No matter if you’re visiting Paris for art and culture or heading off to Bretagne for its fresh sea air, knowing a few essential French phrases ahead of time can make a tremendous difference in your trip experience.
From greeting someone to asking for directions, here are some of the most useful French travel phrases.
Bonjour is one of the key words to know in French, serving as an appropriate greeting in virtually any setting imaginable – from casual conversations over coffee with new acquaintances to meeting people you may encounter at local bakeries and more! Saying bonjour will help introduce yourself and introduce others as part of a greeting exchange or social encounter.
Other French greetings include the more informal ca va and more formal comment allez-vous? (comment tu vas?). Both can be used to inquire as to someone’s wellbeing; however, remember they should only be used in informal settings. When someone greets you with la bise (a cheek kiss which can range from one to three kisses depending on the situation), do not follow this up with a hug!
Bonjour is the traditional French way of bidding farewell and should often be followed with parting salutations like see you later or bonne nuit. Another suitable way of departing would be saying bonne journee, which is similar to bonjour but more formal, and should be reserved for professional settings or those being introduced for the first time.
If you’re speaking French for the first time, they will likely ask some basic questions about you, including your name. To introduce yourself in French, say Bonjour, je m’appelle followed by your name (Je suis_). This approach works equally well in formal as well as casual situations. Alternatively, use phrases such as et toi? or et vous? but these should only be used when dealing with people you don’t already know well.
Other common questions include where and what you do for work (Where do you live?) as well as whether or not you speak any other languages and what hobbies are important to you. It is also appropriate to add a nickname such as Caro or Flo if they are younger.
If asked to introduce someone else as well, use “Me, C’est_”. This phrase is most frequently heard when speaking with colleagues or friends of colleagues; however it can also be used with strangers if the situation allows it.
3. Asking for directions
At any travel destination, knowing how to ask for directions is crucial. In this lesson, we will introduce basic French directional words and phrases.
To ask for directions in French, begin with “ou est…” This phrase is quick and easy to say and the easiest way to get directions. Other directions words that might come in handy for making inquiries include “en face de” (in front of) and “est-ce que” (is nearby/can I find it).
When asking strangers on the street for directions, it’s always polite to begin your question with “s’il vous plait (please)”, this will make them more willing to assist you. Also pay close attention to pronunciation and spelling; when using direction phrases like tout droit (to the right) the word droit should always be pronounced /dRwa/ and not le/la as this could lead to confusion with le/la (the). Along with our directions vocabulary we will introduce transition words such as puis (then) and enfin (finally), providing you with everything needed for exploration!
4. Getting around
France, home of world-renowned art, cinema and cuisine is an incredible country with much to see and do. Even if French isn’t your forte, learning at least some basic French will help you navigate its many streets, interact with locals and immerse yourself into its rich culture.
Traveling across France quickly and conveniently by train (TGV) is often the quickest and easiest option, providing quick connections between cities and towns – however ticket costs may add up quickly for longer distance travel.
Renting a car can be another excellent way of traveling around France. Rental rates will usually increase during peak seasons, giving you freedom to visit smaller villages and towns on your own schedule.
Another excellent option is BlaBlaCar bus service, an economical and hassle-free alternative to trains and cars. Many cities and towns feature coach stations where local or inter-regional buses can be found.