How much French do you need to know to get from the Charles De Gaulle airport to your hotel?
Well, luckily, you already know some of it. If English is your first language, that is.
Although French takes fourth place in terms of languages used in Europe (German, English, and Italian take the first three spots), French is still widely taught in many schools around the world. This might be because about one quarter of English words are taken from the French language in some form.
You’ll start to recognize this when you land in France for the first time. Let’s walk through some key words you’ll see as you go from the airport to your hotel:
At The Airport: Many of the key words at the airport are the same in French as they are in English – or very close to it:
Of course, the pronunciation of the above words sound much cooler in French than in English. French is a romance language, after all. As shown, two French-word curveballs you might see at the airport are “billet” (ticket) and “sortie” (exit).
In The Taxi: Regardless of where you travel, it’s a good idea to have the name and address of your hotel written on a note card or business card. You can just hand the card to the taxi driver, and take most of the guesswork out of the whole process. Some French words you’ll see on the ride to your hotel are:
stop arretê (easy to learn, due to the red octagon stop sign)
Other than that, most of the street signs you’ll see will be for streets or areas of Paris. These names have no English translations. Other than that, enjoy the sights while you ride.
If you take the Metro to your hotel, you’ll find it’s user friendly for any language. The Metro maps are fairy intuitive, much like a dot-to-dot coloring book. If you know the Metro station for your hotel, you’ll get there easily.
Checking In At The Hotel: Since the internet and credit cards were came along long after languages were developed, you’ll see some familiar words when you check in:
credit card carte de crédit
elevator ascenseur (curve ball)
key clé (curve ball)
Of course, many Paris hotel workers, especially those at the front desk, will speak enough English to get through any conversation. This is especially true if you stay at a hotel chain with franchises in the United States.
To The Restaurant: Here’s where French can go a bit off track from English. You’ll still find some similarities, though:
filet mignon filet mignon
water eau (curve ball)
cheese fromage (curve ball)
thank you merci
good bye au revoir
At this point, you’ve made it from the airport to your hotel and out to eat. Now you are ready for the “immersion” phase of learning French. Although a quarter of English words came from French, that means that 75% of them did not, so you’re going to see lots of words you don’t recognize. Spending some solid time in Paris will have you learning French quickly.
Outside of immersion, flashcards are a good way to learn French vocabulary. Sparknotes French Vocabulary study cards are a good option, and you can pick them up for less than $20 U.S.. Computer-based language learning, such as with Rosetta Stone products, can be effective as well, but will cost $180 U.S. and more.
Luckily, you can get through most of a short Paris visit with what you know from English.