- Point and say “one of those please”
- Point and ask: Comment on dit ça en francais? (how do you say that in French?)
- Learn a new French word.
- Strike up a conversation with a French person.
- Show French people you meet that you’re interested in their language and culture.
French Conversation Phrases that Make Speaking EasierThey say that speaking French is hard. In reality, it’s not the speaking bit that’s hard (that’s the goal!). The tricky bit is when you try speaking, but you get stuck. For example:
- When you don’t know (or forget) a French word.
- When French people reply too fast and you don’t understand what they’re saying.
- When you try really hard to speak French and they reply in English!
French Conversation Phrase 1: "Comment on dit ça en français ?"How do you say that in French? (literally: how does one say that in French?) Possibly the most useful French phrase you’ll ever learn. Not only is it a great way to learn some new words, it'll also help you connect with French people who are normally happy to teach you a few words in their language - especially if you ask them in French! Also, the fact that you’re learning these words in real life situations makes them far more memorable compared to learning them from a book or dictionary. Quick tip: Keep a notebook with you (or use the notes app on your phone) to write down the new words you learn.
French Conversation Phrase 2: "Qu'est-ce que ça veut dire ?"What does that mean? Use this one when you hear or see a word and you don’t know the meaning. It's particularly useful question in restaurants - just point to the word on the menu and ask the waiter! You can also ask: Qu'est-ce que c'est ? (what is that?) By asking this question in French, people will be more likely to reply to you in French, which gives you an opportunity to keep the conversation going. But even if they switch back to English for the definition, at least you've shown the French person that you’re learning their language, which makes it easier to go back to French once you get unstuck.
French Conversation Phrase 3: "Pardon, je ne comprends pas".Sorry, I don’t understand A handy phrase for if you get lost mid-conversation. A word of warning: try not to use this phrase in isolation because French people may interpret it as a cry for help and switch back to English. If you use this phrase, make sure you follow it up with another request, like:
Pouvez-vous répéter s'il vous plaît ? (Can you repeat, please?)Pouvez-vous parler moins vite s'il vous plaît ? (Can you speak slower, please?) This way, the person you’re talking will know how to help you.
French Conversation Phrase 4: "Pouvez-vous répéter s'il vous plaît ?"Can you repeat, please? When you just need to hear the phrase again. If they repeat and you’re still having trouble understanding, try to identify the problem and ask another question:
- Are they speaking too fast? Ask: Pouvez-vous parler moins vite s'il vous plaît ? (Can you speak slower, please?)
- Is there a word you don’t know? Ask: Qu'est-ce que ça veut dire ? (What does that mean?)
French Conversation Phrase 5: "Pouvez-vous parler moins vite s'il vous plaît ?"Can you speak slower, please? (literally less fast) For those times when your French speaking partner is going at 100 mph and you’re having trouble keeping up!
French Conversation Phrase 6: Pouvons-nous parler français s'il vous plaît? J'aimerais apprendre.Can we speak in French, please? I’d like to learn. Sometimes you might say something to someone in French, but they reply in English! There are many reasons this might happen:
- They’re busy, and using English is the quickest way.
- They’re not aware that you’re trying to learn French, so they reply in English to make life easier for you.
- They’re used to dealing with tourists, so they default to English without thinking about it.
- They want to practice their English!
Where can I find French people to practice with?Lots of advice on speaking French will tell you to just “give it a go” and speak to people in French whenever you get the chance. If you’re extroverted and you find this easy, c’est super! But this approach doesn’t work for everyone. In the beginning, it can be tricky to practice speaking French with people you meet randomly - in shops, restaurants or on the train - because these people aren’t there to help you learn French, they’re just going about their day. This puts an extra (unnecessary) layer of pressure on you to be able to have a normal conversation. When you start speaking French, it's normal to make lots of mistakes and take ages to string a sentence together, but you might worry that this could be annoying for the French people you speak to. You just need to find the right people to practice with. Look for situations where you can set up a “learning agreement” with French speakers. These are situations where the French person knows you are a beginner and they are there to help you speak. This could be:
- A language exchange partner: Find a French person who is learning your native language - they can help you practice speaking French while you help them speak your native language.
- A conversation tutor: Meet a native French speaker for 30 minutes or an hour of conversation practice and pay them in exchange for their time.