Author Topic: Learning French . . . aka how to be etiquettely correct when in France  (Read 1803 times)

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jpcher

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DD#2 (18) will be traveling to France mid-March. She will be with a group, but there will be "free" times where she is on her own.

While discussing the trip with her she mentioned that she's most worried about the free times and not knowing the language.

Does anybody have any sites or advice for quickly learning certain phrases of the French language that are "must learns" for tourists?

* Etiquette phrases such as please, thank you, excuse me, I'm sorry/apologize . . . are a must-know in my book. (let me know if I'm forgetting something)

* I don't speak the French language, Do you speak English, I didn't understand that?

* Please help, I'm lost, can you direct me to . . . are other phrases that come to mind.

* How much does this cost?, Do you take Discover Card? . . . I'm reaching here. ;)

What are the important language phrases/terms that DD#2 needs to know?


Along the same lines, are there any particular Do's or Don'ts that a tourist should know when traveling in France?



Any help/thoughts/advice would be extremely appreciated! ;D




eta: Just thought of these . . . Good morning, Good afternoon, Have a great day! . . . general greetings, etc. ;D
« Last Edit: January 14, 2013, 05:25:57 PM by jpcher »

Carotte

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Re: Learning French . . . aka how to be etiquettely correct when in France
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2013, 06:01:05 PM »
Ok, the single most important thing is:

Always start greeting the person you are about to talk to, in French. A simple "Bonjour, excusez-moi .." ( Hello, excuse me ..) is enough.

Seems like some of my compatriots will not answer at all or notice you until you start with that. ( Yes, Parisians can be pretty cringe worthy if you don't 'do it right' - but past this simple step, and if the person has the time they will gratefully help you ).

The full phrase would be "bonjour, excusez moi, pouvez-vous m'aider? - parlez-vous anglais?"
                                   "Hello,     excuse me,   could you help me? - do you speak english?"
And of course ned with "merci" or "merci beaucoup" ( thank you/ thank you very much)

Key words or pieces of phrases can be enough to go by with, we won't fault a tourist that go with a mix of both language :) , but really the best thing would be to either invest in a phrase book or look up a specific web-site - there should be plenty of them, I think some will even have audio. Try youtube too.

ETA: the rest of etiquette is mostly the same as the US or the UK, use of common sense and observation of the 'locals' can be usefull.
Trying not to be 'that tourist' too - respect the fact that while (general) you is a tourist here, people around are working, living here, they might be busy, want to enjoy the quiet.
I guess they'll be in Paris? It can and will get crowded around touristic spots, and the metro is packed in the morning (I'd say from 7.30 to 9 ish) and afternoon (5ish to 7) depending on the ligne/stop. No need to fuss, best to keep it cool and read up on the ticket/fare system beforehand so as to not blockup the turnstiles.
« Last Edit: January 14, 2013, 06:10:28 PM by Carotte »

AuntieA

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Re: Learning French . . . aka how to be etiquettely correct when in France
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2013, 06:09:00 PM »
I agree with Carotte. Especially when shopping - pleasantly greet the shop owner/staff first. I also keep my hands to myself in shops (ie I don't poke at/handle) items unless I am seriously anticipating a purchase. BF & I have spent almost six weeks in Nice & environs on different occasions, and have gotten along very well.

Otherwise, we adhere to our normal behavior in public anywhere - let others go first, excuse ourselves, no loud voices, and no drama.
I dream of a world where chickens can cross the road without having their motives questioned.

BabylonSister

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Re: Learning French . . . aka how to be etiquettely correct when in France
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2013, 06:16:49 PM »
About.com has a very helpful section about France and the French language, and I think they still have a forum.  You can also find phrasebooks in bookstores.  Audio is important because French and English have very different phonetic systems and it's hard to guess how a word is pronounced based on its spelling (we love our silent final consonants.)


Carotte and AuntieA have very helpful suggestions.  Parisians are like most big city people.  They are naturally more aloof than small town people.  They can seem cold and rude, but it's just self-protection.  Most are glad to help a tourist if you are nice. 


Typically French people are a bit more guarded than Americans, even after you know them a little.  They don't hug too much and being on a first name basis is only for friends, family and (usually) co-workers.


If you have any question, I'll be glad to help via PM.  I have 31 years of experience with France and 12 in the US so I'm acquainted with cultural differences.

Carotte

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Re: Learning French . . . aka how to be etiquettely correct when in France
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2013, 06:19:51 PM »
Oh, another advice, but less etiquette, more day to day:
We sadly don't have much in term of drinkable water access outside so keeping a bottle of water is good, and filling it up whenever they can (inside museums for example, behind the public bathrooms ( they're free, the water is outside, on the other side of the entrance, and can be pretty easy to miss).)
Cheapest way to buy something to eat/drink is a supermarket.
Depending on their accommodation and lunch plans, if they have to figure it out themself, the cheapest way to go is buying ham/cheese/butter/whatever in a supermarket and baguettes (french bread) in a boulangerie (or even sliced bread in the supermarket) - good if multiple people are making sandwitches.

