English speaking vet, dentist and GP

I can speak enough French to get by, however I would prefer to speak English if possible when it comes to
health issues for me (or by dog). I am looking for recommendations in the Var, Le Val, Brignoles, Cotignac or surrounding areas.


I only discovered our dentist spoke English last week…

And though we only ever spoke French to her and we haven’t been to her since our dog died seven years ago I think the young female (I don’t know how else to describe her) vet (as opposed to the old male one) speaks a least some English…


No idea about English speaking docs.

Hi Jayne, I suggest you phone some and ask them. If you have enough French to get by I assume you know how to ask the question and explain why you prefer to speak English. Good luck, I hope you find what you need.
Izzy x

Hi Jayne, my experience is that the younger doctors are more willing to speak English than the older ones, that are flat out unwilling to speak anything but french!

How strange that you use the word unwilling when unable is much more likely! In any case, why should they speak anything but their own language in their own country? In the same way that the OP feels she would struggle to explain herself in French and understand what was being said to her, a French doctor/dentist etc is likely to feel the same way - and imagine the potential consequences should the doctor/dentist make an innocent mistake when using a foreign language.
My preference was always to write down what I wanted to say in French (with help from a translating tool or a trusted friend) and then anything I didn’t understand being said to me I would ask the doctor to write down to look up later.
In any case, it should get easier to converse with medical professionals as the OP becomes more proficient in French.
Sorry, Jayne, this isn’t really helping with recommendations but hopefully others will chip in.
Izzy x


Exactly as Irene says, some doctors may speak perfect English but won’t want to use it as that puts extra responsibility on them. And those that are happy to speak English may not speak it as well as they think they do, and not explain things accurately.

It could be unsettling to start with, but the sooner you immerse yourself the better if you are intending to live here long term.


This is true, and those who are reluctant to speak a foreign language to their patients are reluctant precisely because lack of comprehension can be dangerous and sometimes even fatal and nobody wants a malpractice suit. The onus is on the patient to understand French here.


However there are problems with that, especially when it comes to gaining consent for complex medical procedures and people who have a reasonable excuse for not speaking much French including but not limited to: visitors, recently arrived asylum seekers, people who’s day-to-day French is passable but cannot cope with complex medical discussions, people who’s normal level of French is quite advanced but are ill.

On the whole the NHS policy of providing translators is safer, more robust from a legal perspective and more humane.

Difficult, if not impossible in the countryside, Paul. Our Belgian doctor who has a Flemish name did study for a time in England and speaks all the time to my wife in his version of English, but it is not infallible, nor is his accent, and I find myself translating his English into my wife’s version.

He always speaks to me in French though, and I have to concentrate very hard, but then I have to concentrate very hard to understand my wife’s English too. She will insist on using slang all the time in her East Mids accent and, after 3 strokes, well…

Our vet can speak English but again, it is better to use French, his version is not that good. The trouble with using French to a French person is that they immediately seem to think that you are fluent and rattle away at, to them, normal speed. Then I get lost.

The first dentist I used here spoke good English and even gave me a lesson in the origins of the place he studied, Oxford, where there was a crossing place of the river to ford cattle. :laughing:

@Jappers. Sorry for the diversions but they are a valid comments and I hope you find your various medicos, but beware, unless they are very good (unusual in my experience) you could find yourself in dangerous territory.

Much easier in a small densely populated island nation. Good luck here in the sticks.

I’m sure conference calls with a translator exist in France as well Véro :slight_smile:

Quite possibly. I get called out from time to time but usually for ‘weird’ languages. I haven’t yet been asked to interpret via conference call. I turn down more translating and interpreting than I accept.

I am completely supportive of translators being provided for vulnerable people, and it is a humane thing to do. But in general I feel if people need a translator they should provide one themselves. Why should the health service pay for this for any normal resident? If we have chosen to live here isn’t it our responsibility to organise how we communicate?

If you are able to find medical professionals who speak good English and are willing to do so then that’s useful to start with, but everyone should try not to need this as quickly as possible as you can’t rely on that being available all the time or in emergencies.

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I have a lot of sympathy with the idea that to go and live in a country one should put full effort into being able to speak the local language - my French is not good by any means but I am gradually making improvements and think it is important to do so even though I’m only a 2nd home owner who visits at most 5-6 weeks per yeat (when Covid isn’t gumming up the works) - the more I can speak to people the more I get out of visiting.

BUT, if you are ill, stressed, isolated from French culture because of your own sex, religion or culture or for any of the other reasons I have mentioned (and many more that I haven’t) - then that is not the time to have to try to struggle through with whatever French you do have in trying to understand complex language or have to pay for a translator you might not be able to afford.

Doctors have a legal duty (at least in the UK) to ensure patients understand in order to give valid consent - that the NHS should provide translators is the inescapable conclusion that requirement brings.

In fact, given the French attitude to social support I am a little surprised to find the attitude is “speak fluent French or be dammed” for matters medical.

Which is why I say vulnerable people should be helped. (My definition of vulnerable is perhaps rather tighter than yours, as it doesn’t include the average UK citizen unless suffering from mental illness or in an emergency)

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The language of the Republic is French. A transaction in any another language has no legal validity.

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My statement came from personal experience!

Everybody needs to find a doctor/veterinarian they are comfortable with. Sometimes you are lucky and find someone right away and sometimes it takes a little longer!

In regards to veterinarian I never had a problem finding a vet that would not understand the medical terms used in English, because most science research papers are in English and CPE is also required in France.

How is the French (or German/Spanish/Italian etc) of rural doctors and vets in the UK, do you think? Why do English-speakers EXPECT everyone to have some degree of proficiency in English, even if they are eg farm workers or garage people, or people in a non touristy shop or traffic wardens or whatever, when they would NEVER expect their UK counterparts to have any proficiency in French at all.


So you knew a medical professional who spoke English but refused to do so with you? What was their reason for that?

Very true…so much medical terminology is in latin so many nationalities use the same words.