Quick French Lessons, Anyone?

September 12, 2011
How could you take a trip to France if you didn’t know the language?

Hello Bonjour written on blackboardI wish my parents had taught me another language when I was young. Then today I might be able to speak foreign words, even if I didn’t speak them fluently. However, my ears seem deaf to the pronunciation of non-English words.

What will I do when we take a boat ride down the Seine later this week? I feel particularly anxious because I have always been puzzled by French. Every word seems to have letters they don’t pronounce!

Consequently, I’ve never felt comfortable ordering a French dish off the menu, afraid I will sound terribly uncultured (aren’t cultured people always supposed to speak French?).

Living in Southern California we often eat at Mexican restaurants and though I don’t speak Spanish, at least in that language words are almost always pronounced the way they’re spelled. That is not true for French, as far as I can tell (though a man I know who speaks several languages says English is the worst in that regard).

Anyway, if I feel unprepared to order French dishes here in the United States, what will happen when I get to Paris and am faced with a menu that will expose my linguistic limitations?

That’s why I’ve decided to aim for a middle ground. Every day I am practicing some words from Rick Steve’s French, Italian and German Phrase Book, focusing on basic words for meeting and greeting and ordering food. Now I feel at least a bit less anxious and have a place I can look up words with easy pronunciation guides.

I am starting with phrases like C’il vous plait (pronounced see voo play), meaning “please”. Without the help of the phrase book, I would have pronounced that as “see-ill vous plate.”

I have also memorized Parlez-vous anglais (pronounced par-lay-voo ahn-glay). Now I can ask, “Do you speak English, please?” Imagine I shall use it frequently!


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One thought on “Quick French Lessons, Anyone?

  1. Here’s a tip for pronouncing French – you almost never pronounce the final consonant. Adding an E makes you pronounce the letter before it (but not the actual E – that would be far too straightforward!). Hope that helps a little!


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