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Thread: Language barrier on a group vacation to Paris?

  1. #1
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    Question Language barrier on a group vacation to Paris?

    We have a fairly large group of 3 combined families and are planning a trip to Paris this fall. We have several places of interest on our agenda including the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. Only two of us have had any French language courses and neither of us are actually fluent. Since Paris is a huge tourist destination, I was hoping we could get by with speaking English only. Will that be possible, or will we run into a huge language barrier?

  2. #2
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    Re: Language Problem For A Group Vacation To France

    I think you can get by with just English. But maybe consider at least the niceties, like Bonjour, Bonsoir, Merci. The French are quite particular about saying hello and thank you. Also, a pocket dictionary will come in handy. You do not have to be fluent, but at least it will show that you are trying to learn the culture. It is such a huge tourist destination, a lot of people speak English. Here in the Cote d'Azur if the servers, or sales people or anyone that you ask, detect a hint of an accent, they are quick to switch to English right away.
    byrder7789 likes this.

  3. #3
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    Re: Language barrier on a group vacation to Paris?

    Quote Originally Posted by epliu View Post
    I think you can get by with just English. But maybe consider at least the niceties, like Bonjour, Bonsoir, Merci. The French are quite particular about saying hello and thank you.
    Thank you so much for the information! A lot of us are practicing the basics and we did get some notes from our travel agent (which is so old school, but we thought it necessary since we're going to a country we aren't familiar with). From what I read, we should call everyone Monsieur, Madame, or Mademoiselle, unless that person tells us differently. Is this correct? I also understand that French men and women make small talk before getting down to business. Does that mean we should exchange niceties before ordering our food or asking questions?

    Generally, we're looking for the true French cultural experience. So long as we don't have to speak the language fluently .

    It just might be time to crack open Rosetta Stone again.

  4. #4
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    How Much French Should Be Learned Before Travel To France Or Paris

    It's wise to consider local customs when traveling. French people don't like it when you walk up to them and just start talking English. If you stick to the tourists spots you will be OK with just English but it is still a good idea to learn a few phrases and start with "I'm sorry I don't speak French" If they feel sorry for you they may tell you they speak English but they still expect you to talk French, no mater how horrible (sign language is acceptable!). Keep in mind Parisians are very busy and they all do not speak English. Bonne chance!
    byrder7789 likes this.

  5. #5
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    Re: Language barrier on a group vacation to Paris?

    It will bot be easy, because the French really love their language and I have met some people that actually spoke English but didn't want to talk to me in anything else but French. I am not generalizing because I have met great people in Paris, but this is something you should be prepared for. On the other hand tourists were very willing to help whenever I asked them.
    It's very easy to get around Paris by taking the train, I suggest you get one of those little hotel maps. They are very helpful and you will need no guidance. Make sure to ask for the discount when you buy subway tickets, you will get one if you buy more tickets. I hope this was helpful.
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  6. #6
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    Important French Words Which Every Tourist Must Know

    If you all spoke nothing but English, 100 percent of the time, you would absolutely get by just fine. Paris is a massive tourist destination, and they really do cater to English speakers. That being said, it really is much more thoughtful and appropriate to know some basic niceties, as references by poster "epliu". Also, it's just really fun to learn the basics, and then go to a restaurant or cafe and order food and drink for yourself. Fore me, that really added to the experience.
    byrder7789 likes this.

  7. #7
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    Re: Language barrier on a group vacation to Paris?

    I think you will be able to get by speaking only English. Most staff at the places you have mentioned (the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower) will be able to speak English. In restaurants and other situations you can get by with a bit of sign language and pointing at the menu!

    I would definitely suggest learning a few words, such as bonjour, merci, s'il vous plait, as epliu has already said. It might be a good idea to learn "parlez-vous anglais?" (do you speak English) too. Enjoy your vacation!

  8. #8
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    Should I Learn French Language Before Tour To France

    The small talk usually happens with people who are already familiar with each other, so you won't need to worry about it. Just your standard Bonjour/Bonsoir, Comment allez-vous will suffice. Good luck!
    byrder7789 likes this.

  9. #9
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    Re: Language barrier on a group vacation to Paris?

    Like the others have said you'll be completely fine with English! A lot of the tourists manage it with just sign language. When I first went to Paris my French was horrible but I never had any problems. Even now that I speak fluent French I find myself speaking more English than French when I'm in Paris, I know I shouldn't do this but it gives me a small break from speaking French all the time. The only places where I've found French to be more or less mandatory is cheap hotels but I'm assuming that you've booked a pretty decent one so they should speak English at the reception.

    And they really do appreciate it when you say a few words in French. Who knows, maybe you can even make a Parisian smile!
    byrder7789 likes this.

  10. #10
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    Re: Language barrier on a group vacation to Paris?

    Quote Originally Posted by byrder7789 View Post
    From what I read, we should call everyone Monsieur, Madame, or Mademoiselle, unless that person tells us differently. Is this correct? I also understand that French men and women make small talk before getting down to business. Does that mean we should exchange niceties before ordering our food or asking questions?
    The custom is one of the reasons the French are wrongly accused of being rude and it's ironic. Before wondering around in small places of business, shops or cafes you should always look at each employee (who is not busy) and say bonjour madame or monsieur (they officially dropped mademoiselle last year). This custom has been around for a very long time and it is considered very rude not to obey it. That's all they expect but when they see you struggling with French a lot of people will ask in French what country you are from. If you can reply in French you score a lot of points and more if you name a big city. I don't stick to tourists areas when I travel and rent flats so I can cook. I was there less than a year ago and met dozens of very friendly people who could not speak English. If you at least learn how to order food outside of tourist spots you will have a much more rewarding and less expensive trip.
    byrder7789 likes this.

  11. #11
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    Re: Language barrier on a group vacation to Paris?

    You should be fine, alot of english speaking people go there. Just know some basic words in french.
    byrder7789 likes this.

  12. #12
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    Re: Language barrier on a group vacation to Paris?

    Just to add that one point of etiquette is to call waiters "Monsieur". Shout "Garcon" and you will be waiting a very long time for your order if you even get acknowledged at all!!
    Other than that, 'hello', 'please' and 'thank you' in French should be sufficient for politeness sake and most Parisians speak good English anyway.
    byrder7789 likes this.

  13. #13
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    Language barrier

    You'll be fine only speaking English. However, I do recommend learning some French, if only out of consideration for the people you are visiting. You are in fact stepping into their country and the French can be very particular about that fact.
    Make sure you are polite all the time and they shouldn't be too hostile, if you are going with children this is especially important. Parisians and children don't mix well, so make sure they are on their best behaviour.
    In specific tourist attractions, everything is available in every language, from guides to maps.
    Paris is a beautiful city and I hope you can enjoy every moment of it!
    Best wishes!
    byrder7789 likes this.

  14. #14
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    Re: Language barrier on a group vacation to Paris?

    I forgot to mention a funny and interesting story. I was having lunch in a small restaurant and the waiter asked me and my friend where are we from. We let him guess and he said that I am Russian and my friend is German ) When we told him that we are actually from Romania he said he knows about the revolution, about 2 of our most important writers and about our past and present presidents. That was a very nice surprise for us, it really made our day

 

 

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