Travelling to France? Here are some easy French phrases to pick up so you won't look like a noob.
Written by: Circles.Life
Bonjour, mes amis and welcome to the post that’s going to save your life – if you’re planning a trip to France, that is.
The French aren’t keen on speaking English (blame an old rivalry with the Brits that goes back nearly a thousand years to the battle of Agincourt). Therefore, it’s best to learn their language and live on their terms when you visit.
Here, we’ll run through some of the French phrases you need to avoid disaster while visiting this remarkable and ancient country. By the end of it, you won’t look French, but you’ll certainly be able to speak a bit of the lingo.
Just to let you know, France is nothing like Emily in Paris. So don’t get your linguistic cues from the Netflix series. Bad idea!
P.S: Mum calling you on the phone? Practise your French with her too, but make sure you’ve got seamless connectivity while travelling with Jetpac.
Basic French Vocabulary
It’s always best to start with the basics. Below, we list some of the most common terms the French use (and that you’ll find helpful during your travels):
-) Bonjour – Hello (used during the day)
-) Bonsoir – Good evening (used at night)
-) Au revoir – Goodbye
-) Merci – Thank you
-) S'il vous plaît – Please
-) Excusez-moi – Excuse me
-) Parlez-vous anglais? – Do you speak English?
-) Je ne parle pas français – I don't speak French
-) Oui – Yes
-) Non – No
-) Combien ça coûte? – How much does it cost?
-) Où est...? – Where is...?
-) Je voudrais... – I would like...
-) L'addition, s'il vous plaît – The bill, please
-) Je suis perdu(e) – I am lost.
A word of warning: don’t try to say any of these words or phrases phonetically. You’ll fail miserably. Instead, go online and get Google to tell you how to say them using the speaker symbol on its translation tool.
There are, of course, many nuances involved in greeting people other than just saying “bonjour.” For instance, if you are meeting someone for the first time and want to be formal, say: “bonjour monsieur/madame,” which means “hello sir/ma’am.”
However, if you are saying hello to someone you already know, then the French usually say “salut,” which means “hi.” Use it with friends, family members, or young people.
“Ça va?” means “how are you?” French people use it all the time to ask someone how they are doing or feeling. It literally means "it goes?".
If you’re leaving someone but will see them again tomorrow, you can say “À demain” which means “see you tomorrow.” You can also use the more casual “À bientôt” which means “see you soon.”
Tourists in France often find themselves making inquiries. After all, it’s their first time in the country and they don’t know much about it. Therefore, understanding how to ask for directions, recommendations, opening hours, and prices is essential.
The word “Qui” means “who.” The French use this to learn more about another person’s identity. For instance:
-) Qui est-ce? – Who is that?
-) Qui êtes-vous? – Who are you?
-) Qui est le président de la France? – Who is the president of France?
There are also what-related words “quoi,” “que” and “quel(le)” that help you ask about definitions or categories. For instance:
-) Quoi de neuf? – What's new?
-) Que voulez-vous? – What do you want?
-) Quel est votre plat préféré? – What is your favorite dish?
The French word for “where” is “où.” They use this for directions, origins, and learning about destinations. Examples include:
The Difficulties In Pronunciation
Speaking French, though, is harder than you might think. They take liberties in the way they say and spell certain words, which can make the language even more alien to Southeast Asians.
For instance, the French have a penchant for nasal-sounding vowels. They represent these by the letters “an,” “en,” “in,” and “on.”
To make these sounds, you must lower the soft palate to allow air to flow through the nose. Here’s a video to get you started:
Another super annoying aspect of the French language is all the silent letters at the start, end, and even in the middle of some words. For example, the letter "e" is often silent at the end of words, and the letters "h" and "u" are frequently silent in the middle of words.
You can manage silent letters by memorising the spelling and pronunciation of common French words. Practise reading French texts out loud to get a feel for the rhythm and intonation of the language. Here’s another video that explains this curiosity in detail:
You’ll also need to practise so-called “liaisons.” These are connections between words that are pronounced as if they were a single word. (Complicated, right?) For example, in the phrase “les amis,” the final "s'' in “les” is pronounced because it is followed by a vowel sound in “amis.”
Liaisons can be a little trickier to master, but you’ll eventually get used to it. It’s all about predicting what’s going to come next.
Here’s another video to help you:
Lastly, there’s the accent. It’s like nothing else in the world.
To get a grip on this, you’ll have to listen to native French speakers and then repeat what they say over and over. The hardest part is the rolling “r” sounds in many words. Here’s a voice coach who teaches people how to speak with a French accent:
In summary, if you are planning to travel to France, it's essential to learn some basic French phrases to make your stay more comfortable and enjoyable.
English is spoken, but not by everyone, and it’s certainly not preferred. Start with the basic vocabulary, greetings, and questions that will help you navigate your way around the country. Focus most of your effort on getting the accent and intonation right. That’ll make you far more comprehensible to the locals.
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Do not look like a cliche in France. Learn all the phrases you need right here, plus information and videos on how to speak with a convincing accent.
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