FAQ. I don’t speak French, so I’ve got to stick to tourist areas to not starve, right?
Let’s start on the American side – with you the customer, remember.
You had 3 years of high school French or Spanish or Latin, right? You think because that was 15 years ago you’re out of luck. Sure your accent is lousy, but your vocabulary is better than you think. Plus food words are international - beef/boeuf, basil/basilic, floating island/ile flottant.
Then, think about it; 99% of fear of speaking French is fear itself, master that, blunder and bluster on in Franglais, Italo-spanglais, French accented English and you’ll be understood.
Now to the French side – the waitfolk.
They’ve all had 8 years of English and were hired because they were supposed to speak English (that was in the advert you saw, remember?) They’re just afraid if they speak it imperfectly and they’ll be seen as, well, as ridiculous as you feel.
So every restaurant has a designated English-speaking waitperson and because it’s such a demanding job, they rotate it so everyone has a day in the barrel. The reason they beckon at Didier today to come over is because it’s Didier’s day, not because they don’t speak it.
Plus, even in places with one wait-person who’s petrified to speak English, he sees dopes like me looking over curiously mouthing the words as he struggles through the menu translating and says “You, dopey-looking-guy, translate for these nice good-looking Japanese girls.”
If all else fails, the isolated, petrified waitperson goes into the kitchen and drags out the poor plongeur, who having swum and walked from Somalia or Guatemala or China knows English pretty well.
In the end, Nike had it right – “Just Do It.”