It’s always good to immerse yourself when traveling, from learning about a new culture to sampling the local cuisine. What could make this experience even better? Learning the local language, of course! Here are some tips and tricks to guide you if your summer destination this year requires a little French:


You probably know a few words in French already, from your oui (yes) and non (no) to your bonjour (hello) and au revoir (goodbye). Pardon (sorry/excuse me) is important for general apologies or moving through crowded areas, and s’il vous plait (please) and merci (thank you) for being polite.

Getting by

Along with a little gesticulating, here are a few more short phrases to help you get what you want. Je voudrais ceci will tell someone that you want this if you don’t know the word for whatever it is yet. The answer to c’est combien? will tell you how much something costs. Où est… begins how you will ask where something is; if you’re not sure whether the word you need requires a le or la in front of it, a place name might suffice.

Manger et boire (to eat and to drink)

This will obviously depend on where you are dining, but if you’re not sure what to order you can ask qu’est-ce que vous recommandez? (what would you recommend). La viande is meat, and les légumes are vegetables. Le café, le thé, l’eau, and le jus are coffee, tea, water, and juice respectively. C’est terminé will tell your waiter that you are finished, and l’addition, s’il vous plaît will get you the bill.


Yes, directions can be tricky, especially when hearing them in a language you don’t know quite yet. A general est-ce que je peux vous demander mon chemin? will let you know if a person is willing or not to give you directions. ll faut aller tout droit (straight ahead), à droite (on the right), and à gauche (on the left) might be some of the things you hear when being told where you need to go, along with c’est à côté de (next to) and là-bas (over there).

Un peu plus? (a little more?)

A quick search online and you’ll find a multitude of basic phrases and vocabulary lists that will give you a little more to go on. Though to truly be confident in the things you are saying, a short French course or one-on-one tutoring online or in-person with a language provider like Rosetta Stone, Listen & Learn, or Babbel, will not only get your pronunciation perfect, but will also give you the opportunity to practice speaking to another person in French. And once you have a grasp of some basics, you’re all set! But if you’re worried, don’t forget that répétez s’il vous plaît will get that other person on the other side of the conversation to repeat what they just said, and plus lentement s’il vous plaît will get them to slow down.

On y va?

Shall we go? Are you ready for your French adventures to begin? Bon chance (good luck) et bon voyage (and have a good trip)!

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