You may have heard some rumors that you need to talk a lot to become fluent in French.
Well, the rumors are true.
French fluency can only be achieved with loads of great conversation practice with native speakers.
But how can you start? And why is conversational French so important?
Couldn’t you just spend your study time reading, writing, drilling grammar into your brain and listening to music?
How Conversational French Phrases Improve Your French
As language learners, we have a tendency to underestimate the power of speaking, often falling back into our old school habits of keeping our noses in books. I can assure you that this is not the best way to learn to speak French. As someone who’s now bilingual, I’m a great believer in speaking right from the start of your language learning journey.
As it turns out, speaking is key to learning French (or any language) because that’s how your brain synthesizes its linguistic knowledge.
All those things you’ve read about and heard on French talk radio programs? They’ll fly right out of your head again if you don’t put them to good use.
Now, practicing speaking can understandably be intimidating at first. So, the best solution to calm those nerves and get talking is to learn more conversational French phrases and vocabulary. This will help you feel prepared when the time comes to speak. Plus, by learning a good selection of conversational French phrases you’ll open the door to a world of new opportunities.
Acquiring basic phrases is the first stepping stone in learning a new language. It’ll help any learner speak more fluently and more naturally. As a result, you’ll quickly become more confident in yourself and feel more at ease when speaking.
By learning how to express yourself in French and also knowing how to ask for clarification and help understanding or explaining something, you open up a whole new dimension of language learning. Armed with these phrases, every native speaker you encounter is a potential tutor, encouraging you to speak more and teaching you even more phrases and expressions.
How and Where to Practice Your New French Phrases
The internet offers unlimited access to websites and downloadable applications that can help you learn and practice phrases. Some even let you record your voice and compare your recording with the voice of a native speaker, a great tool for improving pronunciation.
Websites and Apps
Babbel (application available): Babbel has everything you need to learn French, focusing on learning vocabulary first and having you pick up grammar as you go along. It has a large number of lessons for people of different skill levels in French.
You’ll find that a number of lessons are free in each category but only the first lesson is free. After that, you’ll have to pay for a membership to download the other lessons. With a membership, you’ll also gain access to a learner’s community that can help make your adventure a little more social.
FluentU (app available):
FluentU takes authentic videosreal-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Busuu (app available):
Busuu is the world’s largest social network for language learning and offers courses for you to follow. The courses consist of speaking exercises, writing assignments and multiple choice questions. You can use it for free as an ordinary member or upgrade to premium to have more options and choices (the premium prices are very similar to Babbel).
Bravolol (only available in app form):
A quirky method of learning French which focuses on giving you a phrasebook to learn commonly used French phrases and vocabulary. The categories for vocabulary include greetings, eating, health, hobbies, travel, directions, weather, the time and many more! This app is free and fabulous for beginners.
WordPower (only available in app form):
A phrasebook-based learning method that’s free of charge and offers over 100 French words to use in daily life, as well as sample sentences and free audio lessons, all for free.
For more information on applications and websites you can use check out our blog about online French lessons.
Whether you live in the UK, the US or Europe, finding a language exchange partner is fairly simple. I dabbled in language exchange when I first moved to Paris five years ago and can highly recommend it. Even though I was living in a French city, I didn’t necessarily have the opportunity to practice a lot. Many people spoke English and I also worked for an American company with a lot of native English speakers.
So there I was, in Paris, struggling to speak French and wondering how best to learn the basic French phrases. That’s when I turned to languageexchange.com. There are a number of websites you can use to set up language exchanges, but italki is probably the best one!
The italki platform is an amazing thing, as it can help you find a suitable language exchange partner or private French tutor. The best way to improve is to have someone to practice with, so language exchange or one-on-one tutoring is the perfect solution! The private tutoring I can’t recommend enough—not only will you guarantee yourself some excellent immersion time and quality feedback, but a tutor can guide you through all of your French learning experience and really boost your progress.
When you’re on vacation in a French-speaking country, you have an excellent opportunity to practice the language. You can practice your speaking skills, listening skills and reading skills in a number of different situations. The most important thing is to practice your basic phrases before you begin your trip and make sure that you have a good phrasebook to take with you! I highly recommend “The Lonely Planet French Phrasebook,” it’s a great book for traveling!
Lonely Planet at large is an incredible destination for information on the French language wherever it’s spoken. There are French phrasebooks from Lonely Planet dedicated to all major French-speaking regions, along with straightforward travel guides that will clue you into culture and etiquette. All of this is great for students looking to pick up conversational French phrases.
You can also take a look at more basic phrases for survival in a French-speaking country here.
38 Conversational French Phrases to Help You Cozy Up to the Language
Now that you know how and where you can practice your phrases you need to learn some! Let’s start with the basics and go from there.
