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Anxiety when Speaking French


Mr. L
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I have to say, I actually developed anxiety from trying to speak French. I believe it was my bachelor's degree that started it all. I forced myself to get a degree with an extended major in French without a background in French to get a job as a teacher in Canada; which is tough. I remember trying to decipher ancient French thinking, "What am I doing? I can't even read ancient English!"

I found I was afraid to speak French with the french people I new and it didn't help when some of them were rude to me. I remember asking a fellow from France, "D'ou venez-vous?" Which as far as I know means, where are you from. He kept asking me what I was saying over and over until I said, France? He was from France. I guess what I said was wrong but he was very rude and made me feel very stupid.

I wonder, have any of you had a bad experience speaking French?

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I am living in Switzerland and we do speak French here as one of the 4 official languages in Switzerland. Moreover, I am living in a city called Biel, where we speak both German and French. Therefore, my French is pretty good (but still far from perfect). I also noticed that French people can be really "bitchy" about their language on several occasions---> When I was younger, I was often working part-time jobs in call centers and my last call center job was actually working for "Swarovski" (jewelry). I had to answer customer calls in English, German, and French. While English and German customers were still quite friendly and polite, I had a lot of arguments with French people. It happened maybe once or twice that some French clients asked me to get someone else on the phone, as they possibly had the impression that I am actually not understanding/speaking French at a very high level...so they would just tell me: "Give me someone else on the phone". This just happened once or twice to me; however, this happened pretty often to some of my call center colleagues :=)

So in conclusion: French people really care a lot about their own language and they have a lot of expectations about people speaking French as a "second language".  :grin:

But please don't get me wrong. I do not have any problems with French people and I must say that their language is very interesting and in many ways quite fascinating.

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  • 1 month later...

I get a lot of anxiety when I have to speak French too, so don't worry you're not alone! I find that the more you practice and the more you study, the more confidence you'll get in yourself.

As an ESL teacher, I've encountered a lot of students who got anxiety or were too shy to speak English in front of me, due to the fact that I was a native English speaker. I would always try to get them to relax and remind them that I was there to teach them, and not to judge them. The more you speak a language, the better you get at it. It takes time, and there are some rude people who will simply be rude about it, try to ignore them and continue your quest for knowledge!

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I know several people from my country that went to France to study had bad experience with the locals. They were teased (quite rudely) when they try to converse in French. Now, I don't want to paint the same picture to all French people, but everyone that I knew who went there as a student or an expat had to face similar situation.  :sad:

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  • 4 weeks later...

From what I understand, a lot of the bad-rap that French speakers have for giving non-native french speakers a problem when they try and speak French is from these exchanges occurring in Paris. You have to remember that Paris, like NYC, is a tourist magnet. Unlike New Yorkers though, most Parisians speak English. I'm sure that you'd be annoyed if you ran into thirty people every day struggling to ask for directions to the Eiffel tower en français, when both of you would clearly have a much easier time just getting through the exchange in English. Apparently once you get out of Paris, people tend to warm up to non-native speakers.

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  • 4 weeks later...

All of my French learning has been in Canada, so whenever I mess up on pronunciation or what not, it usually gets a little giggle and then a correction. I've actually been pretty fortunate in my language learning experience in that most of my experiences have been at least a somewhat pleasant one. I did meet a few nasty people, but I'm sure they exist in every culture.

The downside to this is that I've developed a pretty cool (in my opinion) accent, but no one from France can really understand me. It's not that thick, but the Quebecois accent is still pretty strong nonetheless.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Speaking and conversing in French has always been difficult for me (compared to reading it or writing it). My speaking abilities have never been up to par, and throughout high school it was something which I often put on the back burner. This eventually came back around to bite me in the behind, as oral exams made up a large portion of my mark in the french classes of my senior years. This was likely my most nerve wracking experience with speaking French - being made to converse on a subject that I did not know prior and hopefully being able to remember some related vocabulary or phrases to use.

Aside from this, however, my experience with the french language has been relatively positive!

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  • 3 months later...

Oh guys, don't start me on french people, I had my worst experience ever at a french airport, more than 5 people were extremely rude to me.  They expected me to speak french!!! When i was there just because i had no choice, I had missed my flight and had no choice but stop by that place.  AWFUL.  I'd rather sleep at the airport whole night than going there again. 

Nope, I like the french language (because of Canada), but not France.  French people seem kinda rude! I'd never try to speak french to french people, too scary.

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  • 6 months later...

Don't lose hope. We've all been there. I myself have experienced being anxious too, especially in front of native speakers. If someone has been rude to you, remember that there are also a lot of people willing to help and hear you out. Try to search for these people and when you have, try to nurture your relationships with them. Having someone to hear you and understand you is one thing; Having a FRIEND to hear you out, help you get better and constructively criticize your skill is better. Just don't stop and eventually you'll get better. Moreover, your anxiety will be lessened until it ceases completely.

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  • 1 month later...

I know several people from my country that went to France to study had bad experience with the locals. They were teased (quite rudely) when they try to converse in French. Now, I don't want to paint the same picture to all French people, but everyone that I knew who went there as a student or an expat had to face similar situation.  :sad:

I had a similar experience in France.  So far I've heard awful things of french people, as well as Dutch people.  It's fine with the french because I won't be living there, but the dutch? Now that makes me nervous!  But seriously the french are an extremely difficult bunch, feel so bad for your friends. I was humiliated at an airport by a french speaking African immigrant just because i asked something in english. Crazy people.

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I have to say, I actually developed anxiety from trying to speak French. I believe it was my bachelor's degree that started it all. I forced myself to get a degree with an extended major in French without a background in French to get a job as a teacher in Canada; which is tough. I remember trying to decipher ancient French thinking, "What am I doing? I can't even read ancient English!"

I found I was afraid to speak French with the french people I new and it didn't help when some of them were rude to me. I remember asking a fellow from France, "D'ou venez-vous?" Which as far as I know means, where are you from. He kept asking me what I was saying over and over until I said, France? He was from France. I guess what I said was wrong but he was very rude and made me feel very stupid.

I wonder, have any of you had a bad experience speaking French?

I feel for you, it's amazing what a single jerk can do to one's self-esteem and confidence when learning a new language. Just keep working on improving your french, and try to practice with people who aren't from France. French people have an awful rep and it's for a good reason... I had the most awful experience. First i was attacked by a cleaning employee from the airport, then completely ignored by the french employees of my american airline... Yup, answered in french when I asked them about my gate!!! I wasn't in f*cking France because I wanted!!!! I was stuck in their airport because i missed my connection flight in the US.  Horrible place.

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