French Travel Phrases

French

Bienvenue! Welcome to the Fodor's French Language Page, brought to you by the language experts at Living Language. Here you'll find over 150 essential phrases for your trip.

For more French language and cultural tips, visit the Living Language French Blog.

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General

French is spoken as a native language by about 65 million people. It's the official language, or one of the official languages, of France, Canada, Belgium, Switzerland, Monaco, Madagascar, Tahiti, Senegal, Haiti, and numerous other countries around the world.

Pronunciation

French vowels often have accents, and those accents usually affect pronunciation. For example, the letter e without an accent is often pronounced like the a in alone, as in le (the). However, with the addition of an accent aigu, é, it is pronounced like the ay in day, as in thé (tea). The letter e can also have an accent grave, è, and is then pronounced like the e in met, as in père (father). The accent grave can appear over other vowels as well, such as a and u.

Other accents and special symbols in French are: the accent circonflexe – â, the cedille – ç, the tréma – ï, and the œ (called e dans l'o, literally e in the o, in French).

Nasal vowels are also important in French. They are sounds that are produced when air is expelled from both the mouth and the nose. In French, when the letter n or m follows a nasal vowel, it is not fully pronounced. For example, the French word bon (good) sounds like the English b plus the nasal o in song. The letter n is not pronounced.

Also keep in mind that although final consonants often aren't pronounced in French, they sometimes are when the following word begins with a vowel or silent h. This is called "liaison." For example, the word nous (we) is pronounced noo. As you can see, the final s isn't pronounced. However, when followed by the word allons (go), nous is pronounced nooz.

Vocabulary

A lot of basic French vocabulary will look familiar to you: le restaurant (restaurant), la table (table), l'âge (age), le fruit (fruit), l'hôtel (hotel), l'animal (animal), and so on. However, don't be fooled by some words that may look or sound exactly the same as an English word, but don't have the same meaning. For example, le collège is roughly equivalent to middle school in the United States, not university. Also, sale in French means dirty, and has nothing to do with discounts, and blessé(e) means wounded, not blessed.

Grammar

If you want to learn French, you're going to have to deal with a few issues that we don't have in English.

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