French Greetings and Introducing Yourself
It’s imperative that you learn how to introduce yourself and someone else in French because if you can’t do this confidently, it’ll be difficult to continue a conversation. It’s also important that you know what to say at different times during the day, as this is an important part of French etiquette. First and foremost let’s look at French greetings.
Bonjour — “Hello” or “Good morning,” used in the morning and afternoon.
Bonsoir — “Hello” or Good evening,” used in the late afternoon and evening.
Je m’appelle — “My name is…,” used to introduce yourself.
Je suis — This literally translates to “I am,” but it can also be used to say “my name is” when you introduce yourself. For example, “Je suis Jennifer” or “Je m’appelle Jennifer” means “My name is Jennifer.”
Introducing someone else:
Je vous présente Fabienne, ma femme. (I’d like to introduce you to Fabienne, my wife.)
Voici Fabienne, mon épouse. (This is Fabienne, my wife.)
Voici Philippe, mon époux. (This is Philippe, my husband.)
French Conversational Pleasantries
After you’ve got the basic greetings under your belt, you can then approach the essential phrases needed when speaking French on a daily basis and at a variety of events and occasions.
Learning how to say “have a nice day,” “enjoy your meal” and “how are you?” are just a few examples of everyday phrases that you have to know. The French say “have a nice day” to anyone to whom they say “goodbye.” If you don’t say it, it’s considered rude, so it’s an essential phrase!
The French also love to eat and really savor their food, so saying “enjoy your meal” is an obligation before every meal. There are many more phrases to learn to start your learning journey, so let’s get going!
Joyeux anniversaire / Bon anniversaire — “Happy birthday!” These two phrases are the most traditional ways to say “happy birthday” in France.
Bon appétit — “Enjoy your meal!” This phrase is often shortened to “bon app!” when spoken.
Bonne journée — Have a good day
Comment allez-vous? / Ça va? / Comment ça va? – These three phrases are used to say “how are you?” They differ depending on who you’re speaking to. Comment allez-vous is the formal way of saying “how are you?” whereas ça va and comment ça va are informal, used for friends, family and people you know well.
Enchanté(e) — Nice to meet you. This beautiful phrase is literally translated as “enchanted to meet you!”
Que faites-vous dans la vie? — What do you do?
D’où venez-vous? Je viens de… — Where are you from ? I’m from…
Voulez-vous un verre? — Would you like a drink?
Voulez-vous aller manger? — Would you like to eat something?
Je reviens toute suite! — I’ll be right back!
Asking for Help
It’s essential to be able to ask for help in a number of situations in French. Maybe you don’t understand and need the person to repeat. Or maybe you need help because you’ve gotten yourself lost or can’t find something. Regardless of the situation, you’ll always need to know how to ask for help.
For this purpose, it’s also important to learn the vous form in French (the polite form) as most often when you ask for help you’re asking people you don’t know. French etiquette demands that the vous form be used with strangers. Knowing how to ask for help can really assist you when you’re traveling in French-speaking countries.
Est-ce que vous pourriez m’aider? — Could you help me please?
Aidez-moi s’il vous plaît! — Please help me!
Je ne comprends pas, pouvez-vous répéter s’il vous plaît? — I don’t understand, could you repeat please?
J’ai besoin d’aide — I need help
Où est-ce que je peux trouver la gare, s’il vous plaît? — Where can I find the train station, please?
At the Doctor’s Office or the Pharmacy
It’s happened to all of us once in our lives:Your vacation finally comes around and you get sick. When this happens to you in a French-speaking country, you’ll find yourself in a foreign place trying to explain your symptoms to a doctor in a language you’re only just learning.
You need to learn some of the more basic expressions so that, if this happens, you can explain how you feel. It’s crucial that you know these phrases so that you can get the correct medical care when you’re abroad. It’s also important when speaking to French people so you can understand their symptoms and give them some advice or help.
J’ai une toux — I have a cold
J’ai un rhume — I have a cold
J’ai mal à la gorge — I have a sore throat
J’ai de la fièvre — I have a fever
J’ai mal à la tête — I have a headache
J’ai mal au ventre — I have stomachache
J’ai une douleur au bras/à l’oreille — My arm/ear is painful
The Slang You Need to Know
Some slang words are now used every day in the daily life of French people and have become part of the French culture and vocabulary.
It’s important to know certain popular slang terms that you’ll often hear when speaking with native speakers. Understanding slang will help you to understand more of a conversation and will advance your French speaking skills. Here are just a few examples to get you started:
Ciné — Cinema
Resto — Restaurant
Boulot — Work
Balle — Euro; franc
Une clope — A cigarette
Relou — Annoying
So, now you’re fully equipped with an array of conversational French phrases. Start practicing them!
You’ll soon see how quickly your French language skills will improve and how much you can learn from a few basic phrases.
Start your journey today!