THE LANGUAGE OF CULTURE

France, western Europe's largest country, is a place which, in a world of globalisation and standardisation, retains a strong character of its own.  Maybe this is why we love to visit it and observe its people and its ways.  French literature and culture have few equals.

Although French is no longer "the" international language, it is still a world language of considerable importance and, with French spoken widely in Africa, Canada, Belgium and Switzerland (parts) and in France's outposts such as Martinique, it has wide currency.

French has traditionally been the language that Brits learn at school (though Spanish is catching up) and it's not surprising we want to learn the language of our closest neighbour. However, French pronunciation is a challenge, and while vocabulary may often be familiar, the French do use a lot of expressions that are not immediately transparent.

When visiting Paris (pictured), try visiting some of the less touristy areas to practise your French in small bars and brasseries.  Although the French have a reputation for sometimes being unfriendly, this is often because foreigners assume they can speak English - speak to them in their own language and you will get a different reaction entirely

It's not easy - but it's worth it. Bon courage!