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Publié : 10 juin 2014
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Interviews with our foreign visitors and penpals

Now, we are surrounded with English : it’s present everywhere, in every form. The question that comes up to my mind is what does English bring people, and what points of view do they have about France ?
To answer this question, I decided to ask my pals Luis, from Spain, and Christina, from China, plus our English-speakers assistants, Pascale, from Canada, and Pierre, from England.

How do they deal with English ?

Pascale was raised with both English and French. In her family, both languages were spoken and because she lives in the English-speaker part of Canada, she had to use English in everyday life. Pierre moved to England when he was young, but before he was living in France. When he first moved to England at the age of 9, he really struggled to learn English. He learnt it very quickly by reading a lot of books and got used to watch the news a lot to pick up the English language.
Luis thinks he can defend himself with English if needed, but maybe not in a serious speech or conversation.
Finally, Christina learns English at school, mostly by exercising, reciting words and working on grammar, and she likes watching movies in English and listening to songs in English. She likes English itself more than her English classes, because from her point of view, China’s English classes are really boring, concentrating on exams, and most of the students hate English.

What do they prefer with English ?

For Luis, it’s a difficult question to answer, but in general, he likes its internationality, not only chatting with people from all around the world but the ability to read many things and learn technical stuff in English. Quite the same for Christina, who likes listening to songs and watching films in English, and she also likes communicating with people.
Pascale also likes the internationality of English, and as most people learn it as a second language, it’s very easy that’s why people who speak English are very lucky to have the ability to travel to many countries, for example she has been to many places in Europe, and English seems to be the language of communication, but some people refuse to speak English in countries such as Germany where most people understand and speak English but they don’t want to do it. Today, we can have both academic English at school, and spoken English with all that we can access with the internet. Pierre guesses it is the way we speak. Because it’s very easy to speak to someone in English nowadays, and in England you don’t really mind with verbs and accents.

What do they think English brings them ?

English can bring a lot to everyone. From Christina’s point of view, English brings her more than Chinese because it’s more interesting to her, it helps her understand more about many things and it has been the key for both of us to meet each other.
Pascale focused on the fact that we have everything in English now, even posters here in France can be written in English and translated underneath. Both Pascale and Luis think English gives us the ability to travel everywhere.

When I say France, what’s the first thing they have in mind ?

To this question, the answers are varied. A blue and green world for Luis, because he often sees the things in colors, and the first images he has is a green landscape, also Paris and bohemian lifestyle. Paris is also one of the things Christina has in mind when thinking of France, and also the Eiffel tower and romantism, with no order.
When I say France, Pascale thinks of the shape of the country, the flag and all the stereotypes such as the baguettes, the umbrella, a little cigarette and the hats, also scarves, because many people wear scarves in France, but in Canada only women do wear scarves. That was a culture shock for her when she arrived and saw men wearing scarves, but for her, it’s lovely. She also thinks of metros and trains, because they don’t have it very much, but it’s very common in Europe.
Pierre, who’s been living in France, tends to think about the place where he used to live in, which was in Villepinte, Paris and he sometimes thinks of his school life there.

What’s their point of view about France and French people ?

Christina thinks France is a beautiful country, and romantic with a long history. She thinks it is now a livable country. For her, French people are romantic, polite and handsome.
Pierre has always loved France, because nothing makes France what it is today without French people. He loves the French culture and he promotes it in England (though not a lot of his friends like that, and some may think that he may be “biased” because he was born there). He thinks that France is definitely a beautiful country with a lot of inspiring people, attracting cities, delicious food, and much more !
A good question for Pascale, who thinks French people are absolutely lovely, and those stereotypes such as French people being rude are false. Many people she talked to were very charmy, very welcoming, very sweet, and really helpy if you need it. In some places in Paris, they were a little bit rude but generally people are nice. There’s a good fashion in France too, but she mainly thinks it’s a beautiful country, where every region has a bit of a difference. For her, France is a place full of culture, rich in history, and it was easier for her to kind of integrate because she speaks French (compared to other assistants who don’t speak french, so it’s difficult for them to get settled in the country).
Unlike Pascale, Luis thinks French people and especially Parisian people are snooty and haughty, proud of themselves, etc. But more generally, for him, many countries in Europe speak English, but countries like Germany, Spain and France have a strong identity, and don’t speak that much of English, so they don’t seem open-minded.

What have they done in France or what do they want to do there ? And why ?

Pascale has eaten a lot of baguettes and pain au chocolat, and has visited Lille, Nantes, Montpellier, and Paris many times, mostly for the touristic places, and took a lot of expressos (which are really different from Canadians coffees). She as visited many places and museums, and she would like to go to Paris more, to visit not only the touristy things but also the local things. Moreover, she would like to try French cheese next time.
Christina loves French and different cultures, so she would like to study and live in France or Canada, such as Luis. He too has been to Montpellier a long time ago, for a school exchange, and maybe in French places near from the border with Cataluña.
Pierre haven’t been in France since 2011 but he doesn’t think he has done anything interesting, just living there, going on school trips, played outside, etc. However, he would like to visit more the country and maybe get settled here.

To conclude, what are the main differences between France and their respective countries ?

Culturally talking, Spanish people have an inferiority complex, but French are rather pride. And in general, Spanish people are more conservative than French. Christina is clear : France is more free, more democratic, more developed, more clean, and more polite than China. Pascale found similarities and differences, and she likes the fact that there’s always something going on in France, that people always walk around in the streets and use public transportations naturally (and it is the case in Europe in general), which is not the fact in Canada because of the size of the cities, and the culture of living in the surbubs while working in the major town, so everybody has its own vehicle and the public transports are not so developed. This is the major difference. There are two more from her point of view : “la bise”, typically French, very surprising at first sight but sweet, and the fact that quite everybody wear scarves, meanwhile in Canada, only women wear scarves, so it made a kind of culture shock when she saw a man wearing a scarf for the first time.