A recent study presented unpleasant reading for the French as it suggested they were bottom of the class in Europe for their level of English.
But on the bright side, while they may outshone by their European neighbours when it comes to the language of Shakespeare, they do excel at listening to the radio.
Indeed, the French clock up an average of two hours a day.
This fact combined with the clear need for the French to improve their English was seen as an opportunity not to be missed for one group of expats.
As a result they launched what they call “the first French radio station in English”.
While other English language radio stations, such as the BBC World Service, are also available online, the founders of the Paris-based internet broadcaster EnglishWaves think they have the edge thanks to their unique stance of still focusing on French news and events – just doing it in English.
The radio station was founded by trio Pascal Grierson, Sue Thomas and CEO Vincent Dennery just over a year ago, with a soft launch in December 2014.
But rather than target an Anglo audience in Paris the station aims to pull in those French listeners desperate to improve their English.
“It is quite clear that France needs all the help it can get when it comes to understanding and speaking English,” Grierson told The Local. “We came up with the idea of creating a radio station in order to do just that, because it didn't exist already.”
While the company doesn't want to publish listening figures just yet, Grierson says the feedback, particularly from the business community and education facilities, has been enthusiastic.
“It is an everyday radio station for people who live and work in France and who want to know about their country and where they live, but the whole thing is in English. It's a whole new, fresh approach to helping people get completely immersed in the English language.”
English Waves is a talk radio station with a broad mix of programmes, from news to sport, documentaries to cooking shows to arts.
On the site currently, a travel series retracing David Livingstone's African journeys sits alongside weekly sports round-ups, instructive programmes on English expressions to do with time, a review of how international papers have reported French news that week and a guide to India's favourite summer drinks.
(The home page of English Waves online. Photo: Screengrab/English Waves)
It has just as wide a range of listeners, having identified three core, but very different, groups.
“First off there are young adults, who are probably still in education, most likely at the university level, who have understood already that they need to have English under their belts, regardless of what they're going to end up doing with their lives,” says Grierson.
“The second target market are executives who are already working and France is hell bent on competing for business globally, and as a result of that, increasingly executives have to have a much better level of English than they're currently able to demonstrate.
“The third group are retirees who have money to spend and want to start travelling, and by and large any country that they want to go to that is not a Francophone country, the lingua franca is going to be English.”
Grierson explains that it was important to the company to have as wide a mix of accents as programmes, saying: “Every single voice you hear on the radio station belongs someone who is Anglophone in its various forms, ranging from various American accents to British accents to Indian, Canadian, South African.
“Understanding a British person is different to listening a to a Chinese English speaker, or a German or Indian English speaker. This is a very important device for companies who might want their staff to get better at speaking with English or Chinese or American trading partners.”
Named the Rainbow Service, the chance to hear texts being read out in different accents is part of the station's recently launched subscription service.
It also includes access to podcasts that can be read alongside text, and the chance to listen to the regular station but slowed down – a nod to the fact that English is often spoken too fast for French learners.
You can find the regular service for free though, on various platforms including iTunes, the TuneIn app, wi-fi connected radios, and the station's own app and website.
Listen to English Waves online here.
By Lindsey Johnstone