Common French Phrases

Even if you don’t even know how to say hello in other languages, these most common French phrases will at least get you through the door of your favorite French restaurant.

 

Learning French (especially as a native English speaker) is a little daunting. Unlike Germanic languages, French draws from Latin, the same as most romantic languages. Luckily, you don’t need to learn every word and phrase before heading to a French-speaking nation. 

 

Common French Greetings

Some of the most common French phrases are greetings. Greetings are commonly the most-used phrases when traveling in France. Most travelers claim that after greeting someone, they often default back to their native languages (as long as the French speaker knows said language). 

 

If your native language is English and you are heading to a major city where French is widely spoken, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to bypass French altogether — as long as you approach the French speaker with French greetings. 

 

Hello In French

Some common greetings include:

Good day: Bonjour

Hi: Salut

Hey there: Coucou

Hello: Allô

 

Depending on how well you know the person, you could shake hands or offer a kiss on each of his cheeks.

 

French Pleasantries

Pleasantries in French-speaking countries are much more important than in countries where Germanic languages are spoken. You need to acknowledge the other person in a positive manner — no matter your relationship.

 

One example of when Americans get this wrong is when entering a business. In the states, we always assume ‘the customer is always right’ and ‘it’s the salesperson’s job to greet me.’ 

 

In many French-speaking countries, it’s polite not only to say hello to a salesperson when you enter a business — but you should also ask, “How are you?” as well. Entering a store and shopping without acknowledging the proprietor is considered extremely rude.

 

Hello, how are you?: Bonjour, comment allez-vous?

 

How is your mother?: Comment va ta mère?

 

Thank you very much: Merci beaucoup

 

You’re welcome: Je vous en prie

 

In addition to asking how someone is doing, you might even ask how that person’s family is that day, too. 

 

Most Common French Phrases for Traveling

One of our best tips for learning a new language? Go with the most common phrases first. When it comes to traveling, you’ll also want to have a few words in your arsenal to get you from place to place — and know what to say at a hotel or Airbnb. These most common French phrases for traveling will help get you in, around and back out of any French-speaking country.

 

Transportation

Getting around a French-speaking country is harder when you don’t have the right vocabulary to get you where you want to go. You’ll want to memorize these most common French phrases and French words if you’re planning on traveling without an interpreter.

 

Train: Train

Plane: Avion

Airport: Aéroport

Car: Voiture

Van: Camionette

Bus: Autobus

Boat: Bateau

Ferry: Ferry

Taxi: Taxi (easy one, right?)

Gas station: Station-essence

Train station: Gare

Subway: Métro

 

Lodging

These days, most hotels hire English-speaking staff. English has become the universal language of travel, so you can probably check in to your hotel without any problems. 

 

But if you’re staying in a homestay or an Airbnb, you’ll want to make note of a few of these vocab words — or download a translator app that can easily translate text to speech, such as the Vocre app, available on Google Play for Android or the Apple Store for iOS. 

French Lodging Phrases

Hello, I have a reservation: Bonjour, j’ai un réservation.

 

I’d like a no-smoking room: Je voudrais une chambre non-fumeur.

 

What time is check-out?: A quelle heure dois-je libérer la chambre?

 

French Lodging Vocabulary

Suitcase: Valise

Bed: Lit, couche, bâti

Toilet paper: Papier toilette

Shower: Douche

Hot water: D’eau chaude

 

Eating at a Restaurant

Luckily, most waitstaff in large, French-speaking cities understand English. But again, it’s considered good manners to try to speak french to your waiter before throwing in the towel and defaulting to English.

 

Table for one, please: Bonjour, une table pour une, s’il vous plaît.

I need a menu please: La carte, s’il vous plaît?

Water, please: Une carafe d’eau, s’il vous plaît?

Restroom: Toilettes or WC

 

French Figures of Speech

Just like with every language, French has its own figures of speech. It can be extremely confusing (and somewhat comical) to try to figure out what people are saying!

 

We have eyes bigger than our stomaches: Nous avions les yeux plus gros que le ventre.

 

The ticket cost me an arm: ce billet m’a coûté un bras.

(In English, we say ‘an arm and a leg,’ but it’s just an arm in French!)

 

To get broken up with (or dumped): Se faire larguer.

 

Formal Vs. Informal French Phrases

In French, it’s common to use slightly different words and phrases when you’re speaking to a stranger than you would when speaking to your best friend. 

