I like to watch “Paris Travel” programs (DVDs, YouTube, travel websites, etc.). I followed two Rick Steves Paris Travel episodes with one put out by Globe Trekker (aka Pilot Guides). The Steves shows begin with visiting the major tourist sites in Paris and go on from there to eating and shopping and other typical Parisian delights. The Globe Trekker show starts off with demonstrating how to get from the train station at Gard du Nord to a specific hotel on the left bank.
The GlobeTrekker hostess indicates that she’ll be taking a cab and recommends that speaking “a bit of French” is helpful. She delivers a couple of phrases to the cab driver that most any tourist can master. Then she hops into the cab and promptly gets into an argument with the driver about the route he’s taken **all in French** (“a bit of French”, my foot!).
Many Paris visitors I know speak “a bit of French”. During my earliest visits to France I also spoke <<un peu de français>>. Speaking a bit of French isn’t the problem. The problem is when you are spoken to by a native French speaker. Speaking “a bit of French” is almost always appreciated by native French speakers and it can be fun too. A few French phrases can go a very long way. But you should choose your phrases judiciously…
A client of mine was very proud of knowing how to ask a French speaker to <<parlez lentement s’il vous plaît>> and pronounced the phrase very nicely too. He tried out the phrase whenever possible. Unfortunately the magic phrase didn’t provide the necessary … magic. It didn’t matter how <<lentement>> (slowly) the native French person spoke. My client was never able to understand what was being said back to him even when spoken <<très, très lentement>>.
I recommend sticking to <<Bonjour>> and <<Merci>> when you’re just starting out. You’ll probably pick up some other useful phrases if you keep your ears open. I’ve always found that native French speakers are typically very helpful to those of us who aren’t (native speakers) by supplying a fair amount of English. And you really can get a lot of communicating done in Franglish.