My wife and I are relocating to France this year. As a very poor French speaker, I was wondering how I would cope with entering rated tournaments in France. Any advice from a native English speaker?

I am planning on joining a club out there, in a bid to improve my French and become more social.

2 Answers 2


As long as you enter FIDE rated tournaments you should be OK. If the arbiter is a FIDE International Arbiter he is required to know English. English is the main FIDE language and according to FIDE Regulations for the Titles of Arbiters -

4. Requirements for the title of International Arbiter.
All of the following:
4.3 Obligatory knowledge of English language, minimum at conversation level; and of chess terms in other official FIDE languages.

Arbiters with just the FA title are not obliged to have good knowledge of English but will need it if they have ambitions to become IAs.

That said, the French are notoriously bad at foreign languages. I went to live and work there after having lived and worked in Germany for some time and the contrast was stark.

My experience going to open a bank account in Munich went something like this -

Me to stereotypical gorgeous, blonde teller: "Entschuldigung Sie. Ich moechte ein Konto oeffnen"
Brunhilde: "Certainly sir. Your passport please? You are working at Digital?"

I tried the same thing only in French at the bank near where I worked on the southern edge of Paris and got a reply in French. With my schoolboy French it was a struggle but she was patient and I just about managed.

For chess tournaments you might be OK but for general life I would strongly recommend you have French lessons while you are there.

Also, if you are the Owen Rees with FIN 343113860 then I would recommend you try and get a proper FIDE ID number before you go. If you are in England (might also work in Wales) then the cheapest / easiest way is to enter a FIDE rated blitz tournament. The ECF doesn't grade blitz and FIDE don't charge federations for rating blitz so you will end up getting a FIN free of federation membership fees.

PS. I'm guessing you already know "j'adoube". The other useful word is "remis" for when you want to offer a draw.

  • many thanks for your reply. I am slowly getting to grips with the language and plan to take classes there too. My wife is a French national which helps! I just know my French will not be where it needs to be by the time we move. Great advice on the FIDE ID too. I will look into this right away.
    – Owen Rees
    Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 15:35
  • Most Fide rated tournaments do not require an International Arbiter. However, in every tournament I have played, French player and arbiter are very welcoming to non-French speaker, and most of us can manage a chess-related conversation in English.
    – Evargalo
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 9:57
  • 3
    "Remis" is not French, I think it is the German way to offer a draw (although it is quite understood in the north and east of France). The French term is "nulle ?", but everybody will understand "draw ?" as well. Another locution for your PS is "en passant".
    – Evargalo
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 9:59

I lived in Paris for about a year and played in a few tournaments. I can summarise my experiences.

Opponents. For the most part, more charming and courteous than in the US

Refreshments. Much better than in the US.

Toilet facilities. Much worse

Atmosphere. More relaxed. You can't talk to your opponent, but a casual appropriate comment will not bring the TD down on you.

So all the cliches are true.

You should should have no trouble making yourself understood. Chess players are often educated above the average, and most will manage at least a greeting and a polite remark, but your stay will be more fun if you can manage bit of French. Remember it is not a school classroom with tests, but you are allowed pointing, gestures...

  • 1
    For toilets, you usually get better facilities in any other French city than Paris.
    – Evargalo
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 10:00
  • Thankfully I am not moving to Paris :D
    – Owen Rees
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 10:09

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