French Words and Phrases: Understanding the Basics

french words and phrasesFrance is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and is renowned for many things, such as the iconic Eiffel tower. It is a popular holiday spot for millions of people each year and often becomes a talking point the rest of their lives due to its amazing sights, food and people. Paris, the capital of France, is known as the “city of romance” for good reason. With its elegant walkways, parks, art galleries, the river Seine and breathtaking lighting at night time it is no wonder that many classic romantic movies have been shot there. French words and phrases will certainly help you feel more comfortable in France and any French-speaking location. You can get a head start by taking this Udemy course, Learn to Speak: Conversational French.

Why learn French?

Despite French starting to lose its popularity to Spanish as the essential second language, French is one of the easiest languages to learn for native English speakers. This is mostly because English itself came about from a mish-mash of French, German and the languages of many of England’s other invaders over the centuries. As a result, there are thousands of English words that are derived from French.

French is the official language of 33 countries and together with English, the only two languages spoken on every continent. The most well known French speaking countries in addition to France are Belgium and Canada. It is an essential language if you are looking to travel in the Far East or Africa as France colonized many countries in these regions during the 19th and 20th centuries, and its roots are still very strong there.

Basic Phrases

This is not going to be a complete guide to French, but enough for you to survive when you go to a French speaking country for a holiday or on business. The French are notorious for pretending to not speak or understand English, but you will find if you make the effort to communicate in French at first and then simply run out of words they become much more sympathetic.

The most essential phrases you should really learn before visiting a French speaking country are as follows:

  • Bonjour : Hello
  • Au revoir : Goodbye
  • Merci : Thank you
  • S’il vous plait : Please
  • Oui, non : Yes, no
  • Ça va ? : How are you?
  • Parlez vous anglais? : Do you speak English?

If you can use these simple phrases you will be able to at least be able to show that you have made some effort in familiarizing yourself with a little French and people will appreciate that you are being both polite and making an effort.

 French Food and Drink

French “cuisine”, a prime example of a French word used in everyday English meaning the kitchen or cooking, is world renowned and rightly so. The French take great pride in their food and eating is something they take a great deal of time doing so as to enjoy the wonderful ingredients and careful preparation that goes into creating a typical French meal. While they do have fast food, it is nowhere near as prevalent as in other countries as the French people like to sit with friends and enjoy a glass of world famous French wine or “vin”.

When eating in a restaurant or café here are some important phrases to understand:

  • Le menu In France this refers to a fixed price usually 2 course meal
  • La carte This is actually what we call a menu
  • La carte des vins The wine list
  • L’addition To get the check or bill
  • Servis compris This mean service or tip is included in the bill commonly 15-20%

If you want to increase your French speaking vocabulary to be able to use basic restaurant speech then there a few basics that will help you:

  • Je voudrez Means “I would like” then you can use what is written on the menu
  • Bon appétit Enjoy your meal
  • A la vôtre! Cheers!
  • Combien coûte… ? How much does……. Cost?

Typical French Food

There are some very famous French dishes that you should certainly try while you are there such as:

  • Boeuf bourguignon This is a thick beef stew from the region of Burgundy
  • Bouillabaisse A delicious fish stew with a clear sauce from Provence
  • Coq au Vin Quintessentially French dish of chicken cooked in red wine
  • Chocroute Meat and sauerkraut from the region of Alsace close to Germany
  • Soupe à l’oignon Onion soup, a typical starter on many on the fixed price “menu”
  • Tarte tatin A very traditional upside down apple pie

The French are not only famous for their stunning cuisine but also for eating items that may not seem that appetizing, but are regarded by many across the globe as delicious delicacies. You could easily come across them on even the most reasonable priced menu, so it is best to know what you are getting into before you order it. These are:

  • Cagouille or escargot This is snails usually served in a garlic butter sauce and breadcrumbs
  • Cuisse de grenouille Frogs legs also as with many French dishes usually cooked in garlic
  • Boudin Sausage usually made from pig or cows blood
  • Viande de cheval Horsemeat commonly used in many French dishes
  • Andouillette Sausage made from chitterling

While, in France, you will find that the French tend to take their time with everything as the pace of life is, in general, much slower that you will find in many other major cities. There are often longer pauses between courses and it is very common to have several courses during a meal. At the end of the meal, it is very common for people to indulge in a selection of cheese or “fromage” to round off the meal either as a substitute for or in addition to dessert.

Learning French can open up a world of possibilities for you. Other courses you should check out are, Beginner French Part I: Au Café and Beginner French Part II: Le Voyage. Of course, you should also read this Udemy article on the topic,  Learn a Language in Ten Days: Become Conversational in Any Language You Want, Yes, You!