• France's news in English

What Parisians think of our French accents

The Local · 16 Feb 2015, 17:29

Published: 16 Feb 2015 17:29 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The French are notoriously and needlessly insecure about their accents when it comes to speaking English. But is it the same when the shoe is on the other foot?

For some foreigners when they come to France, developing a perfect French accent is a priority. For some it may come naturally but others have to spend hours in front of the mirror practising their "r" sounds or the nasal noises that are needed for many words.

But maybe we spend too much time trying to perfect our French accents when there's no need.

Polly Lyman, who runs the blog Polly Vous Français, writes about an experience that left her "smouldering" when a French businessman told her, "You should use more of an American accent. It would be more sexy than if you try to speak French too well."

Lyman said she would "feel like a traitor to the legions of French instructors who drilled precise, proper pronunciation into my ears". 

But maybe the French don't find all accents sexy and some of us should really be ignoring the advice of the businessman.

The Local decided to take to the streets of Paris to find out which foreign accents the locals love and which they just can’t stand.

The good news for those from the UK is that you can stop worrying about your accent when you speak French.

“The English accent sounds a bit aristocratic, I find it very charming,” 26-year-old actor Sergio told The Local. 

(Sergio even finds English accents sound aristocratic. Photo: The Local)

And he’s not the only one who enjoys hearing British people speak French.

“There’s something to it, it’s cute,” said 28-year-old Xavier who works for the family planning office. “On top of that, it’s always nice if they make the effort to speak French.”

Tanguy, an 18-year-old, is always amused by his Welsh friend’s “ugly” accent, but that’s not the case when English people give French a try.

“It’s my favourite accent,” he said. “It’s stylish. It’s charming when English people speak French.”

(18-year-old Tanguy and 16-year-old Justine both like English accents. Photo: The Local)

Voted the world’s top tourist destination several years in a row, the City of Light is incredibly popular among British tourists. 

Given that Paris has been named the top tourist destination for Brits several times, the locals get plenty of opportunity to listen to the accent they seem to enjoy so much. In 2014 alone, 2.1 million British tourists flocked to the city.

(Paris was the top tourist destination among Brits in 2014. Photo: The Local)

But the English accent isn’t the only one that’s popular among Parisians. Italian was also often cited as one of the top accents.

“It’s definitely Italian for me. It’s so sexy and gorgeous,” 22-year-old pedagogy student Marine said, admitting that her love for the accent may also be somewhat related to charming Italian men.    

For 20-year-old acting student Léa-Rose it’s the intonation that draws her to the Italian accent.

“When an Italian speaks French, I think it sounds beautiful,” she said. “There’s a certain melody to it that I like.”

As for the most loathed accents, German natives speaking French in Paris may have a harder time making friends than the Brits as many pointed out it sounded too harsh and too accentuated.

For 20-year-old student Marie, the Arabic accent falls in the same category, and she made it clear she didn’t think much of it.

“I don’t like it at all,” she said. "It sounds like they’re throwing up when they speak,” she said.

Story continues below…

While an English accent was among Parisians’ favourites, with many calling it posh and sophisticated, it seemed they weren’t as fond of accents from other Anglo countries.

“The English accent is smart and classy, but that doesn’t count for the American accent though,” said 27-year-old Etienne who’s living and working in Paris.

Visual merchandising student Magalie who spoke to The Local by the banks of the Seine river, is not a fan of other Anglo accents.

“The Australian accent is pretty boorish, and the American one isn’t as charming as the English one,” she said.

However, the American and Australians among you don’t need to be too upset. In the recent Time Out survey on the most attractive foreign accents, that put the British top, the American and Australian accents both beat the French, which was voted the fifth most popular.

A 21-year-old communications student named Nelson, an avid fan of the “sexy” Russian accent as well as Russian girls, sums up why he thinks the French are so keen on the English accent.

“Of course the French find English the sexiest accent, it’s all they know,” he said “They’ve never heard Romanians speak or Mexicans or people from Lapland. The French just stay in their country. You can’t just pick an accent you like best because you can’t know all of them. But the French only know English - and that's why they pick it.”

by Priscillia Charles/Simone Flückiger

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

France to allow Baby Jesus in Town Halls this Christmas
Photo: AFP

Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are safe to go on display again this year, it seems.

National Front posts locations of migrants in French town
The National Front courts controversy. Photo: AFP

"Local tax payers have a right to know," says local far-right party chief.

Paris thieves use tear gas to steal €500,000 of watches
Photo: AFP

The thieves pretended to be couriers then threatened staff with tear gas to get the watches.

Bataclan survivor recounts attack in chilling drawings
Photo: BFMTV screengrab

One survivor has recounted the horrific night through illustrations.

Anger among French police grows as Hollande vows talks
French police demonstrate on the Champs Elysées. Photo: AFP

A fourth night of protests shows government efforts to ease anger among French police have been fruitless.

UK border must move back, says 'next French president'
Photo: AFP

If favourite Alain Juppé is elected, Britain and France are in for some difficult negotiations.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available