Do We Need to Learn French...and FAST?

Old Feb 24th, 2008, 12:29 PM
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Do We Need to Learn French...and FAST?

We're visiting France in July: 4 days in Alsace Lorraine area, 3 days Paris, 4 days Normandy. We know the bare minimum French phases (merci, bonjour, par le vous...) but do you recommend we learn more...and fast? Is there a particularly good language DVD or book; should we take an adult ed class; or are we worrying needlessly as the French are multilingual?
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Old Feb 24th, 2008, 12:32 PM
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A smile, the words you know and a good attitude are all you need.
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Old Feb 24th, 2008, 12:37 PM
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You can easily get by with a few words but anything extra you learn will be useful. A good site with audio, so you can hear how it should sound, is

http://www.travlang.com/

Kay
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Old Feb 24th, 2008, 12:37 PM
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ira
 
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HI S,

Calm down.

You will do just fine.

I bring a small spiral-bound pad and a pen. Sometimes drawing a picture helps.

Will you be driving? If so, it helps to learn the road signs.

www1.securiteroutiere.gouv.fr/signaux/default.asp

Enjoy your visit.

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Old Feb 24th, 2008, 01:10 PM
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I carried my "Webster's New World Pocket French Dictionary" with me the whole time. I especially liked this one because it is "English to French" AND "French to English".

English was widely spoken in Paris, Normandy, and the French Riviera. It was slightly more difficult to communicate when I was in smaller towns, but I managed to get by.

Have a great trip! I love France. Remember that Bastille Day is July 14th.
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Old Feb 24th, 2008, 01:18 PM
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phrase books (like Berlitz) are also useful for common tourist situations (including translating menus) but don't give you the same ability as a dictionary to look words up

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Old Feb 24th, 2008, 01:21 PM
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Well, you've got plenty of time to learn more French, and there's no question that knowing some of the language will enhance your overall experience.

You might start by going to www.travlang.com and listening to and learning some basic words and phrases. Pronounciation is important in French, so just knowing what words mean does not guarantee French people you encounter will understand you.

You've got 4 months. There's a lot you can learn in that time.
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Old Feb 24th, 2008, 01:29 PM
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The first time we went to France, we were just like you. Then for our trip last summer I took a French for Travelers course through the local community college. Loved it! I got so much out of it. The teacher was from France, and most of the people in the class had been before. It was great to be able to practice with others, and of course develop friendships with people with the similar interest. That course helped so much on the trip, especially when I got sick. You have time, so take advantage of it. The more you can converse with people, the better your trip, IMO.
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Old Feb 24th, 2008, 01:45 PM
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See if your local library has the Pimsleur language series on CD...there is a 16-lesson conversational French collection that was very useful to us. (We are now doing their French 2 lessons, and hopefully will progress to French 3 soon.)
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Old Feb 24th, 2008, 01:56 PM
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For review and improvement of my middling French, I very much like the email updates I get from the about.com French site. They seem to have a good organized set of lessons for beginners which you may wish to check: http://french.about.com/od/francopho...rtlearning.htm
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Old Feb 24th, 2008, 01:56 PM
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You definitely don't need it. Might be nice for personal enrichment, but one can get by just fine with English.
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Old Feb 24th, 2008, 02:04 PM
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There's an online program (free!) called www.mangolanguages.com. I used it to brush up on a few words, phrases and pronunciation before a recent trip.

I also found people very receptive when I politely said "bon jour madame/monsieur...parlez vous anglais?" They'd say "just a little" and we'd all do just fine, me with my poor French and their much better English.
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Old Feb 24th, 2008, 02:22 PM
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It all depends on the definition of "need".

If your goal is to actually learn something about what it means to be French, then yes - - today would be a good day to start.

