Is there a French 'Advocate' Service?

By Advocate I basically mean some kind of service where Brits can get a bilingual person to interpret in certain situations?

One of the main problems I've had, is in not being able to speak the language well enough to communicate situations effectively. I end up sorting out the basics and that's that, when it's actually the finer details which are important.

Anyway over the past week or so I've been looking on the links but not finding anything specifically related to that - we have solicitors and translation services but nothing where x can interpret for y - or not least that I can find!

Hi Rosie,
Re: The AVF. I have heard about this organisation, where are they based please? I emailed them from their website for some information, but heard nothing. I don't live in France but I'm here quite a bit. I can speak a little French, just about manage to make an appointment at the Vets, but my understanding in not good. I panic and then the brain shuts down. I recognise words that are spoken but it just doesn't compute! Any info you can give me would be much appreciated. Thanks !

I was just told when I set up the insurance that it included a free legal advice service. Maybe contacting your insurance agent would be the first step in finding out if your insurance includes something like this?

I've had problems with Saur also (and I know someone else who has) They aren't the easiest people to deal with not least in that they don't seem to cash payments for weeks - meanwhile they send you another bill with a charge on top!

Just as a point of interest - and it might be no help whatsoever - but when I got my contents insurance I was told that I could get free legal advise if I had any problems, such as with the 'phone company' - a particular phone company was mentioned.

I don't know whether you could get this?

Thanks James. noted....

Hi Richard

You can't promote your own services I'm afraid. But you can use the private messaging service to contact people if you want. You can discuss whatever you like privately :)



Catharine, I've seen a couple of people, yourself included putting on links (3rd party) in this post, quite normal, am I allowed to put a link that is the company I'm involved with on. I'm bilingual (really, my wife and children are French and the home language is therefore French for us) and am perfectly prepared to help out whenever I can on this site, but for things more involved including telephone calls and letters etc provide a service online.

If that is "not the done thing" I understand, I'm not here to drum up business, genuinely want to help, and either way will continue to contribute in any way I can.

I agree Karen. intermediary is a great word or advocate. yes it can be simple things or things that r more complicated. You dont have to be a brit to have stress with french admin, even the french complain bout all the red tape and paperwork. Still u have all got me thinking and it could prob start as working from home and just helping people in need. I am still interested in feedback so keep the conversation going. i am fluent in italian french and aussie of course and would love to start something and think their is a niche market that needs to fill this gap. Especially people that r shy or dont know where to start.

Hi Trish, I think in this context it may be better to use the term intermediary.

It is simply a case of one person interpreting the others position or needs, rather than battling with authorities on their behalf.

It might be something as simple as speaking to a garage mechanic or something as complicated as interpreting medical phraseology to a consultant.

Many of the Brits in France 'manage' but the thinking was to give them a little additional assistance to make life run a little more smoothly and be a little less stressful.

An advocate is not an interpreter but one who represents the persons issues and argue, comment or fight for their nee

glitch sorry. i think if there is a need and if i get useful feedback. i can look into creating something. i speak french got hacked in my bank account and fought 2 yrs with emails and discussions and didnt give up with hsbc for a refund. i think admin here is very set in their way and one has to stand up for onesself. i would love to research into a service like this so reply and tell me where u all r and im used to talking to the conseil general of calvados. not afraid of the answer NO. doesnt stop me. determination and persistant in a good way is what im good at. i think this is a very needed subject and if there is enough feedback and interest i would love to help.

I don't think dreaming in a language is necessarily a reliable gauge of fluency (active use of it, I mean rather than understanding). I'm an orientalist, I learnt Arabic and Persian as academic subjects and learnt to read & write first - I found myself dreaming in Arabic after a while in an Arabic-speaking country - but when I tried to put my 'skills' to use when awake I realised that there was a way still to go!!

where are u all from ladies. im from australia. living in calvados 14 for 3 yrs now. speak french and english very well i have been told. my mum lived in france all her life before immigrating to australia. both parents italian but mum side in france before WW2.

I have helped at mairies for aussie friends with their carte de sejour.

Yes administration is so hard here and complicated.You topic interests me lots as I feel there is a big hole between people understanding all the admin and paperwork and their rights and having tons of patience as france is so slow. i was an advocate in australia for the elderly voluntarily for people with dementia.

I was

Unfortunately the nearest one to me is over an hour and a half drive away.

Your traffic story made me smile! Well, for her to curse in English she must be fluent since we have such a colorful and varied selection of "choice" words!

While I am not "fluent" since I do not dream in French and there are many topics for which I lack the vocabulary, I do get by well. When I moved to Lyon in 2010 I did not know a French. I enrolled at the U of Lyon and within 3 months I was able to conduct myself but with the amusing mixture of Catalan and Spanish thrown in! In Lyon, people were appreciative that I "spoke" French but would tell me to choose a language since Catalan would slip in. Paris was patience with me whatsoever.

Karen, if this is your first foreign language, do not stress too much. You will get there. Sign up for the app DuoLingo...easy lessons and free. Plus you can arrange to study with friends elsewhere...have friendly competitions to complete lessons, etc. I had the advantage of knowing other Romance languages. My accent and whether I am understood varies on the region. In the SW, I have no issues but in Nice it was puzzling.

