Essential French 3

French directional words and phrases…

In Essential French 2 we added “Where …” questions – if you’re looking for the bathroom, a pharmacy, public transport, a bank/ATM, or a “boulangerie”, etc.
Asking such questions in French – especially if you’ve practiced your pronunciation a bit – may let your conversation partner assume that you understand French quite well.
The result will be an answer and a stream of words that’ll fly right by you.
So asking the person to speak more slowly could be your first reply in such a case: “Pourriez-vous parler plus lentement, s’il vous plaît!”
And it would be good to also know some basic directional words and phrases in French – left, right, straight ahead – as the typical answers may well include them. 

Why These Phrases?

In Essential French 1 and 2, we listed greetings and typical “where is…?” questions. Even if you’ve never studied French before, it’ll be useful to learn and practice saying them.
In Essential French 3, there are only two sentences you may want to practice saying: “Could you please speak more slowly?” and “Many thanks for your help.” 
The other 11 phrases and sentences will be useful to understand as you receive answers to your “where is…?” question. You still may want to record yourself saying them, so you can confirm, what you thought you understood – and – you’ll also remember them better that way.

The Next 13 Phrases

Food, Drinks, Restaurants

Finding a recommended restaurant, Café, or bar has been made much easier with GPS-equipped smart phones and mobile devices.
And finding a good restaurant in a French-speaking country has to be part of your travel adventure.
Once you have arrived at the place, you may have to ask for a table and the Menu, place an order and then ask for and pay the check.
Knowing a few key phrases in French will make all this much easier.
You’ll find them among the next 14 Phrases in Essential French 4. 
(Check back with us in a few weeks!)
If you are used to the 15-20% tips, generally expected in US restaurants, you’ll be pleasantly surprised: In France, as in nearly all West-European countries, tips are included in your check. 
But for good service 5-10% tips are always welcome.
In the French-speaking parts of Canada, e.g. Québec, tipping of 10-15% is expected, as tips are typically not included in the check.

Essential French 2

Asking “Where is…? questions in French…

Learning the first 11 French words was quite easy, right? Did you record yourself and work on your pronunciation?
And did you notice that very important French phrase?
“S’il vous plaît”, for “please” – literally: “if it pleases you”. You’d use it, if you’re not on familiar (“tu”) terms with your conversation partner. (If you are, you would use “s’il te plaît”. )
And now -as you’ve already learned and practiced Essential French 1, you’re ready to tackle 12 more essentials.
These are words and phrases that’ll help you ask “Where …” questions – if you’re looking for the bathroom, a pharmacy, a bus stop, or the subway or railway station, a bank or an ATM.

The Next 12 Phrases: Where is…?

Asking “Where…?” Questions in French

You’ll have noticed that you can use both “Où se trouve… ?” and “Où est… ?” to ask “Where is..?”. The first is slightly more elegant, but that’s it.
Note that in French, it’s polite to always use the plural form (literally) “Where are the toilets?”
And, a little grammar note: to make a question out of “je peux” (I can), you say “puis-je ?” (“Peux-je ?” is not used, which is good because it’s harder to say.) So, “Where can I find…?” is “Où puis-je trouver… ?”

“Where…?”-Questions Answered…

Asking “Where”- questions in French may let the person you are asking assume that you speak French.
The result will often be an answer and a stream of words you’ll probably not understand.
It would therefore be good to know some basic directional words and phrases in French – left, right, straight ahead, etc. and a way to say: “Please speak more slowly.”
You’ll find these and other directional words and phrases on Essential French 3.

Getting Around in Paris

The public transport system in Paris is quite extensive. In 2019 a Métro ticket cost Euro 1.90. You can use it not only on the Métro, but also on the RER lines and on buses.
Like in many other large cities, you can also purchase multi-day tickets for tourists which allow you to visit various sights as well, and avoid long lines. You can just buy a carnet of ten tickets as well. The ticket machines take some time to get used to.
A good site for learning about the options and to figure out what works best for you is Paris for Visitors.

Essential French 1

French polite phrases & greetings…

Travelers visiting French-speaking countries can learn and practice 50-100 essential French words and phrases here. We’ve posted the first 11 below. Listen. Record yourself. Play back and compare.
Over the next few weeks we’ll add more essential words and phrases.
For those who’d like to learn more, we’ll recommend other useful resources. (under development)

Learn and Practice Tips

  • Click the black arrow to hear the French speaker.
  • Click the red dot once to record yourself, click the black square to stop recording.
  • When you click the black arrow again, you’ll hear the native speaker and then yourself.
  • Do it several times until you sound like the French speaker.

Good Things to Know

French is a Romance language (like Spanish, Portuguese, and Romanian) and is the official language of France.
In Europe, French is also an official language of Belgium, Switzerland, Monaco, Luxembourg, and of the Aosta Valley in Italy.
French is the fourth most widely spoken mother tongue in the European Union.
Because of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, the vocabulary of English was influenced by French.
They share in fact many true cognates, but also plenty of “false” ones (i.e. words that look the same but have a different meaning).
So watch out for those. For example, “cent” (refers to a unit of money in English) and “cent” (means “hundred” in French).

Pronunciation Tips

Mastering the sound of French can be a bit of a challenge for English speakers.
A good start is to practice with words you’ll use frequently, like the essential phrases below.
In French, vowels followed by an -m or -n are nasal. You make their sound by releasing air through your nose. Examples are: “non”, “de rien”, “pardon”, “bonjour”, “bonsoir”. (You’ll notice that the letters -m and -n are not pronounced.)
French “r” has no equivalent in English. It is pronounced in your throat and has a slightly scraping sound. You’ll find it in the words “merci”, “pardon”, “de rien”, and “au revoir”.
Note that French “l” is a “clear l”, produced by touching your tongue to your front teeth. Try it with “s’il vous plaît”.
Finally for here: French “-ui”, as in “oui” and “nuit”. Start with the French “u” sound (by saying “ee” and rounding your mouth) and end up saying “u-ee”.

Why learn these Phrases?

Whenever you travel to a country where you don’t speak the language, you’ll encounter situations when these words will be useful. 
Let’s say you’ve ordered your first meal in a restaurant in France and as the waiter serves you, you say “Merci”.
Even if the waiter knows that you don’t speak French, your effort may make him smile.
And beyond “Please” and “Thank you”, basic greetings really are the staple of first words you should know in any country you visit.
And we’ll end with asking whether your conversation partner speaks any of the languages you (may) speak.

The First 11 French Phrases

Walking in the country side…

While there’ll be many opportunities to use basic greetings in French cities, knowing them when you’re outside of a city is even more important.
You’ll certainly notice, that in small towns or in the country side people greet each other.
Being a visitor in a French-speaking country will make you much more welcome, when you make the effort to greet people in French.

The Next 12 French Phrases: Where is…?

In the next installment – Essential French 2- you’ll learn to ask where the bathroom, train and metro station, bank, pharmacy etc. are located.
You’ll certainly have many opportunities to try our “Where…?” questions. Even your smartphone won’t know where the bathroom or the elevator is !