The country of France was on the top of the list when I knew I was travelling to Europe. What was more appealing to me about France, was knowing that I finally had the chance to put into practice my knowledge and understanding of the French language!
I studied French for two years in high school and since then I had been practicing my speaking, listening, reading and writing through the most amazing iPhone app called Duolingo! (Click on the link and check it out, greatest language learning app ever!)
Setting A French Language Goal
Once I had arrived into the beautiful city of lights, Paris, I decided to set myself an attainable goal. I felt pretty confident in my French speaking ability, and after a few years of practice, I thought would try this:
speak no English in France, only French
So, how did I do it?
How I managed to speak only French in France
Well, my previous experience with the French language did have me at an advantage but…
The French language is not completely hopeless.I had practiced some simple French phrases that got me through. When you’re like me and you only spent about six days in various French cities throughout your tour, basic French phrases are all you need.
Below are some helpful French phrases (and their exact pronunciations) that I used, and that I hope you will find helpful for your first visit to France!
25 Basic French Phrases To Help You Survive Your First Trip To France
Basic Greetings & Politeness
1. Hello: Bonjour! (bow-shure)
2. Goodbye: Au Revoir (aw rev-wa)
3. Thank you: Merci (mare-ci)
4. Thank you very much: Merci Boucoup (mare-ci bow-coo)
5. How are you?: Ça va? (sa va?)
6. I am good thanks: Ça va bien merci (sa va bian mare-ci)
7. Please: Sil vous plait (sil voo play)
8. My name is…: Je m’appelle *insert your name* (sher map pell)
9. I live in Australia: J’habite en Australie (shabeet on Australii) – Or insert your country!
10. I would like: Je voudrai (shev-roo-dray)
11. Bread roll: une baguette (bagette)
NOTE: These are common to have in France for lunch and I suggest you try one when you visit!
12. Chicken: Poulet (poolay)
NOTE: I love chicken and ordered it frequently on my baguette.
13. With: avec (as it sounds)
14. I would like a bread roll with chicken: Je voudrai une baguette avec poulet (shev-roo-dray une bagette avec poolay).
15. How much is it?: Ça fait combien? (sa fay combian?) – Guarantee you will need this!
16. Ticket: un billet (unn beeyay)
NOTE: You may/may not need this when ordering tickets for various sights and attractions as you can easily just ask in English.
17. I would like one ticket please: Je voudrai un billet sil vous plait (shev-roo-dray un beeyay sil voo play)
18. Where is the toilet?: Ou es la toilette (oo ay la twalette) – You will definitely need to use this!
Phrases To Use When All Else Fails
19. Do you speak French?: Parlez-vous Français? (parlay voo froncay?)
20. Do you speak English?: Parlez-vous Anglais? (parlay voo onglay?)
21. A little bit: Un peu (unn perh)
22. I only speak French a little bit: Je parle le Français un peu (sher parl leh froncay unn perh)
23. Excuse me: Excusez-moi (excusey mwa) OR Pardon (pardon – with a French accent!)
24. I don’t understand: Je ne comprends pas (sher nay comprond pa)
NOTE: You may choose to use “I don’t understand” and “I only speak French a little bit” in the same sentence, as sometimes when practicing I had to say these things together! They were very understanding!
25. I am sorry – je suis désolé (sher swee dezolay)
Why I Chose To Only Speak French In France
1. My own personal French language development
2. As a sign of respect to the country, its people and culture.
3. For FUN!!!
4. To challenge myself
5. To really embrace my travels in a new and interesting way and to feel immersed in the French culture, even if I was there for only a few days on my tour!
Your personal choice and preference
If you are into embracing all that your travels throw at you and are willing to be spontaneous and try new things, then why not practice speaking another language in a foreign country besides speaking what you know!
Yes, the French speak English as well their own language, but I find it fun and exciting to get myself out of my comfort zone and to give new things a go! I felt accomplished that I used my understanding and prior learning of the French language and I also felt like I was a true French native (if only for a few days), making my French experience overall an authentic one!
As it turns out, my practicing of the French language in France came in handy!
My First real French Conversation
This travel story takes places at one of the most famous attractions in Paris:
The Eiffel Tower (la tour Eiffel)
While waiting in line for the elevator to take me up to the Eiffel Tower, I decided to yet again challenge myself:
pick a random French person and have a basic conversation all in French
Let’s just say after a few years of practicing the French language, I was not going to travel to France and not have an authentic French conversation! So, despite my nervousness I struck up a conversation with a lovely man and this is what I found out:
This particular man was brought up and has lived in Paris all of his life, and today was the very first time he had ever visited the top of the Eiffel Tower (earlier while I had seen this man in the elevator he looked quite nervous, especially about the height of the structure, and so this prompted me to start a conversation).
We started talking about what we do for work; he was an engineer and so I responded with “oh my Father in Australia works as an engineer” and mentioned to him that I was a teacher of young children.
We talked about how it was my first time visiting France and how long I was staying in Paris.
We discussed where I was from (Sydney, Australia), and he asked what Sydney was like in comparison to Paris, so naturally I mentioned the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House.
I finished the conversation by asking him in basic French “Is my French speaking good?”, to which he replied “Votre Français est trés bon!” (your French is very good!).
So there you have it, the people you meet and the things you can learn when you put yourself out there in a foreign city!
Other Paris related posts!
Share your thoughts
1. What country (or countries) have you spoken a language that isn’t your own? What was your experience?
2. Are there any other basic French phrases I have missed from this list that you found helpful on your trip?
3. Like, share or leave a comment with your stories and experiences below!