Good luck and thanks for starting this thread. I discovered a few new links and insightful info.

I'm surprised to hear what you say about Spain - I thought they spoke a lot more English than in France!

Truth be known, I would absolutely LOVE to be proficient in French. I would love to! But sometimes circumstance dictates otherwise. It's certainly not purposeful avoidance or laziness.

But I certainly agree that in many cases you go to the 'higher' authorities and they have no one to interpret which is a ridiculous situation.

I know that many French will 'pretend' they can't speak any English, but you tend to find that if you make the effort it will slowly become apparent that they do in fact have a basic grasp - sneaky!

The more I've learned and the more I've tried, the better things have got. A certain shop proprietor used to make my life a nightmare - now he treats me like anyone else.

I also use the telephone all the time and have done since I got here, which is enough to make anyone suffer a nervous breakdown - but I do do it! I might not be good, but 'usually' we get there.

A funny for you though - when I first got here and I do mean in the first couple of days, I had a run in with a French woman regarding vehicles. She shot out of her car and started giving me a right mouthful in English (I had English reg) and she was fluent - in swearing also. I just stood there laughing and pointed out that she could go a long, long way with her language skills - because I hadn't met any French person between Calais and Bordeaux that could speak English. I told her she was the only French person in France with that particular talent!

Even she started laughing!


I read about this service the other day and it is what I mentioned, although I didn't have the name handy, in my other post. I think John should try to arrange a network to assist with this issue / niche.

What do you mean cannot be bothered? For heaven's sake, it takes many, many year to acquire another language, especially when one is over 50. What are we supposed to do in the meantime while we are learning?

I've made a huge effort to learn but each French person speaks slightly differently, less clear, more rapid, different vocab for different situations. I bring my French boyfriend with me when I can but even explaining details and subtleties is next to impossible so a truly interpretive service would be good... but hang on... interpretation requires a knowledge of the target culture. I'm not British and use different vocab at times and my culture is very different, despite my European roots.

On the phone is a nightmare. A specialist asks me to describe a pain - er, no idea of such subtleties and some words don't exist in other languages. Help by an agency is a good idea. Don't knock folks who are not born bilingual please.

Thanks Rosie and Karen....I will look into some of the activities. I need to get involved with my new community and this may offer an interesting way.

Karen I know how you feel. I've lived in 7 foreign countries and have studied, to various levels of proficiency, all the languages. It is not only frustrating but insulting when the native insists on speaking English and has an attitude about your level of their language. As you stated, rarely are they more proficient. Moreover, I have found in over 35 years of engaging non-native English speakers and taking the time and care to understand their attempts at English that most do not offer the same consideration to me when I am speaking their language and make a mistake.

I recently returned to France from Barcelona. I really have not met anyone who speaks English well in Spain. This is true for lawyers, doctors and other professionals you would think would have some knowledge of another language. It is appalling that when I was a crime victim the police had no interpreters...and I was in a town with a huge foreign resident population which swelled to become quasi-British in the summer. At the court house, the "interpreter" was from Algeria
and, though I spoke Catalan ok, I wanted to be clear about the process and to ensure my testimony was accurate. We ended up translating from Catalan to French since her English was basically at the English 101 level. I found it close to impossible to find a lawyer in BCN (non-international/business) who spoke English at a professional level despite their claims on their websites or LinkedIn pages. Imagine the desperation tourists or recent arrivals would have who have little or no knowledge of the language. Every large city in the EU should have a government interpreter service, even if via phone or video. Smaller towns should be able to access such services remotely 24/7.

So your frustration is not limited to just France. It is incredible that in the US, which is criticized by Europeans for being close-minded and without global views, that you can obtain an translator in almost any hospital, police station, etc. NYC offers services in over 100 languages. In the US you can take your driver's license exam in any number of languages (I am not sure that is wise for safety reasons).

In all my experiences with government offices, whether it was in Amsterdam, Vienna, Barcelona or Lyon, no one spoke English. No accommodation ... even in Amsterdam ... was given to me in English. I had to conduct my affairs in the local language. It was odd though, other immigrants had someone from the staff available to assist. This was particularly true in Lyon.

I totally get what you wrote about conducting business over the phone. Even in English...too many call centers are in non-native English locations, is trying. When you have to speak to someone in an language in which you are not fluent over the telephone, it is close to a disaster. First, the telephone is not a good device for communication per se. The distortion at times leads to frustration because you don't understand each other. This is why I try to always do everything via email or text message. It is in black and white, you have a "paper trail" and you can take your time to understand what was written and form a reply.

I recently read another post on this site about a member who started some sort of Help Concierge type business with assistance nation-wide. This type of interpreter service you seek, albeit probably for a fee, could be part of his offerings.

The issue of liability of the interpretation may be covered by an insurance or simply a signed waiver. I am not a French lawyer so I can not say. I could see paying a flat fee for a truly bilingual person to accompany a client to a meeting.

Let's see if anyone is serving this market niche. As you say, you don't always need a professional translator but an informal but native or truly professional level interpreter.