You have over 16 weeks, Working on building a vocabulary at a pace of 10 words/day, 5 days a week is very, very realistic. I recommend starting with whatever system of audiovisual materials are available at the best, most convenient library near you. Use flash cards, and build a deck of 'em. Make measurable goals for yourself. And whatever speaking practice you decide is right for you - - make you sure you SAY IT OUTLOUD. No muttering under it under your breath, no "saying it in your head". You have to get over how (bad you think) you sound.

A vocabulary of 500 words will so, SO enrich your trip, and you will almost surely set the stage to double whatever you have learned during your 11 days in France.

You'll be glad you did.

Best wishes,

Rex
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Old Feb 24th, 2008, 02:41 PM
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I like Rex's reply.

A recommendation requires knowing your objectives. I make an assumption that you are visiting places mentioned as casual "tourists."

In this case, I would not recommend learning more. You are worrying needlessly as a "tourist."

For a good do-it-yourself language course, I like Pimsleur series. These are very expensive. Try to find the full set, 30 .5hr lessons in 3 levels, at your library.

If your objective is beyond being a casual "tourist," then each level of competency enriches your experience.

I understood so little French on my first trip to Paris. I decided that that was the last time I would visit France without knowing the language.
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Old Feb 24th, 2008, 03:21 PM
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I don't want to be picky, but I politely disagree with travelgourmet's comment that you can "get by just fine with English." While this may be true in the sense that many Parisians speak English, for example, I don't think that it's a polite way to travel. Imagine if a French person came to your hometown and expected you to converse with them in French! I'm certainly not telling you to go get a degree in French or to obsess about it, but it is nice to be able to understand a bit and not to have to force everything into English.

On the topic of classes, I don't know where you are, but many universities offer French for Travelers classes. I taught one about a year ago at UWM. It was a six week course and we focused on the basic phrases and vocabulary a traveler to France would need, and I also covered a lot on culture and practical tips for getting around Paris, as most of my students were heading to Paris. You can always audit a course like this, and it might really help.

All in all, though, just remember that it's VACATION and you need to enjoy yourself. Have fun and enjoy your travels--you didn't pay all that money for a plane ticket, hotels, etc. to worry about whether you can hold a philosophical conversation with your tablemate in French.
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Old Feb 24th, 2008, 03:23 PM
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One thing I found interesting while in Paris was the amount of Spanish speaking people.

In more then one situation people did not speak English but they spoke Spanish and I was able to use my Spanish to communicate.
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Old Feb 24th, 2008, 05:18 PM
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Merci to all of you for your good advice!
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Old Feb 24th, 2008, 10:12 PM
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"I don't think that it's a polite way to travel."

I don't think it is impolite, it is just what is reasonable. Last year, for instance, I spent time in Holland, Belgium, France, Hong Kong, Egypt, Italy, Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the UK, Aruba, the US, and I'm sure I'm missing some. That comes to 10 languages if my count is right. Now, I'm a smart guy, but I'm also a busy guy and I don't have time to take months of classes every time I'm going to a new country.

"Imagine if a French person came to your hometown and expected you to converse with them in French!"

This doesn't bother me. If someone is making the effort to visit a country, then that is polite enough. Might not be as practical as relying on English in France, but I don't think it rude.
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Old Feb 24th, 2008, 10:43 PM
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Hi

I don't think you will learn enough French in that short period of time anyway So my recommendation is that you just learn the basic phrases (including I don't speak French) and then just go with the flow. As mentioned in the thread...a smile and good attitude will get you far

Here is my Paris trip report from a couple of years back: http://gardkarlsen.com/Paris_France.htm

Regards
Gard
http://gardkarlsen.com - trip reports and pictures
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Old Feb 24th, 2008, 11:23 PM
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I have successfully spent time in Paris with just schoolgirl French and found the French people to be unfailingly polite and most had some English. Only two occasions where I encountered locals who either had no English or claimed to have none.

However, if you have the time, then go ahead and learn some basics, I do agree that anything you can learn will add to your enjoyment. Especially if you are going to try to read menus!!

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