You'll be well on your way to speaking French if you learn just a few basic French words and phrases. Although you won't be fluent - if you're traveling, you'll find that many people appreciate the effort you make in expressing yourself and it can make getting around just a little bit easier.
Words for Tourists
These basic words might come in handy on your daily interaction with the French people you meet.
- Oui/Non (whee/no) - yes/no
- S'il vous plaît (see voo play) - Please
- Parlez-vous anglais? (parlay vooz ong-glay) - Do you speak English?
- Merci (mair-see) - Thank you
- Voici (vwah-see) - Here is
- Voilà (vwah-la)- There is
- De rien (du-rhee-en) - You're welcome
- Je ne comprends pas (zhe nhe comp-rehn pah) - I don't understand
- J'ai besoin d'aide (zhay buh-swahn ded) - I need help
- Excusez-moi (escoosay mwah) - Excuse me
- Je ne sais pas (zhe-nhe say paw) - I don't know
- Il y a (eel ee aw) - There is
In France, a greeting is simply being polite. Greet shop owners when you walk into their boutiques, and make sure to say something on your way out as well.
- Bonjour (bon zhoor) - Good morning
- Bonsoir ( bon swar) - Good night/evening
- Bon après-midi (bon ah-pray mee-dee) - Good afternoon
- Madame (mah-dahm) - Miss (or Mrs. preceeded by a last name)
- Monsieur (mihn-see-yuh) - Sir
- Comment allez-vous?(co-mo-tah-lay-voo) - How are you?
- Au revoir (o-rhe-vwa) - Goodbye
Note: Contrary to what you may have learned in your French textbook, Mademoiselle is no longer used regularly.
These are not things you would say to someone you don't know, however these familiar phrases are something you'd use with your buddies or peers.
- Salut (saw-loo) - Hi
- Ça va? (saw-vaw) - How's it going?
- Ça va bien (saw-vaw-bee-en) - I'm fine
Note: Salut and ça va are often used together as in, "Salut! Ça va?"
While traveling, you may find it very helpful to have a good command of basic question words and phrases.
- Combien? (comb-bee-en) - How much?
- Où? (oo) - Where?
- Quand? (kond) - When?
- Quelle/Quel/Quelles/Quels? (kell) - What?
- Pourquoi? (por-kwah) - Why?
- Comment? (co mo) - How?
On the Go
Pair these words with 'Je vais', and you can tell someone (like the taxicab driver), where you're trying to go.
- à droite (ah la dwaht) - to the right or on the right
- à gauche (ah go-sh) - to the left or on the left
- au marché (oh mar-shay) - the market
- au restaurant (oh rest-o-rahn) - to the restaurant
- à la plage (ah lah plaj) - to the beach
- à l'hôtel (ah low-tell) - to the hotel
- l'aéroport (l'air-o-por) - airport
- par avion (pahr ah-vee-ohn) - by plane
- aux toilettes (oh twa-lett) - bathroom
More Resources for Basic French
A great place to start for learning French is right here at LoveToKnow. The site features everything from resources for lessons to vocabulary lists. If you're looking to purchase materials or looking for video, here are a few other resources:
- The Everything Learning French Book offers a little more than just the basics but its clear and concise explanations on how to put sentences and phrases together makes this book a 'must have' if you're trying to pick up some basic words.
- If you're looking to travel with a dictionary, LaRousse is one of the best you can buy. It's not expensive and while LaRousse publishes the full out thick dictionary, it also publishes smaller travel versions as well.
- ieLanguages offers basic tutorials, geared towards peple who are traveling in France.
Enjoy Your Time in France
Make the most of your time in France by practicing as much as you can. Not only do the French consider it polite, but you'll be utilizing the best method for learning a foreign language.