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A Starter Guide to Speaking French like a French Person

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If you want to be understood by a French person, you will need to follow a handful of very easy rules that will help you converse and avoid any faux pas – Géraldine Lepère for My Little Paris introduces you to four simple rules to help you converse with the French.

Rule 1: French greetings open French hearts

When you meet French people, one the first things to do is to start and finish with a greeting. Without those, something will be missing from your interaction with your interlocutor(s).

Here are a few greetings that you can use in daily conversations:

– Bonjour (Good day) before 6pm

– Bonsoir (Good evening) after 6pm

– Merci (Thank you)

– S’il vous plaît (Please)

– A bientôt (See you soon)

Rule 2: If they switch to English, don’t give up on your French

If French people sense that you are not a native French speaker, they might start speaking English. They will do so first because they think that they speak English better than you speak French (don’t tell them!) and second because they want to practice their English. If that happens, try to be confident and switch back to French. After all, part of the charm of French cities like Paris is the fact that you hear people in the streets speaking the beautiful language that is French.

You may try one of the following sentences:

– Begin with « Peut-on parler en français ? » (“Might we speak in French?”)

– Interject with « Excusez-moi, on peut continuer en français ? J’aimerai pratiquer la langue. » (“Excuse me, may we continue in French? I’d like to practice my French”)

If they agree to do so, you may say Merci !

Rule 3: When they interrupt you to correct you, it’s love. Not hate.

French people love their language and they will definitely appreciate your efforts to speak their language. This is why they want help you by correcting your mistakes. They do it because they respect you and want to help you get better.

Rule 4: If they speak French too fast, it’s a compliment

As soon as French people see that you are really interested in their language, they will start to speak faster. That just means that they think you are good enough to understand a normal conversation.

If you want them to repeat, just ask:

– Begin with « Plus lentement s’il vous plait. » (“Slower please”)

– Interject with « Pouvez-vous répéter plus lentement s’il vous plait ? » (“Can you please repeat that slower?”)

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