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Traveling abroad on your own?

  Tags: Europe | Travel | French
 Language Learning Forum : Immersion, Schools & Certificates Post Reply
18 messages over 3 pages: 1 2 3  Next >>
Senior Member
United States
Joined 3646 days ago

153 posts - 174 votes 
Speaks: French

 Message 1 of 18
01 July 2014 at 2:34am | IP Logged 
Lately I've had the idea when I finally achieve fluency in French I'd like to travel to mainland Europe. My
brother and cousin both went after graduation and I've always wanted to go. Haven't decided where yet, but I
was wondering is French something I could use most places in Europe? I'm not going just to use my French,
but it would be a bonus. I'm also open to ideas as to where to visit.
1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
Joined 4177 days ago

747 posts - 1123 votes 
Speaks: Cantonese*, English, Mandarin
Studies: French

 Message 2 of 18
01 July 2014 at 4:47am | IP Logged 
By countries there are at least 3 where French is an official language including France, Belgium &
Switzerland and also the tiny Luxembourg. I'm sure a lot of neighbouring countries like Spain and Italy
understand French. There are places in E. Europe people are learning French as a second language.
Should be able to get around most places with just English & French.

It is like Chinese in S-E Asia. Besides Singapore where Mandarin is 1 of the official languages, it is
taught in schools in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand as a second language.

Edited by shk00design on 01 July 2014 at 4:48am

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Senior Member
United States
Joined 4919 days ago

209 posts - 264 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: French, German, Spanish, Japanese

 Message 3 of 18
01 July 2014 at 7:49am | IP Logged 
Definitely go on your own! I mean going with someone else is nice but don't wait around
for someone else to be ready to go with you and miss out. You'll be fine. If you're
nervous do some research first. :)

You can also go to French Africa if you want something a little different. It will
depend on the country how many people can actually speak French, though. Morocco should
be good for it and has some European influence so it's not TOO exotic. Some people do
find it too overwhelming though, so you'll have to decide what you're up for.

Europe is nice too though. I'm a little biased because my heart yearns for Africa so
much so that I decided to make it the first continent I go to on my upcoming(in 3
years) long term trip, even though I know it will probably be the most difficult.

Go to wikitravel and check out some of the countries you want to go to then jump to the
talk section. Some of them mention more or less French. I see it in some Eastern
European countries. Then try doing more research because I can't guarantee the accuracy
of any of that... Still your best bet is probably somewhere where it's official.

I think I'd suggest going for an extended period if you can. I don't know any details
of your situation or if you're interested in that, but it would surely be better for
your French. If you want it you will be able to find a way to make it happen! We (well
I, and I'm assuming you) are so lucky to be in a position where all this stuff is
easier to obtain. Easier to save money, easier to get visas because of the country
we're from, and so on. :)

Just be sure to consciously use your French when you get a chance. I know from
experience that it's SO easy to just slip into English.

Sorry I've gone on a bit of a rant here. It's just something I'm passionate about. Hope
you gleaned something useful from it. :)

Edited by hjordis on 01 July 2014 at 7:52am

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Senior Member
Joined 3832 days ago

490 posts - 1158 votes 
Speaks: Swedish*, English, French
Studies: Breton, Italian

 Message 4 of 18
01 July 2014 at 9:10am | IP Logged 
The short answer: Is French something you can use in most places in Europe? Definitely not.

The middle answer: You'll get much further with your English, honestly. And with both English and French you'll get quite far, although you'll still have massive communication problems in some places. Europe isn't the magical haven of polyglots. To paraphrase my former neighbour: "You're so lucky to speak English. We can't go anywhere because no one speaks French."

The long answer: Yes, in Belgium a lot of people speak French, especially if you combine L1 and L2 (but you must be very forward, otherwise finding those L2 speakers outside of the French zone might be tough), and almost everyone in Luxembourg speaks French as L2. In a tiny sliver of western Switzerland you'll also find French, though you'll probably find some L2 speakers elsewhere (again, being very forward and ready to make a fool out of yourself).

Some people are bound to understand French in Spain and Italy. Some people speak it very well, since it's a relatively popular L2. It's possible that if you do lots of touristy things close to France you'll find francophone guides etc. Otherwise we're probably back to spending a lot of time randomly running around looking for L2 speakers. But if you're super forward and persistent and have lots of time you'll probably find L2 speakers anywhere. I remember chatting in French with someone at a bus stop in Malmö (Sweden) once. He didn't speak Swedish or English and he needed an answer so he just sat there shouting "Hey, do you speak French?" (in French, of course) at everyone who passed by. I have no clue how long he'd been going at it, though. 20% of Swedes take some French, but the system only gets you to maybe A2 upon graduation, and the people willing to speak the language is probably closer to 2%.   

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Senior Member
United States
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Speaks: English*, SpanishC2, ItalianC2, Norwegian, Catalan, Galician, Turkish, Portuguese
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 Message 5 of 18
01 July 2014 at 10:09am | IP Logged 
I'm going to second what eyðimörk said. There's a whole lot of Europe where French won't do you much good. By all means, use French when you find the opportunity to do so, but also, don't let French solely dictate where you visit.

If you are really after exposure to French language, I'd stick to francophone countries (France, Belgium, Switzerland, etc. You'll get a decent taste of the language and its differences that way.

If, on the other hand, you want to experience other parts of Europe where French doesn't play a big role, such as Eastern and Southern Europe, English will be more useful. And if you want an even better experience in theses parts of Europe, why not try and pick up and use a few basic phrases in the local language instead of English or French. It doesn't take much to learn and use touristy phrases in the local language, and I guarantee that you'll have a wonderful experience doing so. Much more so that simply falling back on English or French.

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Senior Member
United States
Joined 3646 days ago

153 posts - 174 votes 
Speaks: French

 Message 6 of 18
02 July 2014 at 3:50am | IP Logged 
One of my flaws is I cant just stop at the touristy phrases. If I'm gonna learn a language at all I learn as much as I can get. But that aside thanks for the advice, my idea was that if I went somewhere other than say France or other french speaking countries, that it'd be my backup. I'm a huge classical music fan, and that's part of the desire to see Europe. I'm open to travel anyplace that has loads of history and fun cultural stuff to do.
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Super Polyglot
Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
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Speaks: Dutch*, English, Swedish, French, Russian, German, Italian, Norwegian, Mandarin, Romanian, Afrikaans
Studies: Greek, Modern Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Korean, Esperanto, Finnish

 Message 7 of 18
02 July 2014 at 9:32am | IP Logged 
French is mostly useful in France and southern Belgium, and a few parts of Switzerland,
as well as Luxembourg.

As for countries, just take France and Switzerland if you want to tourist - Wallonia is
nigh-on useless for my tastes (you can see Brussels if you like, but Belgium has better
cities to offer I think; the good cities in Belgium are Flemish if you ask me), and
maybe you can see the Butte du Lion in Waterloo (site of Napoleon's famous loss). (By
the way, that battle has spawned a proverb in Dutch: "zijn Waterloo vinden", meaning
"to meet his end").

As for Luxembourg, I have no idea what you could there, ask someone more knowledgeable.
I have been but long ago.

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Joined 5993 days ago

92 posts - 130 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish

 Message 8 of 18
05 July 2014 at 11:33pm | IP Logged 
Luxembourg is a very pleasant city where you could easily spend a day or two

And it's predominantly Francophone.

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