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I don’t know if other Francophiles feel as I do BUT, however long I spend learning French, and I have spent a lifetime at it, I will never feel that I have mastered speaking French!


French unlike English is not a forgiving language. In English, non-speakers can make all sorts of mistakes and English speakers are not offended.


But French is not like that.


I love learning French more than almost anything else in my life but I did not go to French immersion as a child. I learned as an adult so I have had to really work at it.


As a result,  I have identified my three levels of proficiency and progress in learning French.



Sort of! (Speaking French– My Story)


Three Things I Have Learned About Speaking French


Stage One — You sputter a few words and phrases that you have studied for years in the language lab at school and now you are trying them out in front of real French people. They usually insist on going into English. Or if you are in a part of France where English is scarce, they encourage you knowing that you have a long long way to go.


Stage Two –– You can carry on a very short conversation on things like where you live, and what you do for a living, and you look as if you understand what French people are saying if they don’t speak too quickly which is hard because they all do. People applaud your French and say you speak very well but in my experience, they are being polite.


Stage Three – And this is a big step, you can finally speak good French, and, can have in-depth conversations and debate politics, and discuss things like the controversy over the age of retirement and universal income. However, at this stage, you are still not sure if you are making mistakes, and any small error you make will be pointed out and corrected.



Speaking French — My Story



As such, in my experience, the more one improves one’s French the more you start to feel the weight of l’Académie Française, the authority on all matters relating to the French language in France.


The fact that this preeminent body is made up of forty members, elected for life, who are known as “les immortels” (the immortals!) tells you something,


And while I will never meet these erudite masters, I feel them tapping me on the shoulder by means of their de-facto emissaries, French people.


As in one recent case, a shopkeeper wagged her finger at me in mid-conversation and said “Non, non, non, madame, that is not the right word!” and then didn’t tell me what the wrong or even the right word was.



Learning French — My Story



I have learned that surprisingly this can be a compliment because French speakers will only correct you if they feel you have reached a stage where you naturally want to improve.



and Speaking French!


Speaking French — Mark Greenside’s Story


The gender of words has always confounded those of us learning French n’est-ce pas?


“Melons and vaginas are masculine, and cars and motorcycles are feminine. There’s no logic to it”, says American writer Mark Greenside who has quite a lot to say on the subject in his book — Mastering the Art of French Living. (Not Quite).


I highly recommend this memoir by the way, along with his first book, I’ll Never Be French!


Years ago, on a whim, Mark bought a house in northwestern France where he spends every summer.  In all this time, he has still only picked up a smattering of words and says he manages to get by without paying any attention to “conjugation, pronunciation, gender and grammar.” 


Yet, often with hilarious results.


Especially when he has attempted to say a full sentence or two.


Once he remarked to a French person  “J’aime beaucoup mon vie en France.”  Only to learn he had just said “I love my dick in France.”


Of course, he meant to say “ma vie” for “my life”.  I love my life in France.  


Hence the importance of knowing the genders of words.


I laughed out loud reading his book from start to finish.  (Click on the titles above to find his books. They are a riot!)


Such are the perils of learning a language but especially French.


Yet, I am still obsessed.


Until my last breath, I will be looking to learn that next new word, phrase, and nuance of grammar, and then happily wait for a French person to criticize or correct me!


What stage of Speaking French are you?


Speaking French — Your Story!

Now let’s hear from you.

What has your experience been speaking French?

Did you step in it a few times with the wrong word or phrase?

Please share your stories with us

AND comment at the bottom of this blog

where it says LEAVE A REPLY.




You can win this bed set! See below.


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For Annual Members

If you are an annual member of my subscription series


You are eligible FOUR times a year for a special Giveaway Draw!

Giveaway Draw #1

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*Click here to see that Blog Post

Giveaway Draw #2

My Second Giveaway Draw —-

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I will announce the winner in the next blog post.

Bonne Chance!

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  1. astrid thomas on September 25, 2022 at 9:47 am

    I’m completely agree with you Diana.
    Your three levels made me laugh, but it’s true!!

    Some French are proud to master the language of Voltaire and are intransigent with the faults, also towards the French who make all sorts of faults; they are more and more!
    Some conjugation times are disappearing (le “plus que parfait”, le “passé simple”,
    le “futur antérieur”), and this is a real problem for the ambassadors of l’Académie Française!
    That’s why you (and the French to) will be pointed out and corrected so as to keep high level of the language.
    Is it a question of belonging, of esteem?

    Thank to all French “friends” you meet, you speak now very well!
    I hope you’ll continue to meet “friends” who care for your French speaking 🙂

    Tell us about your level 4…

    As French I make all sorts of mistakes and English speakers are not offended.
    I know, I don’t improve in English and Im always level 2 since 30 years 😉

    Have a good week

    • Diana Bishop on September 26, 2022 at 10:35 am

      Haha you are so right. I do feel special when someone now tells helps me with a word etc. I do feel like I belong.

      I will keep learning my dear friend. I can’t wait for my next trip to France! Diana

  2. Gretchen Greene O'Brien on September 25, 2022 at 10:11 am

    I, too, did not have early French lessons – until I was a teenager! Dropped the class after 2 years. Learning a new language was just too difficult. Good for you for your persistence!

