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You Still Don’t Speak French? Give In or Give Up

 25 4 18 Demarches de l etranger en France largeur 445

I heard a story the other night from a long time resident of Paris – 12 years here, actually – that he has been continually denied a 10-year Carte de Résident because he didn’t speak any French. Every year he went for his renewal and the clerk, each time a different person, denied him the privilege of the coveted 10-year visa for just this one reason.

On the official site, it clearly states:

(Translated)”You must fulfill a condition of integration. This condition is appreciated especially with regard to:

* your commitment to respect the principles that govern the French Republic,
* your respect for these principles,
* and your sufficient knowledge of the French language.

It goes further, when you click on the provided link, to describe how to justify your knowledge of French:

 Musée National de l'Histoire de l'ImmigrationMusée National de l’Histoire de l’Immigration

(Translated) “If you make an application for a resident card, you must prove your command of French is greater than or equal to level A2 of the Common European Framework for Languages (CEFR) of the Council of Europe.

For this you need:

* to have passed a language test,
* to have obtained a diploma attesting to a level of knowledge of French at least equivalent to level A2 of the CEFR or sanctioning a follow-up education in French,
* Secure linguistic tests or certificates, issued by a recognized national or international certifying body.

So, why is someone here 12 years and still unable to speak French, you ask?

For someone young, that might be surprising, since language comes easier the younger you are. There is quite a lot of research to prove that our capacity to learn a language diminishes gradually over our lives. Imagine if you land in France at the age of 50 or so, as did this gentleman and everyone you know is either a native Anglophone or speaks English relatively well? On top of that, everything you do related to work or play is in English? So, the incentive, nor the opportunity, to learn the language, as difficult as it is, simply isn’t there.

I know dozens of people who fit this description. I might have been one myself if it hadn’t been for the French-English conversation group I created and ran for many years, “Parler Parlor.” In fact, I did that for that very reason – to force myself to learn French. And I must admit that I still barely read or write French, even if my speaking sounds pretty fluent – enough so that the clerks at the Préfecture let me pass.

Your proficiency in French is not necessary when applying for a Carte de Séjour, or even renewing it, but when it comes to the Carte de Résident, or citizenship, that’s a different story. When you apply for French citizenship, you must fulfill the condition of republican integration just like the Carte de Résident, but when it comes to French, and are over the age of 60, then your knowledge of French is assessed during an individual interview with an agent at the Préfecture. Meanwhile, the Carte de Résident requirements don’t mention the age of 60 as a threshold.

In 2004, when I requested a Carte de Résident after having renewed the Carte de Séjour for 10 years consecutively, my French was still less than proficient. I had no tests nor proof of education to provide – but obviously, I passed the muster. Maybe things have changed and the requirements are a bit stricter.

Either way, it doesn’t hurt to have a certain commande of French if you’re living in France! While one can live here a lifetime without it, and get by pretty easily, it’s a whole lot more fun with a certain level under your belt. Start as early as you can to get a jump on your brain cells.

If you have kids, don’t wait until they are older to make the move here. Do it while they are young and absorbant like sponges to soak-up a second or even third language – it’s a gift they will appreciate the rest of their lives. And if your less pliable brain is having a hard time, don’t beat yourself up over it, but do make an effort.

 Oliver Gee Faking FrenchOliver Gee – Faking French

There are lots of ways to learn French – I don’t need to give you a lesson on that; I am sure you already know them. And there are lots of ways to skin the Préfecture cat. If you’re having problems like my friend who still can’t get his Carte de Résident even after being here more than 12 years, then do one or more of these things:

1. Bribe the clerk with kindness
2. Learn French and bring your documents of proof
3. Hire an immigration attorney who might have better luck than you
4. Keep renewing your Carte de Séjour
5. Apply for citizenship and skip the Carte de Résident process
6. Follow Earful Tower Oliver Gee’s advice on Eight tips for how to fake French
7. Give up and leave France

Reference information:

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds Paris, France

Adrian Leeds
Adrian Leeds Group


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