6 Best French Phrasebooks to Make Traveling Easy and Fun
After you’ve folded and stacked your clothes, grabbed your toothbrush and scrambled around for your passport and travel documents, there’s only one thing left that you need to take along:
A reliable French phrasebook that’s easy to use on the spot.
The French phrasebook world is very rich—whatever type of language help you’re looking for, you’re covered and then some.
No matter your proficiency level, taking along a French phrasebook can really help in sticky situations when you’re visiting a French-speaking country. So, check out six of the best French phrasebooks below!
- 1. “Collins French Phrasebook”
- 2. Lonely Planet French Phrasebook
- 3. “French Phrases For Dummies”
- 4. “The Penguin French Phrasebook”
- 5. “Rick Steves’ French Phrase Book and Dictionary”
- 6. “Eyewitness Travel Guides French Phrase Book”
- And one more thing...
1. “Collins French Phrasebook”
Contains a pronunciation guide
The “Collins French Phrasebook” is a renowned French guide and dictionary, and for good reason. Packed with pages of useful information, the guide will see you through any sort of stay in France.
One of its best features is its pronunciation guide. Getting your tongue around new sounds is a very tricky thing, but by taking a little time to focus on the phonetics of new words, you’ll stand yourself in good stead down the line.
Focuses on comprehension in French
Where many other guides merely feed you new information, the “Collins French Phrasebook” is created with user comprehension in mind. While the pronunciation guide will help you to get to grips with speaking in French, the basic grammar lessons will make structuring sentences very simple.
You can pick up many language tips through the book, and you might just come back from your trip more fluent!
Helps to build confidence through rigorous vocabulary tables
Speaking a new language requires confidence and, no matter how good you feel talking French at home, doing it in France can be a whole other story. The vocabulary tables in this phrasebook are packed full of thousands of new words to cover any type of travel scenario.
If you find yourself doing something new, you can rest assured that there will be a few phrases and words to help you out.
2. Lonely Planet French Phrasebook
Comes with a menu decoder
One of the most popular travel book series, Lonely Planet books really know what they’re talking about. Its language guides are as rigorous as you would expect, and contain great tidbits to take along on your travels.
For example, if you’re going to be eating out—which I certainly hope you will be doing while in France—you’ll know the struggle of ordering something you don’t recognize in another language.
Getting to grips with all food types is essential and, with this phrasebook’s in-depth menu decoder, you’ll never have to face an unknown plate again!
Contains a 3,500-word dictionary
Having access to a great French dictionary is really important when learning, but most books are much too big to take along with you on your travels.
The Lonely Planet French phrasebook’s 3,500-word dictionary is the perfect compact companion to take along, and will make translation and comprehension a walk in the park.
Links to essential travel tips and etiquette
France is notorious for its etiquette rules and, if you’re not aware of them, you could find yourself in a very tight spot. Helping you to separate your tu from your vous, and to spot the correct greeting for any situation, the Lonely Planet guide can be an invaluable tool to use. Saying “hello” and “goodbye” to people in official settings is essential in France, and something that you might not naturally do.
By adhering to French cultural rules, you’ll enjoy a much easier stay in the country.
3. “French Phrases For Dummies”
Guide to basic grammar
Don’t let its title fool you: “French Phrases For Dummies” is actually one of the best French phrasebook options due to its comprehensive, intelligent and accessible language guide.
While many language points are covered, it’s the book’s approach to grammar which is really worth knowing about. A more complex lesson to get your head around, grammar can seem too tricky to learn, especially if you’re only going on a brief holiday.
This French phrasebook will teach you all the essential grammar tips you need, making sentence structures and genders a real breeze without you even realizing!
Information on transportation and getting around
While France has very good public transport links, getting your head around them when abroad can be a real challenge. As well as containing all of the appropriate information related to transportation in France, “French Phrases For Dummies” offers practical information on the way that transportation operates in the country; essential if you’re trying to get around a new place.
Essential guide to emergencies
Nobody wants to face an emergency but if you do, you want to make sure you have all of the right information to hand. The phrasebook will link you to all of the emergency services, including embassies, on the rare occasion that you need to use them. You can rest assured in your travels; the phrasebook will do all of the hard work for you!