    • Diana Bishop on September 26, 2022 at 10:36 am

      It is like a puzzle. You just trying to find the right pieces to keep working on it!
      Great to hear from you Gretchen!

  3. dswministries on September 25, 2022 at 11:11 am

    I started learning french in the 7th grade in Arizona. I loved it, even though it was very challenging for me. I studied through high school and also learned Spanish. A lot of French stuck with me but I’m not fluent. I can read and understand 98% of French, but understanding it spoken is harder than speaking. I can definitely hold meaningful conversation on a variety of subjects but complicated topics I shy away from. When I visit France, no one switches to English. I guess that means something. The cab driver was so impressed that a tourist could speak French. He stopped and bought me some cold medicine. I asked for directions at the metro once and the employee said I speak very good French. I am choosing to take it as a compliment. My French friends do correct me, but they are gentle about it. Learning French has opened so many experiences and makes trips to France more enjoyable than if I only speak the bare minimum.

    • Diane Moreau on September 25, 2022 at 1:15 pm

      Hi Diana
      My experience as practically a life-long French speaker is very similar to yours so I thought I would just share a funny, really embarrassing story. On my very first visit to France to meet my future husband’s parents for the first time and after eating a lovely meal but not wanting “seconds”,
      I said very clearly: “Je suis pleine”. Dead silence as he whispered to me: “You just said you’re pregnant (colloquially).” I quickly learned to say instead: “Merci beaucoup, j’ai très bien mangé.”

      • Luci Rizzo on September 25, 2022 at 2:04 pm

        I am pre stage one. But i have a great accent when i say something in French. Lol

        • Diana Bishop on September 26, 2022 at 10:40 am

          The accent is half the battle. Good for you Luci! Great to hear from you, Diana

      • Diana Bishop on September 26, 2022 at 10:40 am

        Diane— this is a riot. I know how easily it can happen. That’s a really good one — so funny that it happened on your first meeting with your to-be parents-in-law.
        I bet you all still laugh about that!
        Great to hear from you as always Diane,

    • Diana Bishop on September 26, 2022 at 10:38 am

      Dawn, you have beautifully summed up everything that I feel about learning the language. My friends do correct me but they are gentle about it, and I can see that they respect that I keep trying to improve. Thank you for sharing these thoughts. So kind of you, Diana

  4. Gail on September 25, 2022 at 2:34 pm

    Mai oui, Diana!

    So often when traveling by train in France, my French seatmate would be willing to converse — only in French (alleging poor English), then correct my French. Free instruction! Once in Collioure a young woman and I watched navy commandos swim in the bay with wet suits and snorkels. I asked her how to say “snorkel” in French. “Tuba.” She seemed puzzled when I burst out laughing until I drew a cartoon of frogmen playing tubas.

    • Diana Bishop on September 26, 2022 at 10:42 am

      Haha! How fun!
      Well, you of course living in France have the best opportunity to keep learning. How envious am I???? So envious!
      So wonderful to hear from you Gail. Hope you are enjoying the fall in Southern France. My favourite time to be there. Diana

  5. Christine Kowal on September 25, 2022 at 5:17 pm

    I was about sixteen. And staying at my cousins farm for the summer. They had some new neighbours who spoke French and barely spoke any English so as the adults were all trying to figure out what to do I said I speak French. After all I’d spoken French since I was in grade 3, what could be so hard?
    So I asked my Auntie what she would like me to say.
    I repeated every word very slowly with hand gestures about 86% English.
    My Auntie said okay Chris I could have done that but we still all managed to understand each other. Understanding one another is not about the language, but that is the fun or embarrassing part.
    Love and Light
    Christine and the Animals

    • Diana Bishop on September 26, 2022 at 10:43 am

      You are so right Christine! Great story. Thank you for sharing it with us. Diana

  6. Melinda on September 25, 2022 at 8:52 pm

    I am still at stage one, but I find if I greet everyone with a “Bonjour” most French people will forgive my broken French. Also, if I say in my basic French that I am from San Francisco, this seems to bring out great smiles and stories.
    I am looking forward to reading the books you mentioned!

    • Diana Bishop on September 26, 2022 at 10:44 am

      You are absolutely right Melinda. “Bonjour’ goes a long way in France. Thank you so much for your comment, and for following my blog. Diana

  7. Danielle St-Aubin on October 9, 2022 at 10:33 am

    Bonjour Diana. As a Francophone who went to French language school all her life and who still speaks French all the time at home, I can personally assure you that speaking, reading and writing French is most difficult. Being a bilingual service provider for the International Dyslexia Association, I really have to know my French. So, I decided to study “ la morphologie française “ over the summer months. Wow! Even as a French Canadian, this study was challenging. The French language is the second most difficult language to write, and the third most difficult to speak. So knowing that , we are all need to give ourselves a beak. I recently was in France and found that Frenchmen were amazed that I came from Ontario and that I could speak French, their thinking that only Quebecers spoke French in Canada. Eh bien! The important thing to remember is this: if you are going to France, you must need to know the following words: s’il-vous-plait, Merci, and “ menu s’il-vous-plait. Once you learn this, all will be well. Bonne journée.
    Danielle St-Aubin.

    • Diana Bishop on October 11, 2022 at 12:05 pm

      You have nailed it Danielle. You are a French speaker and should know. Makes me feel better! Thank you! Diana

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