One of the most difficult aspects of moving to France for me has been the fact that French people want to practice their English-speaking skills with me. When they speak English pretty well, conversations often become a linguistic turf battle between them and me. I did not move to France in order to speak English with French people. I could count on one hand, and perhaps on two fingers, the number of occasions on which the French person’s English is better than my French, although I suppose that this is a very difficult think to judge. For instance, the French person might find my accent, which is a light anglophone accent and not an American one, difficult to bear. In any event, French “hauteur” has been transformed over the past 10-20 years with regard to the question of speaking English. Now, it can be difficult for the anglophone to speak French in France, even when he wants to. If one betrays the slightest hint of linguistic difficulty with one’s French, certain French interlocutors will take that as a cue to switch to speaking English.
After 3.5 years of living here, I still do not have a good way of addressing this problem, and I have as yet never directly insisted to anyone that he or she not speak English to me. I hope to find a polite way of saying this and to be able to introduce this gambit into conversation at appropriate times.