Why Tourists Might Want To Skip Learning A Bunch Of French Before Visiting France

Traveling can be a powerful motivator for learning another language. Studying common greetings and phrases can help you understand the culture and fit in better with the locals. However, if you're planning to visit France, you might want to adjust your expectations before learning the language, at least according to one content creator. TikToker @gettothepointbro — who describes himself as "French & Bitter" in his bio — posted a clip telling travelers to stop trying to speak French in Paris unless they've truly mastered the language. "[French people] will hate you and they hate you anyways. Even if you don't speak French, they hate you."

The content creator's assertion may be bold, but he has a point: You might struggle to blend in and win over the locals, even if you've spent hours cramming French phrases before your trip. With that said, there are still ways to connect with people in France without being fluent en Français.

English may be more common than you think

As some TikTok users shared in the comments of @gettothepointbro's video, some French locals will default to English when interacting with non-native French speakers, particularly in touristy areas of the country. This is especially likely if they sense a foreign accent or grammar issues when you attempt to use their language. TikToker @lornsausages23 wrote, "Nothing more soul destroying that [sic] asking something in French and they immediately respond in English," while @scgrandma77 shared, "If you try to speak French without a perfect accent they look at you in horror and switch to English."

This experience can feel discouraging, but there are a few reasons why French people may respond this way. Language expert French in Plain Sight explains in a YouTube video that French people tend to prioritize efficiency, especially in professional settings. As a result, they may switch to English to speed up the conversation and ensure there are no misunderstandings. Despite what some stereotypes suggest, French in Plain Sight also says many people in France — especially young people — enjoy practicing English.

According to the EF English Proficiency Index, France is considered to have a "moderate proficiency" in English. While this is lower than most other European countries (destinations such as the Netherlands, Portugal, and Greece are rated as having "very high proficiency"), you'll still find English being used around Paris and other tourist destinations in France.

Learning the basics can go a long way

Contrary to @gettothepointbro's claim that French people will hate you no matter what you do, some commenters on the video wrote that, outside of Paris, many French people genuinely appreciate when tourists try to use their language. If you plan to skip the big city to visit Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy, or another spot outside of Paris, knowing some basic French can come in handy.

Study essential words and phrases before your trip to France, including how to answer simple questions, order food at a restaurant, or ask for directions. Even these can be a lot to remember for new learners, so try to get comfortable with the basics first before moving on to more advanced French. Mastering common expressions may make it less likely that the locals default to English during interactions.

Even with a little French under your belt, you might experience a language barrier during your trip. When you're truly in a pinch and don't share a common language with a shopkeeper or taxi driver, simplify your communication. Use gestures and, if speaking English, verbalize each word slowly and clearly. Though it can be easier said than done, try not to take it personally if the other person responds curtly or appears frustrated with your lack of French. With @gettothepointbro's TikTok in mind, a little disapproval is practically a rite of passage when visiting France.