 

The word for ‘you’ in French is ‘tu’ if you’re speaking to someone you know. If you’re speaking to someone you want to show respect to or a stranger, you would use the formal word for ‘you,’ which is ‘vous.’

 

Heading to France last minute? Check out our list of the best travel apps for last-minute travel! Headed to other destinations? Find out how to say common Chinese phrases or common Spanish phrases.

 

Is Google Translate Accurate?

These days, you don’t need to learn an entirely new language before boarding a plane to a foreign country. Just download a free or paid app and you can communicate with the locals. But are apps like Google Translate accurate? When it comes to accuracy, the top free app isn’t always going to rank in the top 10.

Using Translation Apps and Software

Translation apps and software all come with one major flaw: they aren’t human. Until a translation app can learn to speak exactly as we do (with all of our human flaws and nuances), we’ll need to be patient with technology.

Take Free Apps With a Grain of Salt

Yes, free is free. It’s not bad, but it’s not going to be the creme de la creme either. If you need an app that offers voice recognition and nuance, you might want to pay a few dollars a month for one that gets you a little further than a free one.

Check Your Own Grammar and Spelling

Unless you’re using a paid app, you’ll want to make sure you check your own grammar and spelling, especially for homonyms (words that sound the same but are spelled differently). You’re also going to want to get creative with homophones. If you type “and ear of corn,” you might not get the direct translation for your sentence.

Be Patient With Voice Recognition

If you’re planning on using translation apps with voice recognition, be patient (especially with free ones). Using a free voice recognition translation app can feel a lot like trying to get someone from customer service on the phone at the DMV.

Is Google Translate Accurate for Direct Translations?

When it comes to direct translations, accuracy is not Google’s strong suit. Google grabs its translations from the internet, so there’s a lot of margin for error. You also need to take into account Google’s ability (or rather inability) to understand nuance and sarcasm.

 

You might not get the translation you’re looking for if you’re searching for the meaning behind a figure of speech. Many cultures have similar sayings, but “A watched pot never boils,” will have a totally different translation in many languages.

 

Downsides to Google Translate

Like many free language translation apps, Google Translate has a few downsides. Some of the most common include:

 

  • Not always easy to use offline
  • Context doesn’t translate well
  • Difficult to report errors
  • Less-common languages aren’t as accurate
  • Copying and pasting is tricky with grammatical errors
  • High chances of inaccuracy 

 

Try it for yourself. Enter a few common Spanish phrases or common Chinese phrases and check against other translation apps (or the translations in our articles).

 

Offline Use

One of the most important features in a translation app is the ability to use it offline — or rather when you don’t have internet access. 

 

When you’re traveling abroad, you can’t always count on clear 5G access. You might even need to pay for a data plan. This means that you need a translation app that works offline — something Google hasn’t perfected yet.

Context Translation

When it comes to translation, context is everything. Google Translate gives you a word-for-word translation more often than one with context. If you plug in “Where is the bathroom?” in Google’s English to Persian translator, you might end up with a room for bathing instead of one with a toilet.

Reporting Errors

One of the biggest complaints customers have in regard to Google’s free suite of products is that it’s really hard to report errors. If you find an error in a translation, all you can do is report the error and hope someone gets to fixing it. This year. Or even maybe next year.

Less-common Languages 

Google also doesn’t have a lot of data yet on lesser-known languages. If you need translations for English, Spanish or French, you’re much better off using Google (though, the translation app does have difficulty differentiating between Canadian French and French French or even South American Spanish and Mexican Spanish). Want to say hello in other languages like Punjabi? need a Malay to English translation? Fuggedaboutit. 

Beware Copying and Pasting 

If you’ve made a spelling error (or someone else has), don’t expect Google to fix it in the translation app. You might want to check your spelling before you start typing. If you don’t know how to spell a word, go ahead and Google the spelling first.

High Chances of Inaccuracy 

Google Translate is just known for a higher chance of inaccuracy than a search result of a paid app. It’s probably not shocking that free translation software isn’t without error, but it’s worth mentioning. 

 

If you want to check out a paid app that gets you a little further than a free one, we recommend Vocre. Some of the benefits include pronunciation assistance and high-quality sound. It’s one of the best apps for last-minute travel.

