French Language - how much?

Mar 11th, 2002, 12:11 PM
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French Language - how much?

Planning a trip to Paris in May. How much French do I really need to lean to get by? Any recommendations for courses. Any good shortcuts?
Mar 11th, 2002, 12:21 PM
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I'm going to Paris in May too (it will be the first stop in a trip visiting several countries). I have been curious about the same question (how much French will I REALLY need to get by?)

Any feedback will be greatly appreaciated...
Mar 11th, 2002, 12:35 PM
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The courtesies: good day, good evening, good bye, thank you, and pardon me.

My husband speaks exactly zero French and I speak it about as close to fluently as can be considering that it's not my maternal language. So whenever I say that people are nice to me in Paris somebody points out that I speak French. But they are also nice to my husband, even if he's without me.

A phrase book to help with names of foods and objects would be helpful, but you needn't worry too much about actually pronouncing them.

Do make a point of making eye contact in shops or at the hotel desk and saying "bon jour" with a smile before you ask how much something costs or if a taxi could be called. Starting any interaction without this intro is gnerally considered rude, plus they'll pick up on your accent and realize that you don't speak. Even if you don't have any questions be sure to greet the salesperson in a small shop. A nice "merci, au revoir" when you're walking out the door is also appropriate.
Mar 11th, 2002, 02:27 PM
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To reinforce the good advice already posted here, make an attempt with the polite civilities or you may come away with the grossly erroneous though common stereotypical impression of the French -- that they don't like Americans.
My recommendation for a course at home is a set of SyberVision tapes. I haven't used these for French but I have for German and they are far and away the best I have come across for picking up a language in short order.
For shortcuts, use a pocket dictionary rather than a phrase book. If you just get out one word, say "soap," you are more likely to get what you want sooner than with a phrase book.
For more info on the subject see my chapter "Languages, Numbers, Alphabets" at
Mar 11th, 2002, 02:30 PM
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Therese has it just about right. The first thing you say will "set the table", for example, "Excusez moi, a quelle direction est l'Eglise Notre Dame?" or "S'il vous plait, nous cherchons la restaurant Taillevent? You can always say "Pardonnez-moi, s'il vous plait parlez plus lentement (slowly). Merci."

To a polite start always add Merci, or a Je vous remercie, at the end.

Most French people will respond in kind.

Good luck.
Mar 11th, 2002, 03:25 PM
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Don -

At a minimum, you need to know the common courtesies. But to make yourself feel more comfortable, you may want to learn a bit more. I've taken beginners or travellers language courses at a nearby Adult Ed center; I always listen to a variety of travel language tapes for a couple of months during my daily commutes. Learning numbers can be very helpful (though I've got to say, I have a harder time following french numbers than anything else in french), also food items. That will help you to skip the tourist-oriented restaurants with menus in English.

Beyond that, learning directions, common stores (i.e., pattisserie, boulangerie) & store items and the like, are nice but not necessary. You can communicate quite a bit with gestures & signs!
Mar 11th, 2002, 03:31 PM
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I too am going to Europe this summer. I've been learning a bit a French by going onto Video Chat Sites. There are lots of people from all over the world on these sites. My favorite site is

Mar 11th, 2002, 03:45 PM
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We're originally from Montreal so French is a little less foreign to us. However, the French are very nice about people spending money in the country.

As some have said above (and we have learnt in Italy) - Hello, Good bye, Thank you and your wlcome go a long way.
Mar 11th, 2002, 07:22 PM
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I am going in May and have purchased and been listening to c.d.'s on my way to/from work each day. I really like the ones by Michele Thomas. It comes as a set of two for about $25. or the full set for about $80. I bought the small set and then went back for the full. He does it like a class, with two people and him on the c.d. and you are the third in the class. He makes it easy to learn.

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