A visit to Paris can also double as a great opportunity to brush up on your French. By learning and immediately practicing new vocabulary and phrases, you really will enhance your stay and enjoyment of the City of Lights. A little bit of French can go a long way in breaking through that notoriously standoffish Parisian demeanor and you may be surprised how just a few words of French can change the simplest impersonal interactions into conversations and friendships.
Having designed over 500 French courses in Paris through French As You Like It, I have had the pleasure of creating a variety of private lessons for business people, celebrities, expats, tourists, students and children. It’s clear to me that visitors have more fun when we turn the city into a classroom and start learning from real life. I love taking students to famous and not-so-famous places around the city.
For instance, one of my favorite places for a French lesson is Les Grands Magasins (the large department stores, Le Printemps and Galeries Lafayette) in the 9th arrondissement in Paris. I recommend going either in the morning around 10:30 or in the afternoon around 3pm when the staff is less rushed and can be more accommodating as you practice your French.
If it’s a sunny day start by heading to the Deli-cieux open air café/restaurant at the top of the Printemps (7th floor of the maison et beauté section).
The lesson can start with how to get there:
- Où se trouve l’ascenceur? (Where is the elevator or lift?)
- Où sont les toilettes? (Where are the toilets?) Which cost one euro at Galeries Lafayette, but you do get uniquely bright colored toilet paper!
The panoramic view from the terrace is absolutely breathtaking. You can clearly see the Opera, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sacré Coeur from up here, but don’t let this distract you from your lesson. After a look around, head back downstairs and start practicing your French buying vocabulary.
Here is a useful tool to help you with the European sizes:
- Avez-vous cette robe en taille 38? (Do you have this dress in a size 38?)
During your shopping spree, do not forget to say hello before addressing a clerk:
- Bonjour, combien coûte ces chaussures ? or combien ça coûte? C’est cher! (Hello. How much are these shoes? Oh, they’re expensive!)
- Cette robe est en solde ? (Is this dress on sale ?)
- Payer en liquide, par chèque, par carte (Pay with cash, by check, by credit card)
- You might need to: retirer de l’argent au distributeur automatique (Take cash out from a bank machine)
Once you have finished shopping, here are some other phrases you can keep practicing with:
- j’adore faire des courses… (I love shopping…)
- je suis allé au magasin hier… (I went to a store yesterday…)
- j’ai acheté une petite robe noire… (I bought a black dress…)
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Guest post written by Marguerite Monnier, a French tutor in Paris for French As You Like It