It’s not easy to learn a new language. Frankly, it’s not always at the top of the list when planning a trip to a foreign country either. Sometimes it doesn’t even make the list.
But if you’ve decided that France is a destination you should visit, then I highly recommend learning some basic French words and phrases that will not only ensure a better travel experience, but will show respect to the locals, which is very important.
One thing to remember – France is very proud of their language, so don’t be surprised (or offended) if someone switches immediately to English when talking with you. It’s still a good idea to start out in French. Oh, and did I mention, learning a new language can be fun?!
Here’s what I recommend learning if traveling to France:
1. Learn basic French greetings and use them often, especially when arriving or leaving a hotel, shop or restaurant. Hello (bonjour), goodbye (au revoir) good evening (bonsoir), good day (bonne journée). Please (s’il vous plaît) and thank you (merci) are a must.
2. Learn yes (oui) and no (non).
3. Learn the correct way to address someone – be it a man, women or young women. Monsieur or Madame.
4. Learn to count to at least 10, the days of the week and how to tell time. This will come in handy for deciphering opening and closing days/times for restaurants and museums, or reading train and bus schedules. Another thing to keep in mind, France generally follows military time.
5. Learn how to ask a French person if they speak English (parlez vous Anglais) and know how to respond if they ask if you speak French. Assuming you don’t, say (désolé, non parle pas Français). Don’t forget to front load the question with your pleasant greeting words – like Bonjour Madame, or Pardon, etc, etc….. remember, those French are all about the manners.
6. Learn some question words. You know the ones. How, Who, What, Why, When and Where. Perhaps the most important would be where (où), since you will likely be asking for directions. Asking for the bathroom (où sont les toilettes s’il vous plaît) is a popular and important one!
7. Learn the most important vocabulary words for your trip. Words like restaurant, hotel, train station and museum will certainly come up quite a bit during travel. But if you’re a shopper, wine lover, foodie or history buff – then it may be a good idea to research common words or phrases that you’ll use often. Don’t overload your brain with lots of shopping phrases if you don’t plan on visiting stores, try to stick to your theme.
8. If you have an allergy to a certain food or need to eat gluten-free (sans gluten) or organic (bio) – well, you best commit phrases like that to memory. You can also save them in your phone, or carry around an index card with those phrases written down. If you’re afraid of not being able to pronounce the phrases correctly, you can just whip out your phone or index card and voilà!
French Language Resources
- Planning a trip to France, but don’t know where to start? My travel consult might be the perfect fit!