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How to actually use your language?

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Tyrion101
Senior Member
United States
Joined 2083 days ago

153 posts - 174 votes 
Speaks: French

 
 Message 1 of 25
16 November 2015 at 9:15pm | IP Logged 
I don't know if my situation is similar to any of yours, but when I learned French I figured it would be one of those languages that would come up, and it has, however I've found that as soon as someone finds out you speak English, they don't want to speak French anymore, and I'm sure it's the same with other languages as well. Oh they'll help you with your French, and I have one friend doing that with me now, but he never uses it beyond a simple sentence or two. Whenever I use my French online I only get replies in English, Do I just pretend I am French Canadian?
1 person has voted this message useful



Speakeasy
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 2222 days ago

456 posts - 1067 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 2 of 25
17 November 2015 at 12:42am | IP Logged 
Your experiences are quite common. Native English-speakers "enjoy the benefit" of having learned, in their childhood, one of the most widely-used languages in the world and, consequently, are not required to expend the enormous effort of learning it later in life. The "downside" is that, for those native English-speakers who genuinely wish to learn and practice a foreign language, in addition to deploying the effort of learning their second language, when faced with practicing it with native speakers, the latter will often reply in English, which represents an additional obstacle for English-speakers wishing to practice their second language. The "natives" do this for numerous reasons, such as (a) to practice their own second language, English, with a native speaker, (b) they detect that the native English-speaker is struggling somewhat with their second language and they wish to put the person at ease and move the conversation along, (c) they were obligated to learn (the imperious) English language, did so grudgingly, and are now seeking to avenge themselves by sending the not-so-subtle message to the native English-speaker that they mastered your (imperious) language and that they have nothing but contempt for your infantile attempts at learning their language which they view as representing yet another "luxury" that you can afford yourself, you /?&$"/%-ing **** elitist, overbearing, presumptuous imperialist! Of course, other explanations exist.

I do not understand your tactic of pretending to be French-Canadian. This would be akin to pretending that you are English Canadian, Australian, British, or whatever, when speaking English. That is, the Québécois, as the French-Canadians prefer to identify themselves, speak a regional variant of French that differs only slightly from Standard French in usage, has its own battery of colloquialisms as does every other variant of every other widely-spoken language, but distinguishes itself from Standard French mostly in pronunciation ... as do all of the regional variants of French in France. Virtually any native French-speaker can detect the regional accent of any other native French-speaker and can distinguish it from the accent of a true foreigner who has learned French, as a second language, even if the latter has a C2 spoken competence in French. So, as someone who has been living in Québec for almost 30 years, and who has spoken ONLY French during the entire period, I can assure you that native French-speakers will detect your "false" French-Canadian accent. Furthermore, should you attempt such a charade with anyone from Québec, they will react with laughter or derision and might easily take offence!

The solution to this problem? Politely advise your "interlocuteur" that you admire their ability to speak English and that, in order to bring your French up to a similar level, you have decided to make good use of every opportunity to practice your French with native speakers (say this in French) and that, accordingly, you would much prefer to continue the conversation in French. If they reply in English, reply in French and continue to do so, whether they "get the message" or not.

Edited by Speakeasy on 17 November 2015 at 12:58am

4 persons have voted this message useful



garyb
Triglot
Senior Member
ScotlandRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3377 days ago

1468 posts - 2411 votes 
Speaks: English*, Italian, French
Studies: Spanish

 
 Message 3 of 25
17 November 2015 at 11:25am | IP Logged 
It's a common problem, especially for French learners, and one that's been discussed a lot. I agree with Speakeasy's analysis and advice. People do become a bit more willing to speak it with you once your speaking level is more advanced, but it can feel like a Catch-22 because you need to practise in order to improve that level. Fortunately, there are other ways to improve your speaking: here's an interesting discussion on the new forum about improving "active skills" and in particular speaking that has some good ideas, and working with a tutor might be an option to help increase your level and confidence. This confidence is a big factor too: if people perceive that you're not at ease in the language they're more likely to switch.

I don't advise lying about your origin or pretending to not know English (although some do!), but I would recommend not revealing it if you can avoid it. When travelling I've found that people have been very happy to speak French or Italian with me right until they see my British passport, after which they become very insistent on English, even if their level in English is far lower than mine in their language.

