French people can sometimes be mistaken as rude, but more often than not there are subtle codes of conversation underpinning the language which, if you do not know, may prevent you from having successful interactions. But do not fear, we have compiled a list of useful phrases to make your time in France a little easier!
On my year abroad I have found that the French more frequently give out greetings and expressions of gratitude and apology. For example, in France it is custom to say bonjour/au revoir when entering and leaving a small shop, something we rarely do in the UK.
Simply fitting these phrases into your daily dialogue can get you better responses:
Bonjour/Salut – Hello
Bonsoir – Good evening
Excusez-moi – Excuse me (it is polite to say this before asking a question)
Je voudrais – I would like
Pardon/désolé – Sorry
Merci beaucoup – Thanks a lot
Comment ça va? – How’s it going?
Oui/Non – Yes/no
Au revoir/À bientôt – Goodbye/See you soon
It is likely that on your travels in France you will need a few of the following phrases to enquire about things like prices and locations:
Où est… ? – Where is
Je cherche… – I’m looking for
Je voudrais acheter…- I would like to buy
C’est combien? – How much is it ?
L’addition s’il vous plaît – The bill please
Où sont les toilettes, s’il vous plaît? – Where are the toilets please ?
If you want to sound really French:
Ça roule – Life is going well (in response to ça va)
Laisse tomber – Drop it (literal meaning) but figuratively means let it go
Enchanté – Pleased to meet you (accompany this with a kiss on each cheek, what the French call faire la bise, if you really want to blend in)
If you are still really struggling:
Pourriez-vous parler un peu plus lentement, s’il vous plaît ? – Could you speak a little slower please?
Nous sommes perdus – We’re lost
Pardon, je ne parle pas français – Sorry, I don’t speak French
Parlez-vous anglais ? – Do you speak English?
All in all, your stay in France could be more a time of calm than a time of qualm if you manage to master these simple phrases. What is more, the locals will be grateful that you are making the effort to speak their language and are more likely to help you. Everyone’s a winner!
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