French is one of the romantic languages of the world; however, there is nothing romantic about looking like an idiot in a foreign country. It helps in traveling if you know a little bit of the language of the country you’re visiting.
I went to Paris, France as part of my honeymoon. Unfortunately I knew very little French… I mean VERY little. It was a mess trying to get around at times. I was relying on signs, trying to listen to what others said in certain situations, pointing at things I wanted, whatever I could do to get a handle on the language. I was in Paris for five days and within that time I learned a lot of phrases, but next time I go I want to be ready to speak the language a little better than I did the first time. It’s a terrible feeling to go to another country and not be able to communicate with anyone, and I HATE feeling lost, in any way.
As a result of that experience I thought it would be helpful to compile some words and phrases that would be beneficial to you the next time you go to France. Some of these are phrases you’ll need to say, other phrases are ones that may be said to you. These will all follow the French = English format.
Bonjour = hello
Au revoir = goodbye
Merci = thank you
Je m’apelle… = my name is…
Oui = Yes
Vouz avez…? =Do you have…?
Une chambre = A room
La sale de bains = The bathroom
De… à… = From… to…
Votre nom? =Your name?
Qu’est-ce que c’est = What is it?
Je prends… = I’ll take… / I’ll have…
L’addition, s’il vous plait = the bill, please
Il y a…? = Is there…? / Are there…?
Près d’ici = near here
C’est combien? = How much is it?
Ça fait… = That… (costs)
Excusez-moi = Excuse me
C’est où? = Where is it?
Un billet = a ticket
I know just seeing these phrases may not do very much for you. You also need to hear what these words sound like. On the BBC Languages page, they have an interactive application that allows you to hear these phrases in French, so you’ll be able to practice speaking them correctly. I just chose some of the ones that I thought would be beneficial for you here so you see them, but there are plenty more.
If you need some more references for learning French on the fly, here are the websites I recommend:
About.com’s French for Travelers – http://french.about.com/library/begin/bl_travel.htm
Fodor’s French for Travelers – http://www.fodors.com/language/
LoveToKnow.com’s French Phrases for Travelers – http://travel.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Travel_France_-_French_Phrases_for_Travelers
LiveMocha.com’s French for Travelers – http://www.livemocha.com/language-phrases/french-for-travelers
Also, there’s http://french.typeit.org/ to help you type those accents and characters that make French so special.
If you’re traveling to France soon have a great time! If in doubt about what someone is saying… just be sure not to say something that may get you put in jail or exported out of the country.
BBC – Languages – French – Quick Fix – French Essential Phrases