French is an elegant, sophisticated sounding language. Watching a film in French is an interesting experience as a student in their first year of learning will only be able to pick up a word here and there but, by combining those words with the pictures, they can get a good idea of what is going on.
French is difficult to grasp at times to native American English speakers unless they are familiar with the different parts of speech and grammar rules in English. If they are familiar with those rules, then learning French is simply an act of substitution and memorization. For example, conjugating verbs in French seems extremely difficult until you realize that the English language actually does the same thing, just through different methods. Once you understand that, it's easy to start memorizing the methods the French use.
Reading French and understanding it is easier to me than speaking and hearing it, but when I'm put "on the spot" and have to speak French in answer to a question in French, I discover that just taking my time in answering allows me to usually have an understandable response. If I don't know a particular word, I'll use most similar word that I can or, barring that, I will put a French article in front of the English word. Most native French speakers are very forgiving to non-native speakers, as long as they try. I have had both native French speakers and non-native French speakers as instructors and the native speakers are, by far, the most forgiving. The same native speakers also will explain how what is "correct" French (by the book) may not be what is currently spoken by the French, much like American or English slang differs from what is taught in books.