Best Way to Learn a New Language

The best way to learn a new language is through a few-step process. While you won’t be fluent in a second or third language overnight, these tips and tricks will get you on the path to communicating seamlessly in no time.

 

Best Way to Learn a New Language Tip #1: Start Small

When it comes to learning a new language, it’s important to be super gentle with yourself. Don’t try to learn a bunch of new vocabulary all at once; that’s just a recipe for disaster. 

 

Instead, start small. Some of the best ways to learn a new language when you’re just beginning include the following.

 

Word-By-Word

Pick 10 of the most commonly used words in your desired language, and learn those. You can easily find lists of the most common words and phrases in any given language (most of these lists are around 100-words long).

 

One word that’s easy to start with is hello. Find out how to say hello in other languages.

 

Once you’ve mastered 10 words (when you could recite them in your sleep), move on to the next 10 — but don’t forget to keep the original 10 words in your memorization rotation. You don’t want to suddenly find that you can’t remember them in a few months.

 

Learn Verbs Last

Conjugating verbs is one of the most difficult aspects of learning a new language. Not only do you need to learn (and memorize) the word itself, but you’ll need to remember how to conjugate the words based on the subject and whether the verb is happening in the past, present or future.

 

If you really want to learn verbs, learn the infinitive of the verb first.

 

Phrase-By-Phrase

Once you’ve learned a few words, you can start learning a few phrases. Sometimes It’s not a bad idea to memorize phrases as you’re learning words; you’ll inevitably start learning sentence structure just based on the placement of various words.

 

Learning a Language Tip #2: Don’t Assume You Can Use a Direct Translation

You can’t translate languages word for word. Breaking down a sentence in English into separate words won’t allow you to translate the sentence into any other language.

 

For example, the phrase, ‘Give it to me,’ translated into Spanish is, ‘dámelo.’ The direct translation would be, ‘Das eso a mi.’ 

 

People will look at you like you’re a little loco if you translate a sentence word for word.

 

Learning a Language Tip #3: Download a Language Translation App

The fastest way to look up new words is to use a language translation app, such as the Vocre app, available on Google Play for Android or the Apple Store for iOS – allows you to type a word into the app or, speak a word or phrase into your phone’s microphone and hear the translation.

Check out our definitive list for the best apps for last-minute travel for more helpful apps.

Learning a Language Tip #4: Pronunciation Matters

Americans are used to getting a little laissez faire with pronunciation. It’s probably because we hear so many different accents in the U.S.! 

 

In parts of Massachusetts, it’s not uncommon to hear someone say, “Pah-k the cah at Hah-vahd Yahd.” 

 

In most other languages, pronunciation is more important. Mispronouncing a word can get you in trouble — or even change the meaning of the word entirely.

 

Learning a Language Tip #5: Read Kids Books

One of the most entertaining ways to learn a new language is to read kids’ books — especially ones you loved as a kid yourself.

 

Start small. “The Little Prince,” “Winnie the Pooh” or “Where the Wild Things Are” are great starting points. 

 

Once you’ve got a better handle on your new language, move up to chapter books, like “Harry Potter.” The Potter books were written to ‘grow’ with their readers, so they’ll get more difficult as you move on from book to book.

 

Learning a Language Tip #6: Watch Your Favorite Shows/Movies 

If you want to improve your listening and comprehension skills, watch some of your favorite TV shows and movies in another language

 

Choose a movie you’ve seen hundreds of times — and watch it in Spanish. You’ll probably know what’s going on plot-wise, and you’ll learn how to say the dialogue in Spanish.

 

Learning a Language Tip #7: Take a Staycation 

If you can’t afford a plane ticket to Prague, head over to the Czech neighborhood in your city or town. Can’t go to Spain? Head over to Spanish Harlem.

 

Even if your city or town doesn’t have a cultural neighborhood where residents speak the language you’re learning, you can still eat out at a Mexican or French restaurant. Or, travel to a major city near you. It’s still cheaper than a plane ticket to Europe.

 

Learning a Language Tip #9: Take Your Time

Rome wasn’t built in a day. The best way to eat an elephant is one spoonful at a time. Slow and steady wins the race.

 

There’s a reason there are so many cliches when it comes to taking your time. It’s because they’re true. The good news is that if you do take your time, you can create a lifelong love affair with your new language. 

 

Learning a Language Tip #10: Practice, Practice, Practice

Just like learning a new instrument, you can’t expect to learn a new language if you don’t practice. To retain the information you learn, you need to create an action plan to remember it.

