Basic Phrases In French Every Traveler Should Learn

basic phrases in french
| 4 min read

France is a sovereign state, famously known for its fine food. The number of tourists visiting France have increased over the past years not just because of the above-named advantage but also other amazing attractions including, French Island National Park, Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park, Tyabb Packing House Antiques, Balnarring Foreshore Reserve, Hayne and Shine Farmyard, Western Port Tourist Visitor Information Centre, Mornington Peninsula Plunge Wine Tours among many others. If you are planning to visit France, you may need to make a few friends so to make that easy for you, check out some of the basic phrases in French that every traveler should learn.

1. Simple conversational greetings photo essay 100514-A-0857S-007
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Sam Shore used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

Once you hit the ground from your plane, you will need to initiate your first interaction. The best way to do this is by a simple conversational greeting. When you meet the first person you can try saying “Bonjour” meaning “Hello”. Another simple way you can greet someone is by simply saying “Ça va (sa va)” meaning “How are you”. In case it is in the evening, you should say “Bon soir (bon swah)” which is just saying “Good evening”. After meeting somebody new, you can always say “Enchanté (on shon tay)” which means “Nice to meet you”. To finish out your conversation, you can just say “À bientôt (ah byan toe)” meaning see you soon, and walk away.

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2. Ordering food

Tartare poelé - French food
Source: Photo by user manuel | MC used under CC BY-SA 2.0

When at a restaurant, you can surprise the waiter with your French skills. After greeting them you can go ahead and say “Une table pour deux” which means “A table for two”. After settling at your table, you can go ahead and ask for the menu by saying “Le menu, s’il vous plaît (luh muh-new, seel vooh pleh)”. Go through your menu and after deciding on what you will have, you can make your order by saying “Est-ce que je pourrais avoir… (es-kerh jeh poo-ray av-war…) meaning "May I please have…:”. In case you have not decided on what you will have, you can just ask “Qu’est-ce que vous recommandez/suggérez (kehs-kuh vooh ruh-kohh-mahN-dey/sooh-zhey-rey)” which simply means “What do you recommend/suggest”. After enjoying your meals, now it’s time to leave. You can ask for your bill by saying “L’addition, s’il vous plaît (lad-eesi-on see-voo-play)” which means “could I have the bill, please”.

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3. Asking for directions

C7 Winterberg trip : Tim asking for directions
Source: Photo by user Francis Bijl used under CC BY 2.0

In one or more occasions, you may need to find your way through this beautiful country. Directions are more easy to understand in a language you are more familiar with. Before asking any questions, you can always ask “Parlez-vous anglais (parlay voo ong glai/ fron say)” which is asking if the person can speak English. If the person cannot speak English, you can try and tell them “Pouvez-vous m’aider s’il vous plaît (poo vay voo mayday sih voo play)” which is simply asking the person if he/she can help you. If you are lost, you can just tell the person “Je suis perdu (juh swee pair doo)”. Obviously, at this stage, the person might start giving you the directions, sometimes you may not understand. If you don’t, you may ask “Pouvez-vous le répéter s’il vous plaît (poo vay voo luh reh peh tay sih voo play)” which means “Can you repeat it, please?”. In case you are searching for the toilet you can ask “Où sont les bains/toilettes (oo ay lah sal duh ban/twah let)” meaning where is the toilet.

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4. Shopping/bargaining

Louis Vuitton, Champs-Elysées
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Gavin Gilmour used under CC BY-SA 2.0

When visiting somewhere new, everybody loves to shop. When shopping in France, you may need to learn a few words that will make your shopping experience much easier. When looking for something specific, you can always tell the retailer “S’il vous plaît, je cherche (see-voo-play, zheu share-sh)” which means “Please, I’m looking for”. If you find what you are looking for, you can ask “Ça coûte combien? (sa coot kom byan)” which means “How much does that cost?”. If you were not planning to buy the merchandise at that time, you can say “Non, merci, je regarde pour l’instant (noh, mair see, juh)” meaning “No thank you, I’m just looking for now”. If you buy the merchandise you can ask for the receipt by saying “Un reçu, s’il vous plaît (uhN ruh-sew, seel vooh pleh)”. Most of the retailers in France would love to know if you are satisfied or if you have any problem. You can reply by saying, “Ce n'est pas grave (suh neh pah grahv)” which means “no problem”

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5. Medical emergencies

Tour de France 2012 Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse 119
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Lionel Allorge used under CC BY-SA 3.0

There is nothing worse like getting into a medical emergency in a country where you do not understand the language. In case you may need help, you can start by saying something simple like “Au secours (oh suhcoor)” which just means “Help”. If somebody responds to your call for help, you can follow up by saying “Je ne me sens pas très bien (juh nuh muh son pah tray byan)” or “Je suis malade (juh swee ma lad)” which means “I don’t feel very well” and “I’m ill/sick” respectively. If you just feel like vomiting, you can say, “J’ai envie de vomir (jay onvee duh vomeer)” but if it is a serious case and you need immediate medical attention, you can say “Appelez la police (ap-leh lah po-lees)” which means “Call the police”.

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Discover France

During your visit to France, you will need to learn some few words to help you with your daily living. The above article helps you master some of the basic phrases in French that you may need during your stay. Enjoy.

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