Fact: a little bit of an effort to speak the local language will go a long way in a foreign country. I mean, that makes total sense, right? To give you some perspective, imagine you’re in your hometown and a stranger comes up to you and starts speaking a language you only kind of understand. You’d be like “yo, I took Mandarin in high school, but I don’t understand this specific dialect… English? Maybe?”
I’ve heard stories of Americans going abroad and just assuming everyone speaks English, but you know what they say about people who assume, right? Don’t make an ass of yourself, learn the bare minimum of a new language to at least skate by without annoying everyone you meet! The effort goes a long way, especially in France. Hence why this post you’re reading has come to fruition: it’s not just me blabbing, it’s actually useful (I even included links to youtube pronunciation videos)!
French Phrases You Should Know In Paris:
- “Bonjour/Bonsoir“- GREET. EVERYONE. OR YOU’RE BEING RUDE. Okay, greet everyone you encounter in businesses (the hotel concierge, taxi/uber drivers, the coffee shop barista, the boutique employee, the checkout guy at the grocery store, etc). Don’t greet strangers on the street or you’re being a creepy American weirdo (the beautiful French person doesn’t give a shit if you like her scarf). Bonjour means “good day,” so when evening rolls along, be sure to change your greeting to bonsoir (apparently 6 p.m. is a safe time to make the switch).
- “S’il Vous Plait/Merci“- Please and thank you. Because manners are important, duh.
- “Pardon“- Manners, remember? If you’re thinking “excuse moi” is the acceptable version of “excuse me,” well you’re wrong.. It’s not your fault, “excuse moi” just translates closer to “sorry” than “pardon me”.
- “Apres vous“- We’ve all done that awkward hold-the-door tango, right? Gesturing and saying “after you” in French will get you into the building much faster.
- “L’addition, s’il vous plait“- This is probably the most useful thing you’ll learn to say en Francais because once you’ve been given your food at a restaurant, your waiter will probably leave you alone until you’re ready to pay. When you do grab his or her attention, asking for the bill in French is sure to get you a smile of appreciation.
- “D’accord“- Okay! Look at you being all agreeable!
- “Au revoir“- Much like greeting, it’s important to say your goodbyes as well. Too bad I can’t say “au revoir” without wanting to yell “SHOSHANNNAAAAA” after… you know, because of Inglorious Basterds? Oh, just me then…
- “Parlez vous Anglais?“- Sometimes the answer is “no,” so it’s much more polite to ask people if they speak English than to assume that they do.
I was going to include “puis-je épater votre chien?” but the answer to “may I pet your dog” is always “non” anyway ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Yes I took French in high school, but that doesn’t mean I don’t butcher this beautiful language when it comes out of my mouth. I’d say that in Paris it’s okay if your pronunciation isn’t perfection, and that a little effort goes a long way. Even my husband (who has never spoken a lick of French and actually kept accidentally saying “hola” the first time we were in Paris) had these few phrases on lock down and used them everyday!
It’s also a good idea to have the Google Translate App downloaded and ready to use. You know, just in case the one person who doesn’t speak English at all happens to be the pharmacist you’re trying to buy laxatives from. That’s not something you want to mime out. Trust me.