BabylonSister

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Re: Learning French . . . aka how to be etiquettely correct when in France
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2013, 06:26:37 PM »
Speaking of food:


A café serves coffee (always espresso), tea, juice and soft drinks.  No food except little snacks.
A café-bar serves the same plus alcohol.
A brasserie serves beer and other drinks and very simple food.
A salon de thé serves tea and other hot drinks and pastries.

JeanFromBNA

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Re: Learning French . . . aka how to be etiquettely correct when in France
« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2013, 07:45:59 PM »
Je voudrais - I would like
sil vous plait - If you please/please
Merci Beaucoup - Thank you very much
Bonjour - Hello
excusez moi - Excuse me
Pardonnez moi - Pardon me
Au revoir - Goodbye
Parlez vous anglais? - Do you speak English?

I found that most French people appreciated when I tried to speak French.  Fortunately for me, many were happy to converse in English when they got tired of suffering through my pidgin French.

redsfan

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Re: Learning French . . . aka how to be etiquettely correct when in France
« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2013, 10:33:03 PM »
If she has a smartphone, there are apps that quiz you on basic phrases.  I found as long as I attempted a little French, most people I met chose speaking in English over hearing me butcher their language. 

Venus193

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Re: Learning French . . . aka how to be etiquettely correct when in France
« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2013, 11:21:37 PM »
There are also phrase books that have all the standard things tourists and travelers need including how to ask for directions, how to ask the price of things, and how to interact with hotel staff, restaurant staff, etc. 

Slartibartfast

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Re: Learning French . . . aka how to be etiquettely correct when in France
« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2013, 11:28:07 PM »
If she sticks to cities, it's pretty safe to bet that almost everyone speaks at least some English - it's required in the schools there up to a certain level (unlike languages are here in America).  However, Carotte is right about at least trying to start out in French - if she goes in with an "Everyone should speak English!" attitude she'll get a lot of people who suddenly speak no English at all.  In my experience, if you butcher their language badly enough they're happy to switch to English instead  ;D

mbbored

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Re: Learning French . . . aka how to be etiquettely correct when in France
« Reply #10 on: January 14, 2013, 11:50:56 PM »
I'm headed to France in 2 months and this weekend I checked out two different sets of "French for travellers" cds. I've upload them to my iPod and have been listening to them when I'm cleaning, on the bus, etc. Those plus a basic phrase book are probably going to be more than enough.

Slartibartfast

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Re: Learning French . . . aka how to be etiquettely correct when in France
« Reply #11 on: January 15, 2013, 01:12:03 AM »
If she has a smart phone, though, I'm sure there are apps out there that are basically language dictionaries, too.  I know there are some where you can speak into the phone in one language and the phone reads out a machine-pronounced translation in another language.  It really can be frustrating when you need to communicate one specific word and there's just no easy substitute (e.g. batteries, or jacket, or police).  I ran into this trying to talk with some cute french boys when one of them asked what kind of dog I had at home - I couldn't remember the word for poodle (caniche) and all I could think of was duck (canard).  I ended up taking about five minutes to explain "like a sheep!" in French and mime a poofy puppy, but I don't know that they understood  ;)
« Last Edit: January 15, 2013, 01:15:42 AM by Slartibartfast »

sparksals

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Re: Learning French . . . aka how to be etiquettely correct when in France
« Reply #12 on: January 15, 2013, 01:19:56 AM »
Make sure she only uses WiFi on her phone otherwise the data will kill the next bill.  WiFi is not widespread in public places.

Many restaurants even in tourist areas don't serve food from.around 3 to 7..

When entering a shop or other public place, the greeting from the French is almost musical.  It.sounds like they are singing. 



DaisyG

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Re: Learning French . . . aka how to be etiquettely correct when in France
« Reply #13 on: January 15, 2013, 05:40:05 AM »
Others have mentioned this but always greeting shop assistants when you enter a shop (Bonjour Madame or Bonjour Monsieur) seemed to me to be a difference from UK etiquette. Then the shopkeeper will greet you in return when you enter even if they're not ready to serve you right away. This also goes for other public buildings. Otherwise I would just stick to general etiquette of trying not to get in other people's way especially in a busy area and being open to learn, to new experiences and to different worldviews.

cicero

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Re: Learning French . . . aka how to be etiquettely correct when in France
« Reply #14 on: January 15, 2013, 05:42:37 AM »
if she does speak to someone in french, she is supposed to use the "vous" pronoun and not "tu"
(I've never been to france but my french prof in university was very clear on that - claimed that wars have been known to start if someone is approached in the "tu" instead of "vous"!)

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