french survival sentences you've gott learn for smooth travel

40 French Survival Sentences You’ve Gotta Learn for Smooth Travel

Your travel arrangements are all in order.

Soon you’ll be well on your way to one of the world’s 29 different countries in which French is an official language.

Perhaps you can practically taste the fresh cheeses being offered in a daily market of Marseille.

Or maybe you’re more than ready to bask in the sun along the Atlantic coast of Senegal in one of its idyllic villages…

But wait!

There’s just that tiny matter of gearing yourself up with the necessary, useful sentences that will allow your trip to go smoothly.

Trust me! In a tight spot, these French sentences will come in handy and give you all the right tools to interact with the locals.

Let’s face it, language can either be a barrier or the framework to bridge the gap between yourself and the French-speaking country of your choice, so why not go as best prepared as possible to enjoy yourself, right?

Maybe you already know a few great words, but we’re going to look at some sentences that will add that much more to your ability to wield the French language authentically.
 


 
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How to Memorize and Practice Survival French Phrases

Let the phrases soak into your unconscious memory like a nicely steeped chai at a sidewalk café in Brussels.

You’re almost on your way!

I can’t stress the fact enough that the more you practice these French sentences the easier it will become to pronounce with fluidity some of the more unusually accented words in the French language. Even if you get stuck in a situation in which you don’t know exactly what to say, if you’ve a decent memory bank of French sentences ready to go, you won’t be at a loss for a response while you’re ordering a nice Bordeaux red.

David James is a polyglot who created and encourages a strategy he calls the “Goldlist Method” for memorization.

The strategy employs 20 minute study chunks in which words are written by hand in ink on paper in the foreign language of study, and the translations in English on the opposite page.

Words are written 25 at a time and then read aloud–the whole process hopefully taking you about 20 minutes. Afterwards make sure to give your brain an immediate break to let it sink in subconsciously.

With sentences it may be necessary to do slightly fewer than 25, as it’s important to not overburden yourself with too much information or else it becomes even more difficult to retain.

Don’t worry if you feel stuck on where to practice immersing yourself in French before and after your trip. If you’re reading this now, you most likely have access to the internet—and the beauty of this nifty little modern technology is that you can use it to inundate yourself in French.

An awesome tool to check out first is the online immersion platform at FluentU. You’ll find nothing but real-life situations, as FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You could also listen to these awesome French singers or play some of these French tunes on your way to work, while cooking dinner or while working out.

Or if you prefer to write words or sentences out and see them on a regular basis, write out some flash cards or sticky notes and label the items around your home in places you’ll run into them constantly.

If you’re looking for a last-minute crash course in practical French, you may also want to consider ed2go’s Beginning Conversational French, which will walk you through the basics of communication in a French-speaking country. You’ll learn to deal with practical, everyday scenarios and handle yourself graciously in public, and you’ll get familiar with more useful sentences like the ones below.

Don’t Be Shy in a French-speaking Country

Now, once you touch down on foreign soil, I have another piece of advice: Don’t be shy! Talk!

One of the beauties of foreign travel—besides the new sights and entertainments—is the genuine exchange of culture. It can be intimidating trying to flex your new French muscles, but for the most part, people will appreciate your efforts.

If someone doesn’t speak your native language, you will quickly discover how necessary these French sentences will be.

Most people are proud of their heritage, customs and language, and won’t hesitate to help facilitate whatever words you may be missing so speak these following sentences with confidence whenever you get the chance, so don’t be shy.

The French Survival Sentences You’ve Gotta Learn for Smooth Travel

French Sentences for Polite Conversation

To be polite while traveling, you’ll want to be sure to greet others appropriately. To make a bit of small talk, here are some sentences that you can use to begin or respond correctly in polite conversation:

  • Comment allez-vous? (How are you?)
  • Je vais bien, et vous? (I am fine, and you?)
  • Je suis heureuse. (I am happy.) – spoken by a female
  • Je suis heureux. (I am happy.) – spoken by a male
  • Comment va votre famille? (How is your family?)
  • Je suis triste. (I am sad.)
  • Où habitez-vous? (Where do you live?)
  • Vivez-vous dans une maison ou dans un appartement? (Do you live in house or an apartment?)
  • Amusez-vous bien! (Have a good time!)
  • Passez une bonne fin de semaine! (Have a good weekend!)

There you go, you’re well on your way to striking up a conversation during your travels with some of those polite conversation starters.

But, inevitably, it will be necessary to point your taxi driver in the right direction or book a hotel room. So besides the pleasantries, you’ll need to get down to the point!

Basic French Sentences for the Bank, Post Office or Shops

Memorize these sentences and you’ll be ready to drop the appropriate French phrases in the right situation. Just as important, though, is the ability to listen for just when that appropriate moment will be.

Give yourself the opportunity to practice some listening skills with these French podcasts, all of which are specifically made for language learners like yourself!

It’s a great way to practice listening for accent and pronunciation before you head out on your trip to Belgium for some of those tasty twice dipped French fries you’ve been dreaming about.

