Learning a language is tough work. New sounds, conjugations, masculine or feminine and in some instances, a whole new alphabet. With Greek or Russian, I'd be doing a lot of polite pointing. French has been in my world forever and I still struggle with it. Listening to newscasts or conversations--no problem. I understand what's being said. My response to it all, well that is a different story. Do I use passé composé or future or the dreaded conditional? Generally, I keep what I have to say in the present to avoid all that craziness whether or not what I am saying makes sense--similar to how I speak in English. Just like to keep everyone guessing as to what I am really trying to say.
If you are going to Paris, a few phrases are helpful to know and easy to learn. Merci, s'il vous plait, bonjour are three of the biggies. If you stumble and humble yourself by using those few words, no matter how silly you feel, you are going to make major points with whatever French person you are speaking to. Through your tiny effort of using a tiny French word, they will usually reciprocate by helping as much as they can to understand you. They might even whip out the few English words that they know to make things move along nicely. It is our (Americans) absolute refusal to speak French and expectation that they know English that gets their goat.
I found a great website ConversationExchange.com that will help you with simple phrases used in a variety of situations--shopping, asking for directions, questions about your hotel room.
- Je voudrais résever une chambre double pour trois nuits. (I'd like to book a double room for three nights)
- C'est combien? (How much is it?)
- Je peux utiliser Internet? (Can I access the Internet?)
- Je peux vous aider? (Can I help you?)
- Je regarde seulement, merci. (I'm just looking, thank you.--Merci, big bonus word)
- Je peux l'essayer? (Can I try it on?)
- Je peux payer par carte de crédit? (Can I pay with credit card?)
- Excusé moi, pouvez-vous me dire ou se trouve.......(Excuse me, can you tell me where___is?
An interesting concept--think I might find me a pen pal and confuse them with my present tense nonsense.
Photo credit: thisnext.com