French in Paris..advice needed!

Mar 10th, 2007, 07:34 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 139
French in Paris..advice needed!

Our family (2 adults and two girls 10 and 14) are traveling to the UK and Paris in June and July for 3 weeks. We end in Paris for a short stay of 3 nights.

I've been to Paris with a family member who speaks the language fluently. The more I think about it, I'm now getting worried as no one in my family speaks any French. I don't want to be rude by not being capable of the French.

Advice please.... Did I make a mistake adding this to our trip??

Thanks in advance for any guidance.
nelcarp is offline  
Mar 10th, 2007, 07:37 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 45,836
What kind of guidance are you looking for? You're going to a place where you don't speak the language, is that the issue? You have 5 months to learn some French, so do it.
StCirq is online now  
Mar 10th, 2007, 07:40 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 721
No, you certainly didn't make a mistake adding Paris to your trip! It's a wonderful city.

My suggestion: learn basic phrases in French. The french are big on basic politeness. When walking into a shop, you always say "bonjour" and "au revoir" upon leaving. Learn "s'il vous plait" and "merci" and use them often. You won't become fluent in French before June, and you don't need to. But learning basic phrases plays a big role in how you are treated (and this really goes for most places in the world). Always ask "parlez-vous Anglais?" (Do you speak English?) before you start speaking in English. Most people do speak some English, those who don't will be more patient with trying to figure out what you need (you will use sign language a lot!) if you are polite.

And definitely invest the $6.95 it costs for a phrase book--very, very helpful, especially for menus.

Enjoy Paris!
MissZiegfeld is offline  
Mar 10th, 2007, 07:42 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 10,605
If your family can learn a few words and phrases, it will make a good opening for when you address a local. Any guidebook should cover some useful terms..always apply a polite greeting and 'title', such as "Bonjour Madame" before you ask for anything. You can always ask "parlez-vous anglais, s'il vous plait?".. and say "s'il vous plait" and "merci" to people, just like you should at home.

Your French-speaking family member can help you with the pronunciation.
Travelnut is offline  
Mar 10th, 2007, 07:50 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 139
I should have been more specific. I know there is no way to become fluent in 3 months. Focusing on phrases to broker transactions, get pointed in the correct direction, read and order from a menu sounds like a good place to start. Fortunately, I do understand the the use of basic greetings, etc..and do at least know some of them (from when I was in France before).

Guidance on general etiquette (such as asking in French if someone speaks English first) etc, would be helpful. Can you point me in the direction of some helpful resources?
nelcarp is offline  
Mar 10th, 2007, 08:27 PM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 2,121
In all locations frequented by tourists in Paris, you will find people who speak English. They are almost never highly fluent, but they speak well enough for the types of interactions you'll be likely to have with them (standard questions, purchases, etc.).

In locations not frequented by tourists, such as hypermarkets or home-improvement stores, insurance brokers, etc., you may find people who speak only French. But since these are places rarely frequented by tourists, you're unlikely to find yourself in this type of situation.

You cannot learn any useful level of French by June or July without full-time, intensive study. The best you can do is learn a few polite phrases. Some locals consider the few phrases to be a courtesy, others may question why you bother with a few phrases when they are essentially useless for communication and seem a bit like a token, non-serious effort (whereas many of them must study for years to learn English).

If you go this latter route, I'd limit the French phrases to courtesy greetings and the like. Don't ask where the pharmacy is in French unless you can understand the response in French as well.
AnthonyGA is offline  
Mar 11th, 2007, 04:40 AM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 10,168
I strongly recommend the "Just Enough" series phrasebooks. I have used French, Spanish, Portugese, Italian, and Croatian with success.

They are cheap and require a bit of interpretation since they are written for British audience, but they cover most basic travel needs phonetically.