Excusez-moi (pardon me), we are getting down to business now, right?

Here are some French sentences you’ll need for taking care of business at the bank, post office or shops while abroad:

  • À quelle heure ouvrez-vous? (What time do you open?)
  • Voici mon passeport. (Here is my passport.)
  • J’ai un permis de conduire international. (I have an international driver’s license.)
  • Dois-je signer ici? (Do I sign here?)
  • J’ai un compte. (I have an account.)
  • Où se trouve le bureau de poste?  (Where is the post office?)
  • Je dois affranchir ceci… (I need postage for this…)
  • Pouvez-vous l’expédier sous 24 heures? (Could you send it overnight?)
  • Quand est-ce que la carte postale arrivera? (When will the postcard arrive?)
  • Puis-je changer des dollars en euros ici?  (Can I exchange dollars to euros here?) – You can substitute any currency here depending on where you’re traveling!
  • Prenez-vous une commission sur cela? (Do you charge a fee for that?)
  • Pouvez-vous m’aider avec cet article? (Can you help me with this item?)
  • Où sont les toilettes? (Where are the toilets?)
  • Ma pointure est…/Je chausse du… (My shoe size is…)
  • Je voudrais essayer ceci. (I would like to try this on.)
  • Avez-vous la taille en dessous? (Do you have a smaller size?)
  • Avez-vous la taille au-dessus? (Do you have a bigger size?)

Everyone you know is going to want you to bring something back from your trip (even if they don’t say it) so these phrases will help you navigate the shops, banks, and post office properly in case you buy more then you can pack in your luggage, bonne chance! (good luck!)

Survival French Phrases for the Crazy Taxi Driver

Your taxi driver is speeding down la rue Michel-le-Comte in Paris. It’s narrow, as so many old Parisian lanes are, twisting in unimaginable pretzel-like shapes, and you think your driver is trying to kill you within your first hour in the city!

Most people have a love-hate relationship with taxi drivers, but if you live in or are visiting a large city, you’ll probably need one at some point. While some drivers can be a pain, other times—whether it’s a matter of luck, karma or your company—you will get a great taxi driver who is full of suggestions, jokes, or maybe just wants to give you a discounted fair.

I had a taxi driver in New York buy me breakfast once (he was drunk though) while we were connecting flights between JFK and New Jersey’s airports.

Kind or crazy, we should definitely know a few French sentences to use with your cab driver. Bring your already learned polite conversation skills to the waiting cab and add these situation-specific sentences to your repertoire.

  • Pouvez-vous envoyer un taxi à…? (Could you please send a cab to…?)
  • Pouvez-vous m’appeler un taxi, s’il vous plaît? (Could you please call a taxi for me?)
  • Pouvez-vous m’aider à porter ma valise, s’il vous plait? (Could you help me carry my suitcase, please?)
  • Ce sont mes bagages. (These are my bags.)
  • Fermez la fenêtre, s’il vous plaît. (Please close the window.)
  • Arrêtez-vous ici, s’il vous plaît. (Please stop here.)
  • Pourquoi est-ce si cher? (Why is it so much?)

That last one will definitely come in handy if you happen to be traveling in France, trust me. The taxi drivers in several French cities notoriously “forget” to start le compteur (the meter).

Room for Two Please! French Phrases for Booking Lodging

You’ll definitely need to book a room for your stay. Look into the local customs of the French-speaking country you will be visiting, because it might be appropriate to barter for the price of the room!

Here are some French sentences that will help you book hotels, short-stay apartments or B&B’s:

  • Nous voudrions une chambre double. (We would like a room with two beds.)
  • J’ai besoin d’un oreiller supplémentaire, s’il vous plaît. (I need an extra pillow, please)
  • Je voudrais commander un petit-déjeuner. (I would like to order breakfast.)
  • Je voudrais payer avec ma carte de crédit. (I would like to pay with a credit card)
  • Pouvez-vous m’appeler demain à sept heures pour me réveiller? (May I have a wake-up call tomorrow at seven o’clock?)
  • Combien coûte la chambre? (How much is the room?)
  • J’ai fait une réservation. (I have a reservation.)

That’ll definitely get you started and settled in your room. In the unfortunate event that you find some roaches somewhere hiding underneath your pillows waiting to keep you company you might need to know “Il y a des cafards dans ma chambre!” (There are roaches in my room!) But let’s hope not.

Practice These French Survival Phrases, but Be Flexible

These French sentences will be perfect for your suitcase of useful dialogue to take with you on your trip, but there’s plenty more to discover as you interact with locals.

As with most languages that have influenced the scope of the world, be ready to discover some regional differences as you hear it spoken. And don’t hesitate to jot down or keep in mind the deviations from formal written and spoken French, as you’ll hear it in les rues (the streets).

These sentences are the ground work for navigating your holidays or travels through any part of the French-speaking world, so pack these along with your spirit of adventure and you’ll be all set! Bon voyage! 

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