Expat Problems: Why I Never Get to Practice My French

learning French

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always wanted to speak more than one language. Je parle un peau francais et, hablo un poco Espanol, und ich spreche ein bisschen Deutch. And I know a few easy phrases in Hangul. But the only language I speak fluently, smh, is English. I think I speak it well, and that is the problem when I travel. No matter where I go, I attempt to speak the native language. Unfortunately, the locals see the opportunity to practice their English. And you guessed it, I never get to communicate in the native language. I am the guest, so I never get to practice my French.

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Golf-Outing-with-DIWA-ladies Expat Problems: Why I Never Get to Practice My French

I Never Get to Practice my French
Speaking International English

It’s not just French. It’s also Spanish, Italian, Korean, German. I never get to practice the local language. I’ve been told I speak International English. And that’s because I am an Army brat, moving every three years my entire life. Its a result, I never picked up an accent. And that has value and anonymity. No one can detect where I am from.

And everyone wants to practice their English with a natural English speaker. That’s why Americans are seeking out all around the world. As far as I know, India is the only place they prefer Queens English. And it makes perfect sense. English is the language of business. And it probably doesn’t surprise you that it’s the language that unites as well.

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Teaching English in South Korea
Bless Her Heart

I had no intentions of teaching English when I moved to South Korea. I had a good friend who was teaching a class of adult ladies. And she needed a backup, so I volunteered. It takes long before my ladies were begging me to teach permanently.

Mrs. Shim leads the pleas. Please, Stacey. We want you to teach us. We understand you much better. It didn’t take a genius to understand why. Their teacher was from West Texas and she had the southern drawl to go with it. Teaching English ended up being the highlight of my time in Daegu. I’m still not bilingual. And from time to time, they taught me too. Not so much Korean, but a lot about the culture, food, and friendship.

The Language of Travel
Spanglish, Konglish, and Manglish

I never travel expecting people to speak English. I always attempt to speak their language, even if I have to struggle. Most people, except the French, understand that. But I’ll get back to the French in a minute.

More times than not, you’ll meet people from other countries. And many times you end up being able to communicate using basic or broken English— the language of travel. They even have a name for it in many countries. Spanglish, Konglish, and Manglish from Spain, Korea, and Malaysia, is a typical colloquial form of communication.

Many times this version of “English” is achieved by simplifying pronouns and verb tenses. Think of a baby asking for a cookie by asking… ‘me cookie” or “want cookie”. I don’t like speaking this way because you can imagine, it’s very difficult to correct later.

Practicing my French
Parisians Have No Sense of Humor

Or patience. I studied French in High School. For three years, my fellow classmates called me Natalie, the French name I selected. I was lucky enough, I thought to have a natural-born French teacher. Madame Flaubert was nice, but she was one of the most impatient people I knew. And she had no sense of humor either.

Funny, as I wrote that, I tried to think of a single French comic. But I can’t think of one besides Marceau Marceau. And I think he was more of a mime, wasn’t he. However, that’s just further evidence that the French don’t have a sense of humor, right? Who thinks mimes are funny? They should all be drowned in their imaginary boxes or float away like the balloons the pretend to carry.

A Battle Royale
My Will is Strong

And my purpose is to learn to speak conversational French no matter what. And that means I need to practice my French. This is evidenced by the fact that I used to live 30 minutes from the French border. It was close enough to enjoy lunch and be back home for dinner. One day I stopped at McDonald’s to see what new items they had on the menu.

I was confident in my ordering abilities but unfortunately stumbled on some of the delivery. The girl slapped her register and sneered, I speak French. That didn’t deter me though. I composed myself and finished ordering lunch. She had no choice but to suffer through my French.

And when she handed me my order. I said bonjour. As I walked to the door, I heard her say, goodbye, have a nice day.

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  1. aisasami

    I can speak English and Japanese. I used to speak Spanish but because I never practiced it, I forgot it. But I forgot it. I can speak some words in Italian, German, Chinese, and Korean.

  2. Sandra

    I somehow regret not pursuing learning newlanguages when I was in high school , but I guess it’s not yet too late. I love to learn Frnech, Japanes and Korean! Maybe an app will help me start up my new skills haha.

  3. Alvern

    This brings back so many memories from my past. I studied both Spanish and French at school and I never get an opportunity to practice them. I do plan one day to live 12 months in a Spanish speaking country and 12 months in a French-speaking country or island. ?

  4. Keshia Richmond

    It is always beneficial to know multiple languages and even better to have someone to practice with.

  5. Andie Comala

    Omg that’s so cool about how you picked up so many languages as you moved throughout the years. I studied french for about 4 school years as well but if you never practice it, it goes away. I can sort of remember a few phrases but that’s all.

    XO Andie

  6. Jessica

    This is really interesting to read about… You should be brave and practice your French! I definitely think America should be more fluent in other languages and not vice versa.

  7. kumamonjeng

    When I was an oversea student in Japan, there are some locals who make friend with you just because they wanted to practice English with me. But that’s fine for me because I still think that I am luckier as I can visit their country to study while my Japanese classmate weren’t fortunate enough to study abroad. So why not, helping them.
    It is interesting to learn about Spanglish, Konglish, and Manglish from Spain. What are these languages? I am traveling to Spain in two weeks time so I love to know. Are these local languages, kind of dilect? Well, in Singapore, we have our own version of English and it is called “Singlish”. There is a strong accent and always end with “lah” – Eg – “lets eat lah”. The lah has no meaning. 🙂

  8. Joan

    I need to learn more languages I speak English, Swahili, Some French, Some Croatian and my native language so its not much but there is room for improvement.

  9. Jessi Joachim

    I wish I spoke more than one language! I was very close to being fluent in Spanish at one point but then I went YEARS without using it when I moved and now I remember very little of it.

  10. Diana

    I know what you mean about just wanting to speak the language. Living up north (at home) I could speak three different languages in one block. Now living in dallas… English is hard.. lol.

  11. Alexandra

    I have been wanting to learn another language for a long time – in particular, Italian. I attempted it on my last visit there, but you’re right, they mostly just speak English to you, which makes it hard! I still definitely need to polish up my skills 🙂

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