Paris and no french

Jun 13th, 2012, 01:42 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2012
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Paris and no french

I'm travelling to Paris for 4 days with my Aunt and unfortunately neither of us know French. I have learned to say "I'm sorry, I don't speak French" but am worried. Last time I went, (19 years ago!!), my friend could speak a little so I didn't worry. I speak a little Spanish which is NOT going to help!! Will the menus be all in French? Any suggestions??
Thanks in advance!
RaRa68 is offline  
Jun 13th, 2012, 01:46 PM
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You can down load Patricia wells excellent menu translation.
Most nportant is to say bonjour, au revoir and merci beaucoup.
I still speak very little after many years and never had a problem. Now I'm trying Pimsler.
cigalechanta is offline  
Jun 13th, 2012, 01:49 PM
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I just came back from Paris. Really mostly everyone knows a little English. Don't worry. The most helpful phases that I used A LOT were the following. Just these went a long way.
"Bonjour" - greeting during the day
"Merci" - thank you after you have been helped or finish buying or seeing something
"Merci and Au Revoir" - Thank you and goodbye (use after you bought something and stepping away like in a store).
"si vous plait" - please (use to precede every request).

I learned these way back in high school, never knew they are so useful until last week. If you use Google translate, you can hear how to pronounce the phrases (very useful I found). Yes, menus will be in french mostly, but just write down the translated versions of a few things you like (beef / fish / chicken/ etc) or photo copy the common translation page out of a guidebook.
mmyk72 is offline  
Jun 13th, 2012, 01:50 PM
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There are lots of menus in English. It's the second language of many people. There will be lots of people in Paris (Germans, Spanards, Danes, Ukrainians, etc.) who don't speak French and they all get along fine. Don't worry about it.
adrienne is offline  
Jun 13th, 2012, 01:50 PM
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Don't worry about it at all. Learn a handful of key phrases:
- Bonjour/bonsoir: good day/good evening
- Au revoir: goodbye (literally: until we meet again)
- Merci: thank you
- S'il vous plait: please (literally: if it pleases you)
- Parlez-vous anglais?: Do you speak English? (the answer is almost invariably "a little", which is often an understatement).

Get pronunciation guidance, and you're good to go.
Padraig is offline  
Jun 13th, 2012, 01:55 PM
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Please and thank you even if you can say them only in English will take you a long way. When you want to ask something, for example, say first(in English) "Please, do you speak English?" It sounds 1000 times better than just "Do you speak English?" And end every encounter with "Thank you."
laurie_ann is offline  
Jun 13th, 2012, 02:02 PM
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Most of the foreign tourists in Paris do not speak French and most people manage to get by just fine. A few words of greeting and unfailing politeness will get you everywhere.
kerouac is online now  
Jun 13th, 2012, 02:09 PM
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Unfailing politeness? To some people, that is even more alien than French.
Padraig is offline  
Jun 13th, 2012, 02:13 PM
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I had no problem. As above most tourists don't speak French. Parisians are used to that.

As far as restaurant menus only in French, just carry a small phrase book (or print out online) with a menu section so you can sort out the basics like fish, poultry, etc.
suze is offline  
Jun 13th, 2012, 02:13 PM
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lol, RaRa, our latest german guests arrived on Sunday with no english whatsoever. this is not in central Paris but rural cornwall.

so far as i know they are doing just fine. I'm sure that you will too.

Bonnes vacances!
annhig is offline  
Jun 13th, 2012, 02:15 PM
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The best advice we received about our lack of French was, if you say "Bonjour" or "Au revoir" in a shop or to someone on the street, always say "Bonjour Madam/Messieur/Mademoiselle" - otherwise your "hello" sounds like "hey you."
mztery is offline  
Jun 13th, 2012, 02:50 PM
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You will be fine...check the back of a good guide book. There is usually a list of menu items and their translations, so at least you know which meat, vegetables etc... You are getting. I make a copy and carry that rather than carrying the entire book, if I don't need it.

S'il vous plait is a good phrase to use often! (please...or if it pleases you). Polite is always the best way to interact. Desole is also good to know (sorry, I don't have the French keyboard on this device). Oh, it means "sorry"!

Smile and try....we have never had a bit of problem and we know few words in French.
denisea is online now  
Jun 13th, 2012, 02:52 PM
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I always learn to recognize the foods I do not want to eat in the language where we are traveling. It is easier than learning everything and assures me I won't be horribly surprised at my menu selection.
Judy is online now  
Jun 13th, 2012, 06:24 PM
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Thanks, Everyone!! I just didn't want to seem impolite by not knowing French. I know those basics and will copy the food (great idea). Thank you again! Merci!
RaRa68 is offline  
Jun 13th, 2012, 07:28 PM
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What always trips me up, even though I'm pretty good in French, are some strange menu items or items that sound very similar, sound the same, but are vastly different. This will not pose a problem if you're not a fussy eater, but for people like me, it can be problematic.

For example, if you see "Ris de veau" and you're thinking it's veal with rice, think again. We're talking sweetbreads here, and not palatable to a lot of people (including me). Veal with rice is riz avec du veau.

Similar problems if you're trying to call someone a jerk (polite term) and you call them a "canard" rather than a "conard". Similar sounding, completely different meaning.

Then, weird things such as "pommes dauphinoise" means potatoes gratinee -- dauphine is the alps region around Grenoble. so it's kind of a regional specialty, but you're going to look at it like what is this? Potatoes with dolphins?!? So when you see something you might recognize, like potatoes followed by some other word, it's often a regional specialty.

Most restaurant people can help with the translation, so just smile a lot, and it's all good!
Surfergirl is offline  
Jun 13th, 2012, 08:08 PM
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I speak execrable tourist French. I can eat, buy tickets, travel, buy things, etc. but I could NOT make a friend or talk about any topic.

I just make sure that I start EVERY conversation with "s'il vous plait, bonjour madam, monsieur, mademoiselle" and I pretty much always get what I need.

I've got a couple of other phrases in my stock and a few more words in my brain, but I think I could probably get along with those few words above.

I'll admit to my food vocabulary being a bit more extensive, but hey, it's important.
tuscanlifeedit is online now  
Jun 14th, 2012, 12:48 AM
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kerouac said it in a few words, others are giving more details, but the lesson from all this is that the French are a very polite and rather formal people. These few phrases will get you a long way.

I have had really good luck with a series of phrase books called "Just Enough (French, Portugese, Serbo-Croatian, etc)" that you can probably get from Amazon. They have easy pronunciation guides and cover a wide variety of needs.

If people seem brusque in Paris, it is the same reason they can be brusque in New York or Boston: they are trying to negotiate life in a big city while tourists get in the way. It isn't because they don't like you, don't like Americans, or don't like tourists. They just need to get to work while tourists are working out how to get into the Metro!
Ackislander is offline  
Jun 14th, 2012, 02:21 AM
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Always return the greeting when you enter a store or a restaurant or wherever. Ackislander is correct in that we are more brusque and French folks observe the nicities. You will get correct attention in this manner.
Rhea58 is offline  
Jun 14th, 2012, 04:28 AM
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@Ackislander, that may be the best explanation I've seen on here.

I lived for years in Washington, DC, and never went near the tourist sites between April and October unless absolutely necessary (for the most part, I worked in another part of town).

However, I do remember taking the Metro at a couple of stations near hotels, stuck behind a large family or tour group as they tried to figure out the farecard machines while I'm running further and further behind on my way to work.
toupary6 is offline  
Jun 14th, 2012, 05:35 PM
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There's a great French-English menu reader that you can access on line by Patricia Wells.
kja is offline  

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