Essential French for Travelers

When learning French for travelers, you don't have to take a full-fledged course. You should focus on learning enough of the language so that you can move about the city with little or no help.

Learning the Essentials
French for travelers can be extensive or minimal. It all depends on how much interaction you want when you arrive in France or in countries in which French is the primary language. If you are more of a loner and usually go it alone, then, in addition to the phrases below, you'll also want to take a beginner's course in French. If you like interaction and are hoping to rub elbows with plenty of people while traveling, it's wise to pick up a dictionary that translates English to French. Do not travel without a good working knowledge of the language.

When traveling to French-speaking countries, one should be fluent in the basic French phrases that summon police and emergency aid. In addition, you'll want to know how to follow street signs and know the questions to ask to get from your hotel to the destinations you require, as well as understand information that will help direct you back to your hotel, find a restroom, shopping malls, the post office and stores.

Where you'll be traveling also plays a role in how much French you need. If you're going to Paris or Montreal, you won't have to look far to find people who speak English. Keep in mind, however, that the French are fiercely proud of their culture, and they're unlikely to offer assistance to someone who doesn't know a word of their language. Make an effort to learn basic phrases, and you'll find the French more willing to help you.

If you're heading into parts of the French countryside off the tourist trails, rural Quebec province or parts of Africa where French is spoken, you'll need a strong command of the language, as well as some insight into regional dialects. You're very unlikely to find English speakers in these areas, so you'll need t

Emergency Information and Directions

  • Help! - Aider!
  • Call the police! - Appelez la police!
  • I need an ambulance! - J'ai besoin d'une ambulance!
  • I need help! - J'ai besoin d'aide!
  • Fire! - Incendie!
  • Excuse me? - Excusez-moi?
  • Can I have a map of the city, please? - Puis-je avoir un plan de la ville, s'il vous plait?
  • My child is missing! - Mon enfant est manquant!
  • I am lost. - Je suis perdu.
  • Can you help me, please? - Pouvez-vous m'aider, s'il vous plaît?
  • Can you help me find… - Pouvez-vous m'aider à trouver...
  • Information - Renseignements


  • Entrance - Entrée
  • Exit - Sortie
  • Stop - Arret
  • Street - Rue
  • Road - Route
  • Highway - Autoroute
  • One Way - D'une manière
  • Caution - Attention
  • Gentlemen - Hommes
  • Ladies - Dames
  • Pull - Tirez
  • Push - Poussez


  • Hello - Bonjour
  • Good morning - Bonjour
  • Good evening - Bonsoir
  • How do you do? - Comment pouvez-vous faire?
  • Pleased to meet you. - Heureux de vous rencontrer.
  • This is my friend. - C'est mon ami.
  • This is my wife. - C'est ma femme.
  • This is my husband. - C'est mon mari.
  • This is my mother. - C'est ma mère.
  • This is my father. - C'est mon père.
  • This is my child. - C'est mon enfant.

Dining and Attractions

  • I will pay in cash. - Je paierai dans l'argent.
  • I will pay with a credit card. - Je paierai avec une carte de crédit.
  • A table for two, please. - Une table pour deux, s'il vous plait.
  • The menu, please. - Le menu, s'il vous plait.
  • The check, please. - Le chèque, s'il vous plaît.
  • Thank you. - Merci.
  • Thank you very much. - Merci beaucoup.
  • You're welcome. - De rien.

Basic French Phrases

  • Pardon me. - Pardon.
  • I don't understand. - Je ne comprends pas.
  • I don't speak French very well. - Je ne parle pas tres bien francais.
  • What is your name? - Quel est votre nom ?
  • My name is… -  Mon nom est...

Although French is a romance language, descended from Latin, the French as a whole aren't as offended if you use informal rather than formal sentence construction, especially in major cities when you're buying something or getting services. It is still polite, however, to address people you've just met using the plural form of verbs rather than the singular.


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