The trick is balance. If you’re not fluent or really good in French, don’t panic. You don’t need to be. And if you want to be, well that’s for another blog post, but it’s not going to happen over a long romantic weekend in Paris. And if you don’t have a single word, learn a few…. At the very least. Resources like Duolingo or even Rosetta Stone can help you. The latter is a bit expensive and can’t really be used in an emergency as it’s a program rather than an app but it had to be included but it’s amazing.
The trick about the balance is getting a few words at the beginning or end. When the waiter brings the plate to the table a “merci” goes a thousand miles further than a “thanks” or the dreaded informal “cheers”. If someone says “Bonjour” or “Bon soir” repeat it back and smile. Don’t look disturbed or yell back “Hello” or “Hi” or “Hey”. Minor things like this go a long way.
Many of my friends who come from Paris have done their civic duty ( so to speak) and worked in the many hundreds of bars and restaurants across the beautiful tourist districts like the 18th, 1st, and the 7th have reported ( what I obviously already knew)… it’s the people that make no effort that bother them. So you have to ask yourself, when the waiter or waitress comes to your table and slams the soup down… did you use any French, up to that point. And even if they answer you in English ( which really bothers me, because I think I have an OK level), it doesn’t mean that you did anything wrong. And maybe you did speak a bit and the waiter is just rude. That’s happens sometimes (maybe a bit more than sometimes).
Google translate the following words – Hello, Goodbye, Thanks, Please, The Bill, English, I don’t understand, one moment and finally, password (you’ll need that for accessing the free Wifi all the places you go into.. Wifi is the Write them down and learn them. It should take all of 5 minutes and it will really improve your experience. If you know a bit more, by all means you can use it but don’t be worried if they reply back in English. It just speeds things up a bit.
If you are looking for extra resources, the Berlitz guidebook contains excellent essential words and phrases.
From DuoLingo to Babbel to a host of countless other apps, it’s never been easier to get a few words of essential language skills when you need it the most. Yes, the world is getting smaller and in just about every European capital city, you can get by with English. Despite what you may heard or what you may think, Paris is no exception to the rule. Well, with this is mind, there is an all important question that every tourist or visitor to Paris must ask?
Is it really necessary to speak French in Paris?
Well, this is a heavy question but truthfully, all things considered, the answer is probably no, it isn’t. Just think about all the guided tours in English, international staff in hotels and hostels and information in English in almost all the important sites (although, a lady did yell at me for speaking directly in English while I visited the Louvre). Now, I can imagine some French people or indeed any non-native English speaker, yelling at the computer screen in utter disagreement. But think about it, if you go abroad and the country doesn’t speak your language and you don’t speak the local language, isn’t it a bit instinctive of you to use in English? Isn’t it. Come on………
There have been countless books, articles and papers written about the dominance of English in the world, and although they are disputed theories, it is kind of true. But that’s not exactly what this post is about. This is about you, the English speaker, on your journey through the French capital and understanding what kind of experience you can expect.
Of the countries of Western Europe, France has an entirely unfair reputation when it comes to using their native language and also speaking English. I can’t count the amount of thing I’ve heard about the French like “oh they can understanding English perfectly, but they will never use it. They don’t like speaking it”. Or, “you have to speak in French, otherwise they are very rude to you”. These sentences are popular stereotypes and like many stereotypes they are entirely untrue and unfair. However, for this writer, it would be short-sighted to replace one massive generalisation with another one and respond by saying that everyone is absolutely delightful. They aren’t. Although I don’t know how cheery I would be if someone waltzed into my shop in London and launched into Russian ( for example ) and expected me to understand.