My French Language Challenges

I have always loved the sound of a person speaking French. The words spill out of their mouth with an almost sing-song quality. And don’t get me started with the way the French roll their r’s when they pronounce words like erreur, (error) or rappeler (to call back). Without a doubt, I chose to learn French in 1979 for these reasons.

Immersion was a good idea, and as I progressed with my French pronunciation, other aspects of the language became challenging. For example, I didn’t realize how grammar and cultural differences between America and France would affect my progress. This excerpt from my book, French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley, describes some of these challenges.  

“I gazed out the window and recalled a previous conversation with Madame Dubois, one we had when I first arrived in France. She explained to me that the French were very reserved, and the language itself presented a formal and an informal way for adults to address each other. Unless you were speaking to family members or children, you always used the formal mode to begin a conversation with a stranger. Once you became better acquainted, an odd moment arrived when you started using the more familiar French form to address each other. In addition, the French also discouraged friendliness with regard to strangers.

I chose to ignore this etiquette, however, and took advantage of every opportunity to practice French outside of the château. Targeting random people, I asked them for the time, for directions, and anything else I could think of. More often than not, I received a lukewarm reception, and I imagined these people attributed my lack of decorum to my being an ignorant American.”

If you would like to learn more about my experiences in France, you can purchase a copy of my book at For a nominal fee, you can add audible narration with Whispersync. The audiobook is also available at


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