Correct Answers to a Strange Question

Some guy posted this question a couple of weeks ago to the following thread on www.lonely planet.com: 
Hi!! I'd like to get an idea about the percentage of French spoken in Egypt - Cairo, Luxor and Aswan. (...) I live in the U.S. I just speak a little French and generally brush up on languages before I go to a country. So I was wondering if I should brush up on French or on Egyptian Arabic (I was hoping to be able to focus on French more since Egyptian Arabic is a bit difficult when one is used to Moroccan Arabic).
Weird thing to ask. The guy clearly isn't a follower of this blog. Given the kind of answers he got Francophone propagandists have their work cut out for them:
I went on a Nile cruise organised by a French company. All the other people were French. The two Egyptian guides spoke French. But I can't say I noticed much French being spoken by the locals to potential French customers. My wife and I were called on to interpret.

Egypt is not Francophone. There are French language schools (subsidised by the French government) but you will hear no French spoken. (...) [T]he foreign language of choice is English (no surprise there).

You truly will find no occasion when you need to use French. (...) American English is fine.
The French government likes to promote its language and has a sort of Francophone area where it pretends French is spoken. Egypt is in that (...) But so are unlikely places like Ukraine. It just means they get a subsidy for French language schools.

French used to be the language spoken by the Egyptian elite. If you meet with Egyptian diplomats, intellectuals, artists... who are over 50-60, they are very likely to speak very good French.
Nowadays, upper class families send their sons to study English, for obvious career reasons. A good number still sends their daughters to study French, the idea being that they won't have a serious job anyway so it's good to have them learn an "artistic" language.

If you're in Egypt as a tourist, it's unlikely that you'll meet any of these francophones, except if you have a drink in some cafés in downtown. Everyday Egyptians do not speak French.

Work on your Egyptian Arabic, even if it's just taxicab or courtesy Arabic. French will do nothing for you here.

1 comment:

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