This is a topic I’ve not really touched on properly before: language differences between you and your Frenchman.
Let’s say you’re anglophone or your common language with your Frenchman is English. Maybe you speak some French but not super fluently. How do you get around properly understanding each other? And which language should you be speaking with each other?
Now I’m bilingual so I speak French with my Frenchman. We hang out with friends and I speak French. I speak French basically every day. And my English… well, I speak to my family and my friends in Canada on the phone. My Frenchman and I always see movies in VO at the cinema and on TV so that gives me a break, which is sometimes very welcome.
I think it’s important when you’re dating a Frenchman and living in France to learn/improve your French. Yes, it’s about integrating yourself in France but it’s also about speaking your man’s language and putting yourself in a position where you’ll feel comfortable hanging out with his friends/colleagues. Your Frenchman’s parents will also definitely appreciate it even if you speak just a little French.
That said, it’s not easy. My French vocabulary could never be as complete as a native. So sometimes I’m hanging out with my Frenchman and friends and I’ll miss something completely and the convo will go on and I’ll be lost. At such times, I’ll ask my Frenchman to explain the joke or whatever. Or, which I prefer, he’ll notice and explain without me having to ask.
In a group situation, don’t count on other people to slow down their French for you. It’s surprising how people don’t bother to make an effort, even if they know full well that you’re not French. Also, unlike French Canada, don’t expect people to understand if you say something in English. Their eyes will probably gloss over and they’ll continue where they left off, in French. Yeah, I’ve had a few run-ins with this type of thing. Basically, people tend to forget you’re not French when you’re dating a Frenchman and speak decent French.
If you’re working on your French, however, you’re probably speaking a mish mash of English and French with your Frenchman. Maybe it’s frustrating because you can’t get your point across the way you want in French so you switch to English, and your Frenchman doesn’t understand. Maybe your Frenchman can’t get his point across the way he wants in English so he switches to French, and you don’t understand. Pulling your hair out yet!!?
It’s tough. But hey, multi-cultural, multi-lingual relationships are nothing new to this world. If you want to make it work, it takes patience. A bilingual dictionary will come in handy. And French lessons for you would be good if you need to learn the basics. After you’ve got the basics down, it will be comforting to know how quickly you’ll learn reading French magazines and watching French TV and movies. As for him, you could encourage him to take English classes through his work. Most companies in France offer their employees English classes free of charge, on work time.
After that, it’s about giving it time, like everything else.