If I travel to Paris, can I get by with just English?

  • If I plan on visiting Paris, but not really the rest of France, is it still important for me to learn at least enough French to get by? Are people in Paris going to be willing to speak English if they know it, or is it more like they want to see you at least trying?

    Sounds like you should listen to Pimsleur on the flight (assuming you're flying there) over and learn some basics. This isn't what you're asking, but learning some of the language will make the experience so much richer.

  • I never found the stereotypical rude Parisian I was warned about. Several people went far out of their way to help me in ways I wouldn't expect in my own city.

    I did not find a great number of people outside the tourism industry in Paris that spoke English.

    I did always use the French words and phrases I knew "excusez moi", "salut", "merci", and if I could struggle by with those I wouldn't even ask "parlez vous anglaise" I got the impression people appreciated that. Using single words goes far, French or English, if you can't form a sentence. If you manage to form a broken sentence people will often help out by correcting your mistakes! More people know more English vocabulary thant you know French vocabulary but may not be able to make or parse English sentences.

    Be patient. Smile a lot. Never act rude or arrogant. Don't talk loud when people don't understand.

    When you get to your hotel or tourist information people will be able to speak English.

    +1, exactly my experience as well. Most people in Paris were friendly even though I spoke English. That said, I did throw in *bonjour* and *merci*, to the best of my ability, and it probably helped. I think using local language for greetings and thank yous is generally a good idea, not just in France.

    Also consider this: Paris is the number one most visited city in the world. It would be very strange indeed if you couldn't get by without French (most foreign visitors surely don't speak it).

    As a french I totally agree on this one. Also the myth that frenchies don't know english is wrong. More and more young people speak english. Knowing a very little french will make people interested because you tried. Everyone know you are not supposed to speak french.

    This answer was my impression of Paris 30 years ago. More recently it is much easier to find people speaking English, and not just in tourism. I do start with Bonjour and a smile and that mostly does the trick.

    Try to avoid using `Salut` with strangers; it is generally used with a high level of familiarity and might be considered rude if used inappropriately. `Bonjour` is safe to use in every situation.

    Can't emphasize not speaking loudly/slowly enough. Just because they don't speak English doesn't mean they're mentally retarded; you'll just end up looking like the stereotypical rude and arrogant American tourist. Just don't speak super fast, and avoid using idiomatic phrases.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM