You may have been practicing your French before you left home.
You may be secretly pleased when people greet you in French as you think it might just possibly mean you look like a local (or French).
You may even be able to make yourself understood (albeit in a rather halting way) and feel almost smug.
But it's guaranteed that the reply you receive in quickly spoken French will be incomprehensible to you.
I say "Excuse me, where is the women's toilet?" (A fairly basic French question, learnt in third form or thereabouts)
The reply (as far as I can make out after they gave up trying to make themselves understood and escorted me there with much pointing)? "The women's toilet is closed for renovations. You'll need to use the disabled toilet but there's someone in there at the moment..."
I've just trekked up the hill to the hostel on my first full day after a visit to le supermarché. It's about 23 degrees and muggy after the morning's rain so I change into my jandals to try and cool down before heading into the cool room to get some stuff out of my locker for dinner. While I'm waiting for someone else to finish up so I can get to my stuff this cute French chap (dressed in a lovely thick handknitted jumper) points at my feet and lets out a string of French that goes completely over my head.
Did he just tell me to move out of the way because there's a big hairy spider about to bite my foot?
Is he telling me it's against the rules to wear jandals into the cool room?
Perhaps he's admiring my choice of (black and white spotted) jandals and asking where he can get his own?
Or is he telling me I must be insane to wear such skimpy footwear into the cool room and don't I know my feet will get frostbite and fall off and I'll be forever stuck on the top of the hill?
Then again, he might have declared that I'm the woman of his dreams based on my choice of footwear and would I marry him?
I'll never know...
I got very good at using what was to become a stock phrase during my stay:
"Sorry, I understand the "Bonjour Madame, but after that..." accompanied by a Gallic shrug of the shoulders and that little pfft noise they seem to make and that I somehow picked up.
In my head was a whole other matter. I spent six days wandering round town speaking French to myself. I was impressively fluent as long as I didn't wander far too from the territory of "I'm hot/ cold/ happy/ hungry/ thirsty/ tired" or "I don't like that/ I love this/ I want to go here/ eat this/ see that."