Accent can be a dead give-away. It's okay to sound foreign, but it's worth putting some effort into not sounding like an obvious English-speaker. In French and other Romance languages you can work on rhythm, intonation, the R sound, and getting the vowels right (in particular, not reducing them and not mispronouncing pure vowels as diphthongs).

One little tip from my experience is to make sure you can pronounce "pardon?" well and confidently. It's normal to not understand the first time, but how you handle it can make the difference between the conversation continuing in French or changing to English.

These won't always work: some people will still insist on using English with anybody who speaks their language any less than perfectly; if you're checking into a hotel you'll probably have to show your passport sooner or later; and people will ask where you're from in conversations. You can't always win, and it's no big deal, especially for shorter interactions. There are people out there who are willing to speak their language with learners, so it's about focusing on the positive.

This advice is mostly geared towards travelling in the country. Using the language online or with native speakers in your own country is slightly different and more difficult, you're going against the current more.
4 persons have voted this message useful



Tyrion101
Senior Member
United States
Joined 2083 days ago

153 posts - 174 votes 
Speaks: French

 
 Message 4 of 25
17 November 2015 at 7:40pm | IP Logged 
Speakeasy wrote:
Your experiences are quite common. Native English-speakers "enjoy the benefit" of having learned, in their childhood, one of the most widely-used languages in the world and, consequently, are not required to expend the enormous effort of learning it later in life. The "downside" is that, for those native English-speakers who genuinely wish to learn and practice a foreign language, in addition to deploying the effort of learning their second language, when faced with practicing it with native speakers, the latter will often reply in English, which represents an additional obstacle for English-speakers wishing to practice their second language. The "natives" do this for numerous reasons, such as (a) to practice their own second language, English, with a native speaker, (b) they detect that the native English-speaker is struggling somewhat with their second language and they wish to put the person at ease and move the conversation along, (c) they were obligated to learn (the imperious) English language, did so grudgingly, and are now seeking to avenge themselves by sending the not-so-subtle message to the native English-speaker that they mastered your (imperious) language and that they have nothing but contempt for your infantile attempts at learning their language which they view as representing yet another "luxury" that you can afford yourself, you /?&$"/%-ing **** elitist, overbearing, presumptuous imperialist! Of course, other explanations exist.

I do not understand your tactic of pretending to be French-Canadian. This would be akin to pretending that you are English Canadian, Australian, British, or whatever, when speaking English. That is, the Québécois, as the French-Canadians prefer to identify themselves, speak a regional variant of French that differs only slightly from Standard French in usage, has its own battery of colloquialisms as does every other variant of every other widely-spoken language, but distinguishes itself from Standard French mostly in pronunciation ... as do all of the regional variants of French in France. Virtually any native French-speaker can detect the regional accent of any other native French-speaker and can distinguish it from the accent of a true foreigner who has learned French, as a second language, even if the latter has a C2 spoken competence in French. So, as someone who has been living in Québec for almost 30 years, and who has spoken ONLY French during the entire period, I can assure you that native French-speakers will detect your "false" French-Canadian accent. Furthermore, should you attempt such a charade with anyone from Québec, they will react with laughter or derision and might easily take offence!

The solution to this problem? Politely advise your "interlocuteur" that you admire their ability to speak English and that, in order to bring your French up to a similar level, you have decided to make good use of every opportunity to practice your French with native speakers (say this in French) and that, accordingly, you would much prefer to continue the conversation in French. If they reply in English, reply in French and continue to do so, whether they "get the message" or not.


I was only seeking a way to avoid the whole English thing. Also, there are Quebecois that don't speak English, or at least so I've been told. If I have started to develop a true French accent it's likely going to be closer to that than anything. Thanks for the advice. French people have told that me speak very good French, but I never get to use it.

