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French real estate for sale: 300yr Old Farmhouse. Numerous bedroom Farm House in Indre-et-Loire, Centre. 300yr Old Farmhouse
French real estate for sale: Studio Apartment In Quiet, Secure, . Three bedroom Appartment in Calvados, Picardie. Studio Apartment In Quiet, Secure,
French real estate for sale: Beautiful House In Hillside. Two bedroom Country House in Allier, Auvergne. Beautiful House In Hillside
French real estate for sale: Lovely 3 Bedroom Town House. Three bedroom Town House in Hauts-de-Seine, Ile-de-France. Lovely 3 Bedroom Town House
French real estate for sale: 18th Century Manor House. Numerous bedroom Country House in Tarn, Midi-Pyrenees. 18th Century Manor House
French real estate for sale: 4 Bedrom Penthouse Apartment. Four bedroom Appartment in Haute-Savoie, Rhone-Alpes. 4 Bedrom Penthouse Apartment
French real estate for sale: Riverside House With Mooring.  bedroom Town House in Lot, Midi-Pyrenees. Riverside House With Mooring
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By B A Boyle


For many newcomers to France, one of the greatest challenges is actually to make sense of the French language which we studied years ago in school. 

If you’re lucky you may still remember a little vocabulary or how to conjugate verbs, the exceptions and the rules.  Nevertheless, beware. french learned at school has its limitations.  It’s most unlikely that you will be able to impress anyone by asking “Where is the station?”  “I’d like to book a room with a shower” or even “How do I get to the
Eiffel Tower

So, soon after we moved here, we came to rely on two very good pieces of advice:

  1. If you can’t make yourself understood, try saying it in a different way.
  2. Learn how to ask politely for the French person  to speak a little slower/clearer  for example “doucement, S’il vous plait” (literally, softly please)

Let me give you an example.  Our first summer here and we’re living in a quiet little French village.  We’re ready to receive our first visitors, daughter, son-in law, & two young children;  a family more used to seaside than countryside holidays.  How do we keep the little ones entertained.  The supermarket is full of little plastic paddling pools.  We buy two.  One for water and one for sand.   Water, we have plenty of but we need to visit the DIY store in search of sand.  

If I ever knew  the French word for sand I’d surely forgotten it long ago. We find a helpful assistant but make no headway.  Even after playing the usual charade-like game, we  still cannot make ourselves understood.  I sense increasing frustration all round.  Then I remember the first piece of useful advice.  “Find another way to say the same thing”.  Sure enough, somewhere safely stored in my head was the French word for beach, so we ask for a sack of beach.  Although this brings howls of laughter from everyone within earshot – triumph for us – we get the sand.


We are now prepared for our visitors but the tap in the bathroom has started to drip, drip and drip.  Happily our DIY skills extend as far as replacing a tap washer.  Back to the DIY store.  Sadly, not only do I not know the French word for washer I cannot think of any sensible word as an alternative. 

The assistant, helpful as ever, is determined not to be beaten this time by a simple thing like language but after a barrage of totally incomprehensible conversation  I try the second piece of advice.  “Doucement, s’il vous plait”  Ah, ah, the relief on his face shows us that at last we have made ourselves understood.  “Un moment” he says and disappears. True to his word, a moment later he is back,  “Voila, deux ciment”  and from his laden trolley he produces two sacks of cement! 


On our next visit to the DIY store we ignore the useful advice and take a dictionary instead.

About the Author

Barbara & Kevan Boyle have owned several properties in France over a period of nearly 20 years.

Covering 19,399 km², the region of Picardie has an estimated population of 1,857,481 or 96 /km².

There can be no question that the quality and richness of the environment are assets for Picardy. The wild coastline, the forested massifs, the quality of the air, the richness of the soil and the diversity of the flora and fauna all illustrate a diverse natural heritage.
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