Monday, July 22, 2013

Survival French

So, you're going to France, but you don't speak French.  I found myself in that situation a few weeks ago, and I am willing to pass along my hard-earned wisdom.

Don't assume most people will speak English.  It just isn't so.  And it's my opinion that when one visits foreign soil, it's really on their shoulders to learn a few phrases in order to communicate, not the other way around!

With that in are some phrases that will really come in handy.

Bonjour  (bahn-zhoohr)  Hello
It's very important to greet people in shops and restaurants.  It's a non-American thing.  We are used to walking into places and minding our own business, but it's not done that way in France.  If you don't greet appear very rude.  Don't add fuel to the "Rude American" perception.  Say it to the shopkeeper upon entering a store.

Je ne parle pah français  (zhuh nuh pahr-luh pah frahn-say)  I don't speak French.
I started off with this phrase countless times.  It was almost always used immediately following Bonjour.  I just wanted people to know what they were dealing with, and I think they appreciated it.

Parle-vous anglais?  (pahr-luh voo ahn-glay) Do you speak English?
This was the next phrase after the above two, and was almost always met with...No.

L'addition, s'il vous plait.  (lah dee see ohn, seel voo play)  The check, please.
If you ever want to leave a restaurant in France, you'll need this.  You'll be dining out constantly at fabulous restaurants and enjoying 3 hour meals of three or four courses.  But the server is not going to bring you the check until you ask for it, people, because that's just how it's done in France.  In America, the bill is on your table 30 minutes into the meal before you've even had a chance to warm the seat with your body heat.  "Turn the table" is our motto.  Not so in France!

Oui (wee) Yes

Non (nohn) No  The last "n" sound is just a nasally hint of sound.  I'm not sure how to put that phonetically.

Merci (mehr-see) Thank you

There's probably a lot more I could share, but I relied on these phrases quite a bit.  I fell in love with the French language during my week there.  By the end of my visit, I felt like I was finally grasping the sounds and cadence.  In fact, I was so fascinated by French that I have hired a tutor that comes weekly to give Ava and me a French language lesson.  We are having so much fun tackling this language together.  Having someone to practice with is helpful, and it's a fun mother-daughter activity.  We can say "I have (OR I see) (insert number 1-10) (insert noun like horses, sandals, cats) (insert color)."  Oh yes, we are pros at building a sentence using that structure.  We know several verbs and how to use them with different pronouns.  We are well on our way to fluency.

By the time I take my next vacation to France, I'll be way beyond survival French, and verbally pointing out cats and sandals by the dozen.

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