The Struggles of Learning French

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Taylor Quinn
April 10, 2022

My time in Nice so far has been nothing short of incredible. After coming back from my spring break travels to Northern Europe, I finally felt like I truly live here. I can navigate without using Google Maps, and I picked out my go-to cafés and study spots. My biggest challenge to date, however, is my French proficiency. I’ve taken French courses for about 5 years now, and I’m still not at the level I’d like to be. 

The reality of living in Nice is that it’s a touristy area. Mostly everyone here speaks English well enough to help you with anything you need. Whenever you’re frazzled or trying to communicate in high-level conversations, it’s extremely helpful. That being said, anytime a French person picks up on my American accent, they immediately begin speaking in English. Even if I speak French back, it’s too late. The switch to English is permanent. This common phenomenon can be frustrating because in a quick encounter, where there may be a line behind me or I’m talking to a busy waiter, I can’t speak with them long enough to justify a legitimate conversation in French. It especially occurs when I’m with my American friends, because the French can spot Americans from a mile away. I’ve found that the French tend to be slightly impatient too, so that doesn’t help either. Therefore, I find myself unable to comprehend French the way I’d like because I haven’t had enough time to practice. 

Barring all other roadblocks, I have improved my French while living here. Certain conversations are getting easier, and I can blend in a little bit better. However, I want to push myself and immerse myself in the language more. Here are some tips I’ve started using to not only improve my speaking, but earn the French respect!

  1. Always use French, even if a person is speaking to you in English. Try to only use English for niche words that you can’t explain in French.
  2. If you’re becoming a regular at a café, market, or even a nail salon, politely ask the employees to use French with you and explain that you’re learning. They’ll be more willing to be patient with you!
  3. Start watching your favorite shows with French subtitles to pick up more vocab words and get a feel for slang phrases. 

I’m hoping that by implementing these tips into my daily life, I’ll start noticing improvement. I’m motivated to give these last few months my best shot! Learning a foreign language isn’t easy, but it’s incredibly worth it. 

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a headshot of Taylor

Taylor Quinn

Hey everyone! My name is Taylor Quinn and I'm an Economics major at UNC Charlotte. This semester I'm studying abroad in Nice, France with the Business, Sustainability, and Immigration Program. My hometown is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and I'm a huge football fan (American style). On the weekend, you'll probably find me discovering a nearby hike, scoping out a bookstore, or studying at a local coffee shop. I love to cook, although most would say I'm only an amateur, so I can't wait to explore the Niçoise cuisine and the rest that Nice has to offer.

2022 Spring
Home University:
University of North Carolina-Charlotte
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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