 

The more you do something, the easier it gets. Listen to radio programs, podcasts and songs. The language will sink in — as long as you keep trying to learn it.

 

Need more tips for learning a new language? We’ve got you covered.

Spanish Language Movies on Netflix

Watching Spanish language movies and TV shows on Netflix is one of the best ways to learn the language — and a little about the culture. Sure, you could just turn the subtitles on and watch your favorite English-language movies and TV shows, but it’s just not the same as watching ones that allow the language to shine.

 

Comedy Spanish Language Specials on Netflix

Netflix has been cashing in on the comedy stand-up special game (previously dominated by Comedy Central and HBO). These shows are a great way to learn common Spanish phrases. In addition to comedy specials featuring your favorite English-speaking comics, you can also find these Spanish-language comedians’ specials:

 

  • Jani Dueñas
  • Malena Pichot
  • Alex Fernández
  • Many more!

 

Drama Spanish Language Movies on Netflix

Latin America really knows how to do drama! From Isabel Allende to Guillermo del Toro, many of the world’s most dramatic stories have been told in Spanish. Learn how to use basic Spanish phrases, how to say hello in other languages, and more.

 

The Son

This psychological thriller feels a little like “Rosemary’s Baby” without the whole devil part. And it features the husband as the terrified/paranoid parent — not the mother.

 

After Lorenzo has a baby, he starts thinking that his wife is trying to keep the baby from him. It’s hard to tell who the bad guy is in this creepy movie. Plug phrases you into to translation apps to answer that burning age-old question: is Google Translate accurate?

 

Roma

If you haven’t heard of “Roma,” we can only guess that you don’t own a TV. Or, a Netflix account.

 

The surprise break-out film of 2018 takes place in the Colonia of Roma in Mexico City. It’s a somewhat fictionalized account of the events that took place over one summer in the 1970s in the director’s household. In addition to appreciating the beautiful cinematography, you’ll also learn a little about the history of Mexico in this film.

 

Comedy Spanish Language Movies 

Laughter truly is the best medicine — and the best way to learn a foreign language.  

 

Soltera Codiciada (How to Get Over a Breakup)

In “Soltera Codiciada,” a young marketing professional is dumped by her long-distance boyfriend. To get over the breakup, she starts a blog. She also gets by with a little help from her friends. This adorable comedy is the remedy for just about any bad breakup — or bad day, really.

 

Toc Toc

What happens when a therapist’s flight is delayed, and his patients need to sit with each other in a room unsupervised? This dark comedy highlights the quirks of a group of people and twists them back around on themselves.

 

In Family I Trust

Latin America knows how to do heartbreak. In this dark comedy, a woman discovers her fiancé is cheating on her with a local celebrity. She heads home to deal with heartbreak and loss — and just might end up falling in love with a local hottie.

 

Kids Spanish Language Movies

Why not encourage your kids to learn Spanish alongside the adults? Kids are great at picking up new words and phrases. In fact, the sooner you can get your kids learning a new language, the better. 

 

The good news about kids’ cartoons is that you can change the audio on them to Spanish and you probably won’t even notice the mouths aren’t moving along with the characters. Yet, these three cartoons take place in Latin American countries, so it’s like they were practically made to watch in Spanish.

 

Coco

The breakout Disney movie of 2017 was “Coco!” While most Americans watched it in English, there is a Spanish-language version. Since the movie takes place in Vera Cruz, Mexico, we recommend watching it in the language that is spoken in that region of Mexico — Spanish.

 

Las Leyendas

If you just hit ‘play’ after searching for “Las Leyendas,” you’ll end up watching this kids’ cartoon show in English. Yet, it’s a famous Mexican TV show, so we recommend switching to Spanish to learn all about a teenage boy named Leo San Juan, who can communicate with spirits.

 

Ferdinand

“Ferdinand” isn’t as famous as “Coco,” but it’s definitely got the same amount of heart. The titular character is a bull who wants out of his life of fighting bullfighters. He escapes to another ranch in rural Spain — but inevitably must face a fighter eventually. 

 

Best Spanish Language TV Shows on Netflix

These days, it’s hard to tell the difference between TV and movies. Most TV shows are just 10-hour movies. If you want to become immersed in Spanish-language TV shows, we recommend these four.

 

 




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