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If you have visited France before, you’ve likely heard the advice that you should learn a few standard French phrases to get by: how to order food, ask where the toilet is, and ask for directions. While some might say this is just a way to be polite, others argue it is a necessity…because the French don’t really speak English.
But is that true? Well, according to a recent study, France did come in last place in terms of English proficiency when compared to its EU counterparts. But France is no monolith, and there are some parts of the country that are easier to get by as an English-speaker than others. You might be surprised to hear that Paris is not even France’s top city when it comes to English proficiency.
I can sympathise with how difficult speaking a foreign language can be – learning French is quite a challenge in itself, and I definitely would not come out on top if an EU-wide ranking on the ability to speak French were to be released. Personally, my greatest French-language foe will always be gender.
Thankfully, there are some tricks for correctly guessing the genders of French nouns (aside from memorising a dictionary). One such tip is to look at the endings of words – in fact, linguists at Canada’s McGill University figured out that the end of a French noun gives away its gender in at least 80 percent of cases.
And if you have managed to have a conversation in French where you gendered at least a couple of nouns properly, then you should probably celebrate the accomplishment! You might even consider proposing a toast.
You might have thought that toasts were reserved for formal events – and while that might be true in Anglophone countries, the custom is more common in France. You might even hear someone give a toast at what feels like a casual dinner party. l’Art de trinquer – or the art of toasting – might feel like a skill the French are born with, but it is definitely a talent you can hone (and impress people with).
On the topic of things that can be toasted, people in France (and around the world) will be raising glasses full of one drink this week: the Beaujolais Nouveau. But this red wine unfortunately struggles with a negative reputation – with a fair share of taste related complaints (some people think it tastes like bananas) and claims that it gives famously bad hangovers.
The Local spoke with two wine experts to get to the bottom of whether the stereotype is earned, and found out that maybe we have been a bit harsh with Beaujolais Nouveau. In fact, wine from this French region has been disparaged for centuries all thanks to one Duke of Burgundy.
But there is one type of wine that is universally loved in France, and that is Vin chaud. In English we might call this drink “mulled wine,” but there are many different names for Vin chaud across Europe. As for France specifically, people have been drinking a version of Vin chaud since Roman times.
These days, Vin chaud is practically synonymous with the Christmas holiday season. As the weather gets colder, the large, steaming pots of Vin chaud come out. Whether it is walking through a Christmas market or simply strolling the streets of Paris, Vin chaud is always an enjoyable winter beverage in France. Here are the things worth knowing about this French, cold-weather tradition: