help and tips for new expats in SW France

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In this section:

Lost for words
Getting the message across
Good reference books
Further links

Lost for words

There's nothing more frustrating than not being able to say what we mean. One could be the light and soul of the party in English or Dutch, but stand there like a village idiot when it comes to French. Our personality changes, we can't do the word plays we English love so well and end up struggling with hand gestures and trying to knit together what we want to say with the few words we have (Perry incidentally has written his personal notes on this very subject).

When it comes to instructing a French builder, electrician, plumber or carpenter as to what you want where, you need to have the basic words and phrases in your armoury. We will soon be bringing you a large glossary of terms, used in building structures and features. So watch this space!

Getting the message across

A French-English and French-Dutch dictionary, along with a French phrase and verb conjugation book have become vital tools for us when communicating with the French authorities, tax offices, local Mairie and the artisans we work with.

Just getting by with a few stuttered phrases and then smiling at someone in hope that they will now struggle back in English is just not good enough. If we met a Frenchman who had moved to England, we'd expect him to speak English. Rightly so. So why do so many of us think that we can wriggle out of doing the same here in France? I am sometimes so ashamed of my fellow countrymen's lack of languages and can see why they tend to stick together here, socially. I experienced the same mentality in Amsterdam where expats (and the Brits were always the worst culprits) still didn't speak any Dutch after fifteen years. It just takes a little effort and determination and the rewards are enormous.

But for many, learning a new language is just too much. The older we get, the harder it seems to take it all in. French lessons with a group will often just turn into a regular social get together. Expats not feeling at home with French means good business for English artisans, living in France, since trying to explain something technical is sometimes hard enough in your own language, let alone in someone else's.

Anyway, we've created an online reference bookstore with everything we think would be of help for those of you wanting to improve your daily French, learn more technical phrases or need a handy pocket dictionary for when the French neighbours come round for an aperitif.


A variety of diverse Dictionaries, phrase books and French courses can be found HERE in our own bookstore, under the category Dictionaries and Translations

Further links

Here are a few sites that can help with translating words and simple phrases from English to French and visa versa. Apart from Feet in France, whom we highly recommend, none of these sites or businesses are connected to us at Two Can in France. They are simply sites we have found and find relevant or interesting enough to pass on to others. Run by our friend, Palma. She gives lessons, translates documents, arranges paperwork and even goes with you to important meetings. A gem! An online language dictionary A popular translation service by Yahoo An online translation service

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Help & Tips main | Buying a house | Renovating a house | Inheritance Law | Reading up


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