big trouble 🙂 🙂

    Have a great day .. et merci ..



  • Bonjour Geraldine
    When speaking to strangers, such as shopkeepers, older individuals, people in my building, is it best to use “vous” or is “tu” OK?

  • I have lots of conversations with me determinedly speaking French and the French person speaking English 🙂 I find that once I’m in French speaking mode I find it difficult to switch to speaking English, although I understand it when I hear it. I’m expecting a phone call tomorrow from a guy who speaks very rapidly. The phone is even more difficult than face to face. Every third sentence is me telling him to slow down because I didn’t get the last bit. He then says a few words in broken English before switching back to rapid French. Wish me luck 🙂

    • Moi aussi – la patronne de mon restaurant local souvent me répond en anglais quand je lui parle en français, mais je l’aime – je trouve ce m’aide apprendre et elle peut pratiquer parlant anglais. Le téléphone est très difficile pour moi. Quelquefois je ne peux pas entendre, c’est tout, mais quand je dis “Pardon ? ” ou “Comment ? ” des gens commencent parler anglais. Un fois j’ai dit “Desolée, je n’écoute pas” en lieu de “Je n’ai pas entendu”. Quel honte !

      Mes voisins français ne peuvent pas parler beaucoup anglais du tout donc on doit essayer de comprendre de l’autre. Habitude, on est réussi, plus ou moins !

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