Edited by Tyrion101 on 17 November 2015 at 7:41pm

1 person has voted this message useful



Cavesa
Triglot
Senior Member
Czech Republic
Joined 3179 days ago

3277 posts - 6778 votes 
Speaks: Czech*, FrenchC2, EnglishC1
Studies: Spanish, German, Italian

 
 Message 5 of 25
17 November 2015 at 8:27pm | IP Logged 
From my experience:
-refuse to speak English, just answer in French. Be convincing nonverbally (don't look confused, use even your limite knowledge with confidence).
-obviously understand their French. High listening comprehension skills are essential for gaining the opportunities to speak
-work on your pronunciation. You don't need to be perfect, just good enough to not give them an excuse to switch
-be alone, without English friends or family. It gets much harder to practice when the French native tries to target the whole group (and even more funny/annoying, when the group speaks neither French nor English)
-seek out less touristy places and situations, to make it quite obvious at first sight that you can speak French (bookshops, less touristy areas of a town, local café with a newspaper in hand)

However the most reliable way to avoid switching to English and actually practice your TL: Throw away the months and years spent on French and learn Spanish/German/Italian instead.

4 persons have voted this message useful



Speakeasy
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 2222 days ago

456 posts - 1067 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 6 of 25
17 November 2015 at 11:47pm | IP Logged 
First, I agree with Cavesa's comments.

Second, without wishing to "beat a dead horse" ...
Tyrion101 wrote:
...there are Quebecois that don't speak English, or at least so I've been told.
Yes, it is true that some Québécois do not speak English or, at least, not very well. Nonetheless, upon hearing two spoken syllables, a native French-speaker would distinguish your American-tinged accent from that of a genuine Québécois. Having "unmasked" you, your French interlocuteur would begin to wonder why you are pretending to be someone you are not. While he might be too polite to challenge you on your masquerade, he might decide that, if you are being patently untruthful as to your origins, you are not the type of company he wishes to keep and thus terminate the conversation thereby depriving you his hospitality and of an opportunity to practice French!

Edited by Speakeasy on 17 November 2015 at 11:52pm

3 persons have voted this message useful



Cavesa
Triglot
Senior Member
Czech Republic
Joined 3179 days ago

3277 posts - 6778 votes 
Speaks: Czech*, FrenchC2, EnglishC1
Studies: Spanish, German, Italian

 
 Message 7 of 25
18 November 2015 at 2:04am | IP Logged 
"Virtually any native French-speaker can detect the regional accent of any other native French-speaker and can distinguish it from the accent of a true foreigner who has learned French, as a second language, even if the latter has a C2 spoken competence in French."

This caught my attention. Well, I've met people claiming to have mistaken me for a native from a different region from theirs (for example from the Switzerland) and I believe they weren't lying. But not because of me having perfect pronunciation and accent. Nope. I am just good (not perfect!) AND they weren't focused on recognizing my accent, it simply wasn't important, they hadn't given it much thought.

It might as well play a part that my foreign accent is
1.quite light (my tutor before the C2 exam claimed I didn't have any, but he may have been just trying to give me more confidence)
2.not English (tarvos recognized it as typical central/eastern european but most French natives haven't probably met that many proficient non native speakers from most regions. But everyone has heard English natives speaking/trying to speak French)

I don't think trying to fake your origins is the answer, you are gonna fail sooner or later and it might be embarassing. You'll be betrayed by your accent, a specific word, a cultural reference. And I find a bit weird as well to try, but that is just my feeling.

I'd say the key is to make your origins totally unimportant. To be functionaly native-like. To obviously use the language for the purpose at hand without trouble. To be pleasant and fun company in the language. Not that annoying free-tutoring-seeking learner they expect all of us to be.
2 persons have voted this message useful



shk00design
Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 2614 days ago

747 posts - 1122 votes 
Speaks: Cantonese*, English, Mandarin
Studies: French

 
 Message 8 of 25
18 November 2015 at 2:18am | IP Logged 
There are times people will choose to switch to another language such as keeping a conversation private. This only happens when they are fluent in another language and can keep other people out of the discussion.

When you are learning to speak a language, your lack of fluency can be obvious. I've seen a video of an Australian in Hong Kong practicing his Cantonese. He would sit in a local restaurant and get into a conversation with the locals. Hong Kong is a place that used to be a British colony. However, outside the hotels and large department stores there are many locals who are not fluent in English at the conversation level so finding someone to practice Cantonese is not an issue. I was in Hong Kong recently at a department store. A local Chinese walked by and asked where some kitchen pots were made. The package had "Made in Germany" in large print but didn't mean very much to him.

You need to find someone who is not fluent in English so that the 2 of you have to communicate in the local language.

Edited by shk00design on 18 November 2015 at 2:50pm



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