So that’s it, after dreaming about it for years, you are now on your way to France, One problem though, you don’t know anything about French language and you fear that French people might not speak English very well. Good news, you are in the right place. After reading this article you will know the most basic French vocabulary and be able to interact with French people. Trust me, they will be very happy to hear you speak their language, even if only a few words.
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart” Nelson Mandela
First of, even if your plan isn’t to learn French, greetings are still something essential that you should learn. A simple “Bonjour” can go a long way and totally change the way people interact with you. People always love it when they see someone try to speak their language, it shows that you care about the culture of the country you are in and will make people happy .
How to greet people in French
, The first thing you will do when you meet people will be to greet them. It’s quite easy to do in French. There are basically three main options depending on whether it’s day time or night time, and whether you arrive or you leave.
Bonjour : Hello [bõʒuːʁ]
Bonjour, which means hello is used during the day time, It literally means “good day”.
Bonsoir : good evening [bõswɑːʁ]
If it’s already late, bonsoir is the perfect option. It’s used exactly like good evening in English and can be used with everyone like bonjour. You can also use it to say good bye in the evening or at night.
Salut : hi
Salut is a less formal greeting, it means both hi, and bye. Keep it for your friends, or people you already know. Unlike hi which can sometimes be used with strangers, salut is rarely used that way (in France at least). You can use salut at any time of the day and even at night.
Au revoir ; good bye
Au revoir is a formal way to say good bye. It can be used anytime with everyone. Easy, right? .
How to be polite in French
Many foreigners in France either speak English or don’t say anything because they are too affraid to speak French. Such a shame considering how easy it is to pronounce the basic polite words in French. And don’t worry, even if your pronounciation isn’t perfect, people will still understand you and appreciate your effort .
Excusez-moi ; excuse me
You can use excusez-moi before asking of person or if you bump on someone for example.
Merci : thank you [mɛʁsi]
It’s simple, merci is used all the time to say thank you or thanks, in formal or non formal environements.
S’il-vous-plaît : please
Don’t let the appearence of this word scare you, it’s actually not that hard to pronounce. S’il-vous-plaît literally if you like is the formal way to say please. It’s perfect to use in a restaurant or in a shop when you want to order something.
S’il-te-plaît ; please
S’il-te-plaît is the non formal way to say please. It can be used with children and people you know well.
Je ne comprends pas : I don’t understand
If you don’t understand what people tell you, you can simply say “je ne comprends pas”, I don’t understand.
If you know these basic words, you already know more than most foreigners visiting French speaking country, congratualation .
A few questions you may want to ask in French
Parlez-vous anglais ? : Do you speak English?
Although most French people can speak at least a little English, some will be reluctant to give up their beloved French language, asking them “parlez-vous anglais ?” is a nice way to show you really can’t speak French although you are willing to learn.
Où sont les toilettes ? Where are the toilets?
Où est la tour Eiffel ? Where is the Eiffel tower?
If you want to ask about another place, all you need to do is replace tour Eiffel by the name of that place. Depending on the gender of the place (male, female), “le” could be used instead of “la”. If you are a beginner in French, you might wonder which one to use, and to know that the only solution is to learn the gender of each word. But don’t worry, even if you mistake, people will understand and that’s the most important, right?
Want to keep learning French? Discover how to introduce yourself in French!
Any question? Ask here!
Photo from Moyan Brenn
Audio from Arka Voltchek