TACKLING THE LANGUAGE BARRIER – FRANCE
Oui oui, Paris is the city of love, delicious patisseries and beautiful men (and women). But, something that tourists find extremely difficult when visiting, is communication.
France is known to have a problem with tourists and anybody that cannot speak French. And yes, I personally experienced this when visiting! Now I’m not attacking all French people here, but it’s quite evident that locals don’t always have time for you if you don’t at least attempt to speak their beautiful language.
I completely understand why… When I used to work in retail, I would frequently have customers who could not speak a scrap of English. One person, in particular, spent almost 45 minutes with me, yelling into her iPhone translator attempting to have help on Skincare. The final outcome of her translation was “collagen” “eat” “cream eat whitening”. Let’s just say she was very confused, as was I.
I had to yell into her phone, “You can’t eat skincare!” “I don’t know if you want collagen or whitening!” and it ended with a recommendation that I simply just assumed she was after. I wasn’t impressed with spending almost an hour with someone who’s phone was telling me she wanted to eat her skincare… So I can completely understand why it would be very annoying for the French, along with all the locals of the country you visit.
I really do encourage everyone to at least learn the basic phrases needed to have a conversation in the place you’re visiting. The most needed phrases are:
- Do you speak English?
- I don’t speak insert language here
- How much?
- Can we please have the bill?
- Where are the toilets?
- Thank you.
The most important expressions everyone should learn are please, thank you, hello and good-bye! That’s just being polite really…
No matter what country you visit, if you can master these, the locals will really appreciate your efforts and will be much more welcoming and happy to help. The easiest way to remember these phrases is to write them in your phone or on a card that you can keep handy whenever you need. My personal preference being the card; you never know what could happen to your phone!
My personal preference being the card; you never know what could happen to your phone!
If things get tricky, you can show the person you’re communicating with, essentially what you’re trying to say. At tourist attractions, you’re always bound to find someone who speaks English. It’s the small cafés, restaurants and shops you will be likely to have trouble in.
Here are some French phrases that I found useful on my trip:
- Hello – Bonjour
- Yes/No – Oui/Non
- Do you speak English? – Parlez vous anglais?
- Please – S’il vous plaît
- Where are the toilets? – Où sont les toilettes
- How much? – C’est combien?
- I don’t speak French – Je ne parle pas français
- Can we please have the bill – L’addition s’il vous plaît
- Thank you – Merci
- Goodbye – Au Revoir
Of course, I have been to many countries where I didn’t know a single word of their language and have been totally fine. Although travelling to France I highly recommend doing a little research. Most people will know a small amount of English, but you don’t want to be stuck buying a yummy croissant or ordering your snails at a restaurant and not know what to say… It’s awkward.
That’s the beauty of travel; becoming immersed in their culture, their language and their way of living. Learning a few phrases will save you a lot of hassle and will make you become a much less hated tourist!
I’d love to read some of your travel communication stories in the comments below!