Traveling to France? Learn These 8 Useful Phrases (Beginner)
Are you going to France or a French-speaking country soon? Do you dream of doing so? Even if you don't speak fluent French, knowing a few key phrases will make communicating with the locals much easier.
Bonjour / Bonsoir
Hello / Good evening
Everyday interactions in French are often very polite. Every time you walk into a shop, you are expected to greet the shopkeeper with a pleasant, "Bonjour!" or even the more formal, "Bonjour madame!" (for a woman) or "Bonjour monsieur!" (for a man). Once it's getting close to dinnertime, you replace bonjour with "Bonsoir," or "Good evening."
Then, when you leave the shop, you are expected to acknowledge the shopkeeper again with an "Au revoir!" This one is a bit tough for English-speakers to pronounce; when the French say it quickly, it sounds like this: "Oh vwah!" Listen to the woman in the videos above, who is a native French speaker, and then practice using the phonetic pronunciations I've given below.
Do you speak English?
Sometimes in tricky situations, it helps to find someone who speaks your language. It's always most polite to begin the exchange in French, by asking if the person does indeed speak English. I prefer the above phrasing, although the two she gives in the video above are both correct. "Parlez-vous anglais?" is just a more "real" way to ask. :)
PAR-lay voo anGLAY?
Je ne parle pas français.
I don't speak French.
If someone begins speaking to you in French, and you want to politely communicate that you don't understand, this is the way to go! First, be flattered that they thought you were one of their own. ;) Then, say: "Je ne parle pas français."
Zhuh nuh parle pah fran-SAY.
I'm looking for...
If you're lost, or can't find something that you're looking for in a store, this is a great phrase to know. Some handy examples:
"Je cherche la Tour Eiffel." = I'm looking for the Eiffel Tower.
"Je cherche la rue St. Malo." = I'm looking for St. Malo Street.
"Je cherche un taxi." = I'm looking for a taxi.
"Je cherche le metro." = I'm looking for the subway.
I would like...
This phrase is perfect for ordering food and buying things! Say you walk into a boulangerie (bakery) – you can just say "je voudrais..." and then point to what you want. Note: It can also mean "I would like to," as it says in the video.
Ou sont les toilettes?
Where is the bathroom?
And finally, the most important phrase in any country! When you're traveling, one of the most pressing needs in any location is to figure out where the bathroom is. The French don't say bathroom or restroom like us prude Americans do; they come right out and say "toilets"! Just remember – the 's' in toilettes is silent.