It’s so exciting getting off the plane and stepping onto French soil for the first time. You’re thinking sightseeing, shopping, great food and channeling your inner Parisian, right? But…wait… the only thing you know how to say in French is that line from the 1974 hit by Labelle (also Lady Marmalade and Aguilera/Lil’Kim/Mya/Pink) depending on your generation/music taste. How are you going to get by without giving people the wrong impression?
Well, because we should never assume everyone speaks English, here are some essential French phrases to help you out.
Please – S’il vous plait
Thank you – Merci beaucoup
Oops/Sorry! (you’ve just stepped on someone’s foot) – Pardon!
Huh? What? (I didn’t hear/understand you) – Comment ?
Ok – D’accord
Bye! – Au revoir!
Have a nice evening, bye – Bonne soirée
Pleased to meet you! – Enchanté
Do you speak English? – Parlez-vous anglais?
I don’t understand – Je ne comprends pas
Can I have… – Est-ce que je peux avoir…
The cheque – L’addition
How much? – Combien?
Just like a local:
What’s new ? – Quoi de neuf?
Are you on form?/Are you feeling good? – La pêche ? / la patate ?/ la banane ? (Literally, “Peach? / Potato? / Banana ?” Fruit and vegetables equal happiness in France, apparently)
Let’s go! – On y va !
Cheers! – Santé !
Leave me alone – Laissez-moi tranquille
No problem! – De rien! (it’s nothing) Pas de soucis! (no worries)
Spoken French often leaves out the ne in the “ne + verb pas” construction. So you’ll hear “Je sais pas” which means I don’t know. Grammatically, it should be “Je ne sais pas” but, hey, we’re all a bit lazy when we speak.
Whether you pick up the French language in a day, or if you’re still struggling after a week, it really is the effort that is the most important thing. Just show that you’re trying, and most French people will reward you with a smile and “No problème, I spik Eengleesh”
And if you need a bit of encouragement, why not go on a private tour with us where you can find out all about the city, its people, and learn some facts to impress the locals!