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Practical language tips

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Practical language tips

We will be spending time in Paris at the end of April and I am resigned to the reality that I will be nowhere near fluent or proficient in French by the time we leave, but I do like to be able to communicate at a basic level with the natives of a land I am visiting.

What are the best tips or advice others would be able to give me?

For instance, when memorizing verbs and their correct conjugation, I am unlikely to be asking if a group of Parisian schoolchildren will be going to the movies next Thursday. So I will focus more on the conjugation of "je" and "vous" for basic conversation.

Also, after visiting Germany many times, I have discovered that the Germans will actually understand me if I use the wrong definite article. No disrespect intended towards the gender of French nouns, but if I get the definate or indefinite article wrong, I assume the French will not take offense.

I am also focusing on being able to merely correctly pronounce written French rather that bein able to translate. Again, I just know what I can accomplish in the next 4 months.

Thanks for any help. And Joyeux Nöel!

Perpignan, France
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for Languedoc-Roussillon, Perpignan
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1. Re: Practical language tips

You are right to forget about "tu". As a tourist you won't need it.

People won't take offense if you use "le" instead of "la" or "un" instead of "une".

They'll probably correct you, don't take it badly, they mean to help.

Lots of people speak English, learn the basics : bonjour, s'il vous plaît, merci, etc..... and you'll be fine.

Paris, France
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for Paris, Loire Valley
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2. Re: Practical language tips

More than likely, the problems you will encounter will not be just with the article but with the entire "groupe nominal" which encompasses not only the article but the noun which it defines as well as any corresponding adjective. All three; noun, adjective, and article must correlate (in spelling and pronunciation) with the noun's gender and number (singular or plural).

Even very fluent speakers make gender mistakes from time to time so I really wouldn't worry too much about it. Converse as much as you can, speak only in French, even if someone tries to talk with you in English, and you'll make notable progress with each visit to France.

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3. Re: Practical language tips

Check out the website: bbclanguages.com/french. It has a great section on French for travelers who know no French and a section, with videos, for French from beginner to advanced. It is a great website.

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4. Re: Practical language tips

Just as important as the rules of pronunciation and grammar are the rules of etiquette. I studied French and took several courses before I learned that it is important to address people directly as Madame or Monsieur--not just Bonjour, but Bonjour, Monsieur/Madame; not just S'il vous plait, but S'il vous plait, Monsieur/Madame, etc.

You should also greet the shop keeper when you enter a small store or boutique and say thank you when you leave.


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5. Re: Practical language tips

If you want to check pronunciation, forvo.com is a good choice. If more than one speaker pronounces a word, listen to all the pronunciations. Some of the speakers may be Belgian or Canadian; I look for speakers who live in France.

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6. Re: Practical language tips

This is a good resource:


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7. Re: Practical language tips

Thank you to all who responded.

8. Re: Practical language tips

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