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I meet many people who understand enough French to get by in France, but then they freeze when they actually get there. They know they are likely to make mistakes, and that stops them from even trying to speak.

This is really too bad.

French people don’t care much if you make mistakes, as long as you are polite. If you try to communicate and you do so with a polite tone, your effort will be welcome. But if you spend precious interactive time looking for the absolutely correct form in your head, and don’t utter a word until you’ve got it perfectly formed in your mind, French people will get impatient and move on.

You need to be quick more than correct, specially when you go to Paris: it is a fast-moving city, like New York, and no-one has time for a hesitation.

And please, speak up! when they get shy, many people tend to speak very softly. But if you are looking for your words AND the person can’t hear you, it might be a bit too much! So don’t yell, but be careful not too whisper either.

So, get to the essential elements of what you are trying to communicate. Use very simple words and simple constructions, stay in the present tense if tenses are a problem, smile, and never forget to be polite.

Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Born and raised in Paris, I have been teaching today's French to adults for 19 years in the US, France, and to people around the world over the phone and by Skype . My method is proven and unique, and, based on my students' goals and needs, I've developed high quality French audiobooks and French audio lessons for all levels. Good luck with your studies and remember, repetition is the key!

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