Dear Aiden: When I was in high school I studied French for 3 years. But I never went to France until preparing for Vendée Globe 2008, and that was 40 years later! But it is simply amazing how much your brain retains, and although my French was not very good, I always tried to speak in French, and so got a lot of practice, and also the French people appreciated that I was at least trying.
When I stayed with my friends in Paris, Christophe and Patricia Jean, Patricia would teach me, and the same when I stayed with my friends Hugues and Flo Riousse in Vannes. Flo would only speak French at breakfast and so I had to learn.
There are skippers in the race who do not speak French. But for me, it is fun to try, and most importantly, it means I can communicate with the French public, and the French race management, and the French skippers.
To be able to go to another country and speak their language, even a bit, is good, since it shows respect, but also allows you to talk to people in that country that you could not talk to if you didn’t have any of their language. So it opens the world to you!
For Vendée Globe 2008, I wanted to do some of the Radio Vacances interviews in French, but my French was not good enough. Now, my French is better, and I take it as a great compliment that they sometimes ask me to speak in French.
– Question submitted by Aiden, West Newbury, MA, USA