Essential Advice if You Need to Abuse a Frenchman (or Frenchwoman)

Vernon Coleman

If you spend more than an hour in Paris then, sooner or later, you will need to abuse a Frenchman (or woman). This is just the way things are and it is no shame on you or the French person you will be abusing.

When this happens there is one very important thing to remember: however well you speak French you should revert to English.

English friends of ours who are quite fluent in French admit that they always revert to English when they need to berate a workman, traffic warden or difficult concierge.

`I always freeze and forget what I want to say if I try to shout in French,' admits the husband, who, to our ear, speaks French like a native. `You are at a huge disadvantage if you try to have row in their language,' he says. `Their invective will always be better than yours. Your only chance of getting the upper hand is to shout in English Ė and speak very quickly. You will know better words and there is a good chance that, if you show sufficient imagination, they won't have the faintest idea what you are saying. If you should lose your temper and say something quite unforgivable you will get away with it because they won't know what you've said.'

The important thing to remember is that although nearly all French folk speak English it is a sad fact that no Frenchman has ever learned to speak English properly although, of course, they always think they speak it fluently.

Indeed, correcting a French personís English is an excellent way to annoy them.

Usually, the English are far too polite to tell the French that theyíre making zillions of mistakes every time they open their mouths.

But if you want to annoy one just correct his grammar, choice of vocabulary or, best of all, his pronunciation.

Donít feel in the slightest bit bad about doing this because all French citizens, but particularly the ones in Paris, absolutely delight in correcting foreigners who try to speak their language.

Anyone who gets a tense or a conjugation wrong will be subjected to a deep sigh and a French lesson. And every foreigner always pronounces French words incorrectly.

So, go to it! Enjoy yourself! Abuse a Frenchman Ė but do it in English.

Note: `Vernon Colemanís Parisí, a light hearted guide to Paris and the Parisians, is available as an ebook on Amazon

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