2 Month French Challenge (Seeking Advice)

Hi Lingqers and fellow Librarians! I will be traveling for the first time ever to Paris in France of all places for vacation on June 15-23 and would like to ask anyone with any advice for what can I expect when learning french and about the culture if anyone has ever traveled there.

  • What will be the biggest challenge when learning french?
  • How much studying will I have to do to go through Paris to enjoy as a traveler?
  • Am I expected to do most things in french when I arrive?

Background: I have learned mandarin chinese through Lingq, and I neglected listening until I have acquired enough words when I started the language. Therefore, not sure how to approach french in particular since my timeframe is fairly short.

Thank you in advance for any tips for survival in a foreign country! :slightly_smiling_face:


You definitely know how to study languages on LingQ. Are you going to go full speed for these 2 months before Paris? :rofl:

What’s your goal, considering that you will stay only a week in France?

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I’ve done 2 trips for a month each in the last couple years. So i might be perfectly qualified to answer this one.

  • Am I expected to do most things in french when I arrive?
    Not at all. In paris, you don’t need any french at all. but it will open some opportunities if you know some. If i knew nothing else, I’d focus on how to order, asking for directions, and maybe a couple swear words haha.

  • How much studying will I have to do to go through Paris to enjoy as a traveler?
    You could pretty much do none or spend 8 hours a day until you go. Most restaurants, bakerys, attractions will have either someone who speaks english or signage in english. May want to look at the metro maps just for an idea of where you want to go. I’d get the metro pass to save some money if you’re in paris the whole time.

  • What will be the biggest challenge when learning french?
    Might vary person to person. listening comprehension, is probably most important. Someone asks if you want a receipt or a bag when you leave a store, it’s easier to catch stuff like that with a bit of practice, where you won’t run into questions like that on lingq.

Feel free to dm with any specific paris questions you might have. I’m not an expert but i do know my way around to a point


Great to know! I just don’t want to offend anyone if I just started speaking english right off the bat since I heard stories of people talking to you in french if you don’t try to speak their language at first or just get offended?

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Depending on the answers I get here. If I need to, will study as much as I can! haha. I would usually study without stress nor a deadline but since there’s a deadline, I assume that the circumstance is different, and I need to have a different approach.

The goal is to just survive and experience Paris itself. Perhaps this trip will give me a reason to learn French fully maybe? :wink:


he he :smile:

I think @robertbiggar gave you already great advice for your travelling, considering that you only have 2 months and will stay one week, so French orthography won’t be a issue!

I’ve learnt French directly in France, but spent few years there.

I guess, what I would pay attention if you want to speak and interact, is the sound of some letter, especially the ones like ou and ü. Learn the alphabet first, and the sounds pronunciation. Simple differences like dessus or dessous could be taken superficially by the casual learner but become an obstacle to be understood by French people. Little differences for us are not so little for French people that could understand completely different words and not realising we are just making pronunciation errors. You know already the drill with Chinese, I guess.

Paris is a very international city, you will have lots of foreigns and people speaking in English anyway.

Depending on where you go, the language could vary a lot from sophisticated to street and slang. Plus you have different tonalities depending on the groups you interact with.

I would probably choose my preferred environment in advanced, search the targeted material, and do a lot of listening and repeating (vocalising and articulating).

Have fun. :wink:


Just a bonjour and a au revoir when coming and going will probably break down those barriers pretty quickly. end of the day, some people, no matter where you go will be less understanding.

Enjoy the trip!

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Will just go with your suggestion then. Thanks!

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Thanks for the advice!

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How to say I don’t know:

First way to say it is unexpected but very common.

In Paris, you will be perfectly fine with english.


@chytran In my experience, the French will really appreciate an effort to speak even a few words of their language, especially if you can manage a decent pronunciation . Above all they will appreciate politeness from a foreigner.

Bonjour, madam
Bonjour, monsieur
Merci beaucoup!
S’il vous plaît

It is true that you can get by with English in Paris. However it is polite to ask first rather than assume.

Excusez-moi, parlez-vous anglais?
Excusez-moi, est-ce que vous parlez anglais?

It is good to have the most basic restaurant skills

Bonjour, madame! Je voudrais… (point to the thing)
L’addition, s’il vous plaît

I think it is wonderful that you want to pick up some French before you go! My recommendation is to look for a “French phrases for travelers” book, podcast, YouTube, or website lesson. Think about the situations you will encounter and learn a few relevant phrases.

Know that unless you have a special talent, you will be unlikely to understand a thing they say to you in French. That’s ok! Many will still appreciate your ability to use the words of politeness and your making an effort.


Isn’t the stereotype with Parisians that they will be antagonistic to you unless you speak perfect French :wink: ?

Really with a short period of time what you should do is focus on listening comprehension, and ability to express yourself in basic terms. Reading and reading + listening are things you should certainly do, but will be less valuable for interactions you might have in a restaurant or a store.

I would look for an italki tutor that can help you practice normal transactional interactions and can ask you questions that you might not anticipate.

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@noxialisrex I found that stereotype to be true when I visited Paris in the 1970’s. I found the opposite to be true when I visited in 2013. The locals seemed to really appreciate any effort to communicate in French rather than expecting them to do all the work. I think society has changed and perhaps fewer people make the effort now,

Even in the 1970’s people in the countryside were kind and gracious with communication in French.


I’ve heard on French language podcasts that bonjour and au revoir, when entering and leaving an establisment, are essential aspects of French politeness.

I don’t know how true that is, but it sounds like a “better safe than sorry” approach.


I would say this is mandatory, especially Bonjour. At least for my 4 years experience a bit before 2013.

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In addition to the usual key words in any language (bonjour, merci, s’il vous plait, au revoir, etc.), I believe there are a few essential basic patterns that help you get a bit further. For instance, you’ll need or you’ll want things, or want to do things, hence : je voudrais (un café, une baguette, un ticket, une entrée), and : je voudrais faire or : je voudrais pouvoir, or : pourrais-je, or better : est-ce que je pourrais, or : j’aimerais bien… These kind of things. Then of course a bit of vocabulary is needed to complete the patterns !

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As a Parisian, I’d like to share one thing: start the conversation with at least a few words in French. Even if it’s not perfect, even if it’s incorrect, we don’t mind, just make a small effort and then continue in English, and you’ll be fine.

I won’t even reply to someone who hasn’t made any effort to learn a few words. But I’ll definitly do everything I can to help someone who tried something.


@Vanandir Merci!

I was pretty sure the French and Parisians were more complicated than the stereotypes.

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Hi Chytran,
I am studying French Sign Language rather than French, but the main thing you need to know is to always use BONJOUR as a greeting when you enter an establishment. If they greet you first, be sure to respond with a BONJOUR of your own.