My wife and I are multi-lingual Bretons so we will try to advise you as best we can, if that means we exchange e-mails then so be it. As well as running our own company, we also provide a service to our community by acting as translators and providing assistance for our many expat neighbours. We believe in integration and harmony so we give of our time freely, we want everybody to interact with each other – nobody should feel left out. Our son-in-law is English but is now accepted as a Breton – he speaks, reads and writes our language – our daughter taught him!!!
Now to answer your questions:
1. Reading your question, first you say Normandie, then go on to ask which region. That to us is ambiguous. So we are unsure in which direction to point you, however we will try. In Normandie there are two distinct regions Basse-Normandie and Haute Normandie, the former around Cherbourg, Caen, Honfleur, and Bayeaux etc. In this area there are many expat Brits that have successfully integrated into the Norman way of life, especially near the channel ports because of the trade across La Manche – English, in a way is second nature to many. In saying that, it does help if you know a few words of French – it helps to break the ice. One of the advantages of the areas we speak about is there are many professionals, you will need, that speak English – Immobiliers, Notaires etc. Inland the preponderance of English speakers diminishes to the point in some very rural areas nobody speaks English. However if you make an effort, no matter how badly, we will help you – we may laugh -not at you but with you – we want you to learn our language and will correct you with a smile on our faces. Haute Normandie is much the same around Le Havre, Etratat, Rouen and Dieppe you will find the same. Now we turn to our region, Breizh (Brittany), here we have a fairly large expat population, not only around the ports but across the whole region – St. Malo, Dinan, Josselin, Vannes, Quimper, Rennes, Morlaix, Pontivy, we could go on for hours. Here, many of us understand basic English, at times our conversations end up in weird languages that Jacquie and I call “Franglais or Breizish” - a mixture of either French and English or Breton and English – but we get by!!! It’s fun; there is always room for a compromise even if it results in gestures and smiles – NEVER shouting….. All that any region will ask is that you try to integrate into our culture not us integrate with yours, by all means speak English within your family but do try to speak French/Breton in the community you will be accepted much quicker. We regularly host social gatherings, the conversation ranges across many languages – English, Breton, French, German, Spanish, Basque – yet everybody gets along fine. When a new family, regardless of nationality, moves to our village we are among the first to welcome them, giving them our telephone number and inviting them to our next gathering, we want them to feel part of our community – there is nothing worse than being alone and bewildered in a foreign land.
2. Schools: This is not an easy one to answer as your children will find very few if any English speaking children in their age group. Also our teachers have a curriculum to teach and expecting them to translate for one or two non-French speaking children is a lot to ask. As has been suggested it might be an idea to find a local organization in England that will give them a “crash” course in French over a period of three or four months before you make the move. Children always integrate quicker than adults – picking up the language much faster as they want to make friends, so do not be surprised if after three months of being here your children bring their friends home and you do not understand a word that is being said…….. you will learn our language from your children. Not only will they learn our language, they will pick up many of our colloquial expressions – that will really confuse you. - you think it means one thing and it means something completely different. Oh what fun you are going to have, children learn so fast!!
3. Now for the schools – here in Breizh (Brittany) we would expect your children to be pushed back a year so as to make their integration easier, do not be upset – it helps them in the long run and may only last for a term or two. We do have an advantage over other regions as we have the bonus of “Diwan” schools – they are free but outside of the state system - that teach in three languages Breton, French and English, yet the same subjects as the state schools. The day is divided in such a way as to allow the use of all three languages each day in different subjects. We do this as we believe that it is the way forward, not only does it help retain our culture; it helps our children in later life. Now you will be really confused, you have just mastered French and your children immediately switch to Breton – we would love to be a fly on the wall when that h
· 10 years ago