They have good sections on disasters (explaining what hurts to a doctor or pharmacist) and lots of possible responses to your questions, some of them negative: "Not my problem"
Ackislander is offline  
Mar 11th, 2007, 06:19 AM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 656
You did not make a mistake in adding Paris to your trip. I don't speak French but learned the basic phrases to interact in tourist situations and to be polite. I have found that all Parisians have been very helpful in speaking English when they realize I don't speak French but only after a polite greeting and a polite inquiry as to whether they speak English. If they didn't speak English we laughinly managed through "sign language". My experience has been that French perople are very friendly and helpful if you present yourself in a respectful manner. I think the rumor of the ugly Parisian comes from people who are loud and rude and don't practice basic politeness. They get what they give and the same thing would happen at home. Have fun in Paris, I am so envious.
jdraper is offline  
Mar 11th, 2007, 06:25 AM
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 1,135
Though it is nice to be able to communicate with locals in the language of the country you are visiting, it is not "must". Here is a list of countries I have visited without speaking the national idiom:
- Germany
- Czech Republic
- Switzerland (German speaking regions)
- Thailand
- Egypt
- Greece
- Netherlands
Brazilnut is offline  
Mar 11th, 2007, 07:14 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 227
I also will be visiting France in June & found a helpful language program that can be downloaded free. It is really quite good. Here's the site: Hope this helps.
sparks is offline  
Mar 11th, 2007, 07:42 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 2,501

I went to Paris last year with my wife and we don't speak much French...just a few basic phrases. We didn't have that much trouble due to this...yes, there were a couple of misunderstandings but nothing serious. So I'm sure you will have a wonderful trip

Here is my trip report with pictures, links and maps . Hope you can find some useful info there.

Gard - trip reports and pictures
gard is offline  
Mar 11th, 2007, 08:04 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 74,144
Hi N,

You'll only be there for 3 days, and you will be visiting the tourists spots.

All you need is

Bonjour, Bon soir, au revoir, s'il vous plait, merci, oui, non

ou est......
le toilette
le metro
le autobus

Quelle est le prix?

It helps to have pencil and paper for the answer to the last one.

Enjoy your visit.

ira is offline  
Mar 11th, 2007, 08:40 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 17,056
We have been to France before and got by with just a few phrases, and a good phrase book. This time though, I wanted a better grasp of it so found a short course at the local community college, called "French for Travelers". You might want to look into something like this.
mms is offline  
Mar 11th, 2007, 08:55 AM
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 37
Ditto MissZiegeld's response.
johnnydread1 is offline  
Mar 11th, 2007, 09:06 AM
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 2,184
Don't forget to say "bonjour" when you enter a shop, and "au revoir" when you leave.

The French equivalent of "to take French leave" i.e. to leave without saying goodbye is "filer à l'anglais" "to leave like an Englishman", and is the height of bad manners.
waring is offline  
Mar 11th, 2007, 10:17 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 91,116
While it would be nice to be fluent in another language, I am not, and had no problems visiting Paris for a week as a tourist.
suze is online now  
Mar 11th, 2007, 10:20 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 91,116
A phrase book with restaurant translations is helpful. And also should outline general greetings and such, in order to be polite, like you're looking for.

Also works well if you are organized and have a map, to get where you want to go, so you don't need to be trying to ask assistance from strangers on the streets.
suze is online now  
Mar 11th, 2007, 10:34 AM
Posts: n/a
I agree with posters above that you at least learn the key phrases Bonjour, Au Revoir, S'il vous plait, and Merci.

It's especially important that you greet someone with Bonjour, before asking them something. I was rudely lectured by a train station guard when I approached him and asked "les toilettes?" without first saying Bonjour. He immediately turned his back on me to help other people. When we turned back to me, he very sternly (and loudly) made it clear I should have greeted him properly.

Yes, I knew better-- but I'd just gotten off a one-hour train ride that was so packed I couldn't get to the bathroom. I had been counting on using it. So, I was in desperate need of directions to the restroom. He actually gave me the wrong directions, too!
Mar 11th, 2007, 10:45 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 74,144

Je suis désolé, "I am sorry" is also helpful.
ira is offline  
May 19th, 2007, 04:00 PM
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 49,416
It would be sad to skip Paris because you can't speak French. I didn't travel to Paris for that reason for many years.
When my daughter (who is fluent in French) lived there for awhile I finally went.
I have wandered by myself all over Paris not speaking French and I 've never had a problem.
Many have recommended knowing a few phrases. That is good advice and will serve you well.
Paris is the prettiest city in the world - you can't miss out.
nanabee is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 01:38 PM.