If you are like me, you probably really struggle with learning foreign languages and can barely master the English language. As languages go, French isn’t as difficult as say, Chinese or Russian. It’s got more or less the same alphabet and our own language borrows heavily from French. Words like difficult or interesting, are very easy to pick out when reading a French text.
If you are planning a short trip to Paris, it’s not really necessary to learn to speak French and despite what you have heard, it is possible to survive in the city for a few days with the basics of Bonjour and Merci. Visitors to the city, who only plan to spend a few days, will generally hang around the typical tourist areas, such as the Champs de Mars, to see the Eiffel Tower. Paris is a global city and the largest city on the continent of Europe. So, if you intend to stay in the popular districts around the famous landmarks, you can expect to encounter a reasonable level of English. Reception at the Lourve, for example, will understand you if you ask for a map, however – avez-vous une carte – will go down a treat with the locals. Likewise in restaurants. In the popular places of Quartier Latin, your waiter or waitress will probably understand the menu in English and will be able to help you.
However if you are planning to stay a bit longer and go beyond the typical tourist haunts of this great city, then yes, it is a good idea to get some French expressions, questions and answers ready to use. A good example of this, is the metro system. The metro is designed for locals, so if your metro card breaks or you don’t understand the map, don’t expect an English speaking attendant to be ready at every station. The French language dominates everyday life in this city and while the level of English is improving because of tourism, its not reasonable to expect everyone to understand you, particularly older people.
If you speak English, make sure it’s slow and with a smile and don’t be afraid to use your hands. If you’re going to try some French expressions, watch your accent. A good tip, is to try and mimic the most sterotypical French accent using English and then just transfer it to French. You might think you sound ridiculous but trust me, you are more likely to be understood. The list below are some phrases we at welcome2france think you will find helpful.
Je ne comprends pas. – I dont understand
Je ne parle pas français – I dont speak French
Pouvez vous parler plus lentement, sil vous plait – Could you speak more slowly, please.
Pouvez-vous répéter, sil vous plaît. – Could you repeat that please.
Sil vous plaît, je cherche – Please, Im looking for (whatever you are looking for).
Avez-vous . – Do you have . ?
Avez-vous une table pour deux personnes? – Do you have a table for two ?
A quelle heure est-ce que cela ferme? When does it shut ? L
Combien ? – How much ?
Ou sont les toilettes, sil vous plaît ?
Where is the toilet / washroom, please ? Listen
Ou est-ce quon peut trouver des restaurants, sil vous plaît? – Where are there some restaurants, please ?
Un café et un café au lait, sil vous plaît. – A coffee and a coffee with milk please.
If you are interested in learning the French language, Paris offers the best schools in the world. Check out places such as Alliance Francaise, Berlitz, and Accord Escole de Langues. Welcome2France offers apartments within walking distance of some of the best schools.