When I was 16 I decided to drop French in school and learn Spanish instead. I did never doubt that decision until the exact moment when I started to prepare my first trip the Cannes Film Festival. Suddenly I realized that even though I used to be one of the best students in my class, I can hardly have a basic conversation with a French speaking person. I tried to pick up some vocabulary before I left home but failed to do so in the chaos of festival preparation. Sitting on the plane I got really worried. How could I survive in the festival jungle without even speaking the language?
The answer is: Just fine! I’m amazed how many French people – even outside the festival – speak English. Also they are all incredibly friendly. I’m coming from a tourism hot spot myself: Berlin is crowded by people from all over the world almost the whole year but especially at summer time. And I honestly can get really annoyed when disoriented tourists constantly block my way. The people of Cannes don’t seem to have this kind of problem. I can only imagine what it feels like to be overrun by thousands of film fanatics once a year and I’m sure, it would drive me crazy.
I’m incredibly grateful for their patience since I’m sure I’m not the first person these days to ask for the supermarket in really bad French.
My feeling is that French in general is a very friendly language. For example the sentence “Je suis desolé“ sounds very polite, but in most cases means something like “What you just did, is really wrong“, for example when you get busted trying to smuggle a water bottle into a screening room. But “Je suis desolé“ sounds just so much better. Unfortunately I’m not able to give something back in terms of an answer, but I try to smile a lot when I talk to “the natives“ and hope that they understand what I’mtrying to say: Pardon my French!
By Sophie Rieger