Blend In Like a Local: Tips To Improve Your French Conversational Skills

Blend In Like a Local: Tips To Improve Your French Conversational Skills

Melanie Smith
Melanie Smith

Table of Contents

Being able to speak some of the local language can boost your whole holiday experience: and the native speakers tend to prefer attempts at it to being shouted at slowly in English, too, for some reason…

Brushing up on some simple French conversation skills can help you not only make friends - maybe even a romantic connection! - on your next holiday, but will make your time in the country run much smoother. From being able to ask for and receive directions to the station to finding out the name of the best bar in town, having some basic French phrases in your arsenal will stand you in good stead.

You’re much more likely to discover off-the-beaten-path treasures, too, by being able to talk to the locals, such as that idyllic little beachfront bar that’s a mile or so off the tourist trail, or the farmers market that’s not advertised but that the locals can tell you takes place on the last Sunday of every month.

So let’s have a look at some handy tips to quickly improve your conversational skills in time for your next vacation!

A photo of a French town at which one can practice basic French phrases
Photo by Reuben Mcfeeters on Unsplash

Your Basics

When it comes to French conversation for beginners, let’s start with the basics that you’ll need to greet someone and a few of the most useful phrases to have to hand on your vacation.

Bonjour - Good morning / hello

Bonsoir - Good evening

Bienvenue - Welcome

Parlez-vous Anglais? - Do you speak English?

Merci - Thank you

Au revoir - Goodbye

Oui - Yes

Non - No

These easy French words and phrases will be appreciated when used to greet or thank the locals you meet on your travels.

Getting Around

Navigating the rail or bus system can be a much easier prospect if you’ve got some basic French conversational chops. Use these handy phrases to ease your passage in every sense:

Où est….? - Where is…?

Je cherche le gare - I’m looking for the station

Je voudrais regarder l’horaire - I would like to look at the timetable

Je voudrais réserver un billet - I would like to reserve a ticket

A quelle heure faut-il arriver? - What time should it arrive?

Où est l'arrêt le plus près? -  Where is the nearest stop?

Où est le guichet? - Where is the ticket window?

This kind of basic conversation in the French language can make your whole trip hassle-free and ensure that your travel plans don’t get derailed.

Sorting Your Stay

You need a place to lay your head after a busy day of sightseeing and indulging in all that fabulous French food. Use these phrases to smooth the way to a peaceful night’s rest.

Avez-vous une chambre libre? - Do you have any vacancies?

Je voudrais effectuer une réservation - I would like to make a reservation

Au nom de… - In the name of…

Je voudrais une chambre simple/double - I would like a single/double room

Pour deux nuits - For two nights

Quel est de prix d’une nuit? - What is the price for one night?

Le petit déjeuner est-il compris? - Does that include breakfast?

Je voudrais une chambre avec salle de bain - I’d like a room with an en-suite bathroom

A photo of Arc Arc de Triomphe - the perfect destination in France to practice easy French words
Photo by Florian Wehde on Unsplash

Hitting the Shops

One of the great joys of a visit to France is a chance to explore the local shops: whether you’re shopping in the elegant boutiques of the capital or visiting the cheesemonger in a back-of-beyond village, having some basic conversation in French language ability can make your experience all the better. Use these handy phrases to help you hit the shops in linguistic style!

Où sont les magasins? - Where are the shops?

Combien ca coute? - How much does it cost?

Je cherche un…. - I’m looking for a…

Est-ce que je peux payer avec une carte de crédit? - Can I pay with a credit card?

A quelle heure est-ce qu'il s’est ouvert? - What time does it open?

Restaurant Ready

If you’re in France, the cuisine may well be one of the things you’re most anticipating experiencing. For the French, the cooking and eating of food is an art form, and the language around cooking and food preparation reflects this. Get yourself ready for some unforgettable French feasts with these phrases to help you navigate the ordering process.

Le menu s’il vous plaît - Can I have the menu, please

La carte des vin - The wine list

Je ne peux pas manger… - I can’t eat…

Je voudrais de l’eau - I would like some water

Je voudrais une bouteille de vin rouge - I would like a bottle of red wine

Le plat du jour - The special of the day

Je voudrais un dessert - I would like dessert

Seeing the Sights

You’re on holiday, you want to hit the tourist trail, of course - so here are some handy phrases to help keep your sightseeing on track!

La guide - Tour guide

Le prix d'entrée - Entrance price

Le tableau - Painting

Est-ce que vous pourriez prendre ma photo, s’il vous plaît? - Can you take my photo, please?

Est-ce que ce bus passe par… - Does this bus pass by…

Puis-je avoir un plan de ville s’il vous plaît? - Can I have a map of the city, please?

A quelle heure est-ce que cela ferme? - What time does it close?