4. “The Penguin French Phrasebook”
Key French words and phrases
One of the most popular publishers in the world, Penguin has a great hold on the foreign language market and has produced a guide with everything you need! If you’re a real beginner and are traveling to a French-speaking country for the first time, it’s likely that you’ll want to focus on the basics first.
This French phrasebook contains information on all of the keywords you’d ever need when abroad, including greetings, phrases for ordering food and linking you to transportation.
Useful words specifically for travelers
When you’re a traveler there might be specific information you need to get your hands on in a hurry and, if this is the case, you need look no further than Penguin.
The phrases in the book relate to traveling abroad, finding a hotel or hostel and exchanging currencies and are sure to make your travel time a breeze!
Contains a pronunciation guide
Any good phrasebook comes with a great pronunciation guide, and “The Penguin French Phrasebook” is no exception. Translating words and presenting them in their phonetic form, the phrasebook makes comprehension of the language genuinely easy. Even if it takes you a while to figure out the language, you’ll have soon learned more than you ever realized.
5. “Rick Steves’ French Phrase Book and Dictionary”
Comes with a dictionary attached
There’s plenty of material out there that’s not produced by the major publishers, and much of it’s really worth paying attention to! “Rick Steves’ French Phrase Book and Dictionary” is one such title, and will really give you a great foundation for your French.
As well as linking you to great vocabulary tips, the book comes with a dictionary included, which is bound to come in handy throughout your trip. Due to its pocket size, it can also be taken wherever you’re going!
Complete with phonetic spellings
Phonetic spellings are a big deal in the French language. Getting to grips with the different sounds of the alphabet does take a little time. The phrasebook understands this very well, and will load you with all of the language essentials you could need.
A great tip is to try and memorize a few essential words before you go, such as bonjour (hello), merci (thank you) and s’il vous plaît (please). Getting these under your belt will also help with pronunciation down the road.
Tear-away sheets for takeaway lessons
If you want to go through a few lessons but don’t want to take the book with you, then you’re taken care of just as well! Rick Steves’ book contains tear-away lesson sheets which are filled with French language tips and pointers. You can cover your back without even having to travel with the book in your pocket!
6. “Eyewitness Travel Guides French Phrase Book”
Organized by subject
The DK travel guides are some of the most popular in the world, so when they release a phrasebook, you know it’s going to be good. True to form, the “Eyewitness Travel Guides French Phrase Book” is organized and color-coded according to subject, making navigating the pages a real breeze! Finding what you need in a hurry can be stressful, but with this phrasebook you can breathe a little easier.
Covering all bases, it also comes with a handy mini-dictionary. Listing more than 2,000 words, the dictionary gives you a great insight into the French language and might even inspire you to take your learning a little further.
As the book is so compact, it can be easily transported wherever you go, meaning that you’ll always have a helping hand.
New editions contain currency changes
While currency changes are constantly on the move, it’s useful to have a rough idea of the exchange rates. Each new edition of the book is updated with essential currency information, meaning that you’ll always be able to make an instant, accurate calculation in your head.
This is one of the best French phrasebook features if you’re traveling for a significant amount of time.
And if you’re looking for more ways to brush up on your French skills before or during your trip, you could try a language learning platform such as FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Traversing new countries is a real thrill, but it can also be a little scary.
Backing yourself up with all of the insight you’d need beforehand is a great way to go about picking up a language with confidence.
A French phrasebook is always a good reference to have and can easily be paired with digital resources to fill in any gaps. For example, French Dictionary + is handy if your phrasebook doesn’t come with a dictionary already.
So pack a French phrasebook and you might just come back a little more fluent in French—there’s nothing wrong with that, is there?
And one more thing...
If you like learning French on your own time and from the comfort of your smart device, then I'd be remiss to not tell you about FluentU.
FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews, documentary excerpts and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native French videos with reach. With interactive captions, you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.
For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:
Practice and reinforce all the vocabulary you've learned in a given video with learn mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning, and play the mini-games found in our dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."
All throughout, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a totally personalized experience. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.
Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)