I had always felt too self-conscious about trying to speak French in Quebec or New Brunswick, even though my command of the language is not too bad. I invariably tried out English first, stumbling through one brief encounter after the next, with Francophone people trying to politely accommodate my struggles.
Then this summer I traveled for over a week in Quebec and after a few days, voila, I’m doing not too bad with the francais. The turning point for me was conversing every day with harried motel staff, trying to register my sister, myself and Rocco. I had asked on Facebook how to ask if dogs were allowed. “Est-ce qu’on permis les chiens?” was what I was going with. Then in Perce, I was lucky enough to hear one woman consulting with another. Turns out “… accepte chiens” was how they said it.
But the key to my conversational abilities was realizing that these poor women at motel desks and Tim Hortons counters just wanted to deal with me as a customer and move on to the next one. They could care less how well or poorly I spoke French. It was basically less stressful to process my poor but comprehensible efforts than to go with my previous system.
By the time we were in Trois Rivieres I actually told an anecdote about how Rocco eats Frank’s bookmarks. They laughed. Yay.
BTW everyone should visit TR. It is TRes Fantastique and TRes Wow, and yes I bought the t-shirt. In red. A city of old and new, a waterfront plaza, architecture, patisseries, and plaques of poetry gracing the walls everywhere. Art, music, poetry, natural beauty. Just go.