A French food market at which one can practice a simple French conversation
Photo by Alana Harris on Unsplash

Other Handy Phrases

Further examples of simple French dialogue for beginners that will also upgrade your travel experience include these useful little nuggets:

Je parle un peu français - I speak a little bit of French

Je voudrais un verre de vin, s’il vous plait - I would like a glass of wine please

L’addition - the bill

Je ne comprends pas - I don’t understand

Emmenez-moi à cette adresse, s’il vous plaît - Take me to this address, please

Pouvez-vous m’aider? - Can you help me?

Quel temps va-t-il aujourd’hui? - What will the weather be like today?

Enchante - Pleased to meet you

Best Ways to Learn French Conversation For Beginners

If you’re looking to learn French beyond getting to grips with the words and phrases that would be of most use on vacation, then we’ve got tips for you to get started with this, too!

A holiday in a French-speaking country is a fantastic chance to have a truly immersive learning experience, and if you take as many opportunities as possible to speak the language - using the phrases above - and interact with local speakers, then you will notice your proficiency in French has significantly improved by the time you return home.

Your confidence in speaking the language is also likely to drastically improve as well, and you’ll no doubt have picked up some fun street slang along the way, too!

Wondering how to learn French? Here are some tips on how to get started, or to brush up on some vital conversational skills, before your next trip.

Get a Study Buddy!

The best way to boost your French conversational skills is by practicing them as much as possible. Buddy up with a fellow learner or friend who knows the lingo and dedicate some regular time to speaking only in French, either over the phone or in person.

You could also look online for local meets or forums where learners come together to practice having discussions in the language - this is one of the best ways to get comfortable having a normal conversation in French.

Tourists dining at a French market where they practice normal French conversations
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

It can feel difficult, at first, to get started speaking the language: it’s understandable if you feel a little self-conscious. One of the best things about getting a friend on board to practice regularly conversing with is that this can help you get over any nerves you have before the holiday. The more you practice speaking, the more natural it will feel.

Watch Subtitled TV Shows

I know, sounds too good to be true, right? But research has shown that watching subtitled tv in your target language can significantly increase proficiency, improve vocabulary and boost your confidence.

Try some of our shows tailored especially for new learners, such as ‘Learn With a Chef, ‘Angry Vacation,’ or ‘Detour.’

If there’s a more entertaining way to study French conversation for beginners than by watching binge-worthy box sets, then I don’t know what it is. Find the full selection of beginner-friendly shows and movies on our platform.

Opening title of French cook show Learn With A Chef
Learn With a Chef

Opportunities Online

You could consider taking an online course in French conversation for beginners. Online study can be the perfect option for those who would find it difficult to fit a campus-based course around their work and home-life commitments. There are options online, too, to join in with live discussion groups in French, which can be one of the best ways to brush up on your conversational skills before heading off on your holiday.

Practicing in an online setting is, for many people, a useful way to build confidence and get some ‘real’ conversational experience.

Immerse Yourself In The Language

The best way to boost your French conversational skills is to spend as much time as possible speaking and hearing the target language; so, as well as finding a learning partner to speak French regularly with and watching plenty of subtitled French tv, do as much as you can to make the language an integral part of your everyday life. For example, change the settings on as many of your devices as possible to French. Read as much as you can in French, and practice reading out loud: if you can bear it, record yourself and listen back to check your pronunciation. Have a go at scrolling through some French-language websites or writing a diary in French. The more exposure you have to the language, the quicker you will gain proficiency.

FlashCards Are Your Friend

An easy way to get your French conversation skills up to par before your trip is to use color-coded flashcards every day to help you memorize vocabulary and gender. Use one color for masculine words and another for feminine words to get your mind making links between vocab and gender. You could stick these cards around the house so that you see them - sometimes subconsciously - all the time, or even attach them to the items they correlate to, where possible.

Reasons to Learn French

There are many benefits of learning French, not least of which is the improvement that it will make to your holiday experience. Another great reason to learn the language is to enhance your job prospects - a second language always looks good on a CV and opens up work opportunities abroad, as well as teaching and interpreting roles, for example.

Learning a new language is great for general brain power boosting, too: it results in the formation of brand new neural pathways in the brain that means you can expect to see a significant improvement in your memory and problem-solving and creative thinking capabilities. Studies have shown that people who speak one or more languages have increased protection against Alzheimer’s disease and, where it does present, the progress of the condition is drastically slowed.

French is a relatively easy language to learn, too, partly due to the fact that it shares a significant amount of vocabulary with English. It’s one of the five main Romance languages (the others being Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Romanian), so if you have any knowledge of any of these tongues, you will find picking up French fairly straightforward.

And if you’re trying to decide which language to learn and are wavering between French or Spanish, then be assured that either is an excellent choice: both are fairly simple to learn, and proficiency in either will open up lots of opportunities for you. You could even consider learning both at once, as this may be easier than you think….

Whether you want to learn French conversation for beginners to get holiday-ready, or are eager to become full-on fluent, then regular practice speaking the language and incorporating immersive learning techniques into your life - through listening to French music, reading French magazines, and watching subtitled French tv - will deliver the results you’re looking for, and have you blending in like a local next time you’re in France!