Cotonou - Post Report Question and Answers

How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

French makes a huge difference. Out and about, you will not find english speakers except among the elites. Tutors are available. Speaking Fongbe, even a little, delights people but is not expected. - Feb 2020

Benin is working to be Bilingual by 2020. Although that may be a little ambitious, with Nigeria dominating next door, some people in the capital in shops, stores etc that expats frequent have a little English. - Aug 2018

You need to speak French to live here. - Jan 2017

You need French in order to function. Other local languages are not necessary. - Oct 2015

French will make your life much easier, but people seem to manage all right without it. - Jun 2015

You can probably make it through shopping at the grocery store without any French - god knows the Nigerians who've lived here for years without learning a word of French get by somehow. Restaurants will be a bit more difficult. It all depends on how much you'll need to do yourself. - Aug 2014

Know as much French as you can before coming here. It will make your life much easier. Just being able to read billboards (95% of which are written in French) is one less headache. There are exceptions, though! Some people who have lived here didn't give a damn about learning French and got along with life just fine. - Jul 2013

It would be very difficult to have an enjoyable time here with no (or limited) French, but some embassy spouses have managed. There are a few restaurants and stores where you can get by with English. However, even with decent language skills it's quite hard to integrate into local and expat circles made up of native French speakers. - May 2013

This is a French-speaking country. You can "get around" without it, but you can't integrate. - Mar 2013

You're going to need at least a little French. - Dec 2011

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