Weekend Break: French

Featuring: Audio Audio

Get the most out of your trip to France - take our audio introduction to the language and culture of France with you

By: Dr Françoise Parent-Ugochukwu (Department of Languages)

  • Duration 45 mins
  • Updated Sunday 24th June 2007
  • Introductory level
  • Posted under French
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Rissa de la Paz: Hi, and welcome to the Open2.net Weekend Break series. We’ll be helping you get the most out of your European break by offering top tips and cultural insights into your destination. Along the way we’ll also suggest some key phrases to help you get by. I’m Rissa de la Paz, and this time we’re looking at France.

Joining me as a guide to both the country and the language is Françoise Ugochukwu. So Françoise, getting to France has never been easier so tell us a little bit about how to get there and what awaits us.

Françoise Ugochukwu: Well France is very, very near to the UK nowadays, and you can either take the Eurostar and it takes some two hours twenty minutes, or you take a plane from London and it’s one hour.

And when you arrive the best place to visit obviously, and the first port of call is Paris. But if you want to go further you can take the TGV, that is the Trains à Grande Vitesse, and it will take you to the weekend break of your choice really.

Rissa de la Paz: Brilliant. So presumably there’s quite a variety in terms of climate and regional variation in France, tell us a bit about that.

Françoise Ugochukwu: Yes. Paris for a start is a very varied place, and there are different boroughs that give you an idea, a glimpse of what you could get in France. And France itself is like a microcosm of Europe. You have different climates; you have the South that is a Mediterranean climate like North Africa, then you have the West that is wet and mild, a bit like the South of Britain, and then you have the East that is very continental with cold winters and hot summers. You have mountains, the Alps and the Pyrenees, and that is for the lovers of snow obviously.

Rissa de la Paz: So it sounds like there’s plenty of choice there in terms of a weekend break that’ll suit most tastes. Now, as well as the climatic variability, there’s a distinct regional identity in terms of cultures as well, isn’t there?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Yes there is. There are lots of things that disappeared from the old times, like the ways of dressing, the dialects, but you can still see the variety in the gastronomy, and you can do a tour with wine testing and visiting vineyards, but there is also lots of history in each region.

For example, you can visit Normandy, and it’s the obvious point of interest for D-Day, the history, and Provence where you see all the remains of Roman colonisation. You have Celtic Britanny that is in link with Ireland and Scotland. So you have lots to know, and it’s a long history, a long and troubled history.

Rissa de la Paz: You’ve given me a picture of a very rich cultural and regional mix in France but, as far as language is concerned, how easy would it be for me to get by? What sort of tips can you offer?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Well, French people really love their language and they value people speaking it to them, and so even if it’s a few words that you can speak you’re sure to win their heart. So that’s very important.

Rissa de la Paz: Okay. Let’s set about trying to win those hearts then, and if I needed to start off by just greeting people, what would I say?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Well you can start by saying ‘Hello, good morning’. That’s ‘bonjour’, and then obviously you want to thank them when they give you something or give you a direction, so you will say ‘merci’, and then if they say ‘merci’ then you can say ‘de rien’, that is you’re welcome, and obviously when you leave them you say bye, ‘au revoir’, and there is something very important that is at the end of the conversation, whether it is in the shop or on the street, you never forget to say ‘bonne journée’. That is have a nice day.

Rissa de la Paz: Okay, that’s great. Now one thing I sort of vaguely remember from my sort of rusty schoolgirl French is that there were distinct ways of addressing people depending upon how well you know them, the ‘tu’ and the ‘vous’, could you just remind me again about that?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Yes, that is really an art. You have the ‘tu’ and the ‘vous’, and the ‘vous’ is like speaking in the plural, but it’s quite complicated and if it’s only a weekend you’d better forget about it really and use the ‘vous’, because the ‘vous’ is considered as more polite, less risky, because the ‘tu’ is usually used within a family circle or with people that you’ve really got to know, and many a time people invite you into that ‘tu’ circle, so you may not experience it right away.

Rissa de la Paz: Okay, so I’ll expect to be fairly formal just to be on the safe side?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Yes.

Rissa de la Paz: But, assuming I managed to sort of win a few hearts and actually become more familiar with people, I know that once you know people better the French have a wonderful way of sort of kissing and greeting people, they’ve almost raised it to an art form haven’t they? Tell us about that.

Françoise Ugochukwu: The normal way of greeting is by shaking hands, but quite a number of people, especially in the South, prefer kissing, and usually you kiss people on the cheeks starting with the right one and then the left, and it depends on the region, some people are just doing one of each so that is two kisses, some three, some four, and you never quite know. So you learn as you go.

Rissa de la Paz: So I basically keep kissing until they stop do I?

Françoise Ugochukwu: I would say so.

Rissa de la Paz: Okay, I think I’m going to have a good time in France. So I suspect I’ll be in quite a few situations where I’m going to need some helpful survival phrases. Can you just give me a few of those that I should always have up my sleeve?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Obviously you want to speak some French, but you may get stuck and one good way of getting out of it is to say, ‘Do you speak English?’ ‘Vous parlez anglais?’ because you will experience that, especially in Paris and in big cities you’ll find a lot of people that do speak English.

But if you want to learn more French you become adventurous, then you can say, ‘How do you say …?’ ‘Comment dit-on …?’ and obviously you may not understand, especially if they speak fast. So you will need to say, ‘Sorry, what did you say?’ That is you say, ‘Pardon?’ or ‘Vous pouvez répéter?’, ‘Could you repeat please?’ ‘I didn’t quite understand’, ‘Je n’ai pas compris’, ‘Je n’ai pas bien compris’.

Rissa de la Paz: That’s great because I know I’m going to need those phrases as sort of stand-bys in all sorts of situations that I’m likely to encounter. But just for the sake of our listeners, I’m just telling people not to worry to try and remember all those phrases just now because we’re going to go through all those useful phrases towards the end of this episode, and together with a lot more other useful phrases that you might well use during your weekend break.

But meanwhile, Françoise, I’m armed with a few useful phrases, and the obvious time when I’m likely to use them first is when I get off at the airport and I’m going to need to make my way to the hotel. So tell us a little bit about tips in terms of transport.

Françoise Ugochukwu: Well usually, both in Paris and other French cities, the best bet is the public transport because public transport is really good, and especially in Paris you are spoilt for choice.

Both at the airport and in Gare du Nord where you arrived with Eurostar, you immediately see the sign underground, and it’s written ‘Metro RER’. RER is R-E-R and it’s Réseau Express Régional. Now both are underground. You have some parts of Paris with trains, but don’t bother that much.

Now the Metro itself is written with an M actually, and then there are different directions. There are 14 lines, and they go all over the centre of Paris on to the near suburbs. If you go further on or you are in a rush, you want to take the expressway, that is the RER.

Rissa de la Paz: Okay, so let’s see if I’ve got that straight. It looks like there are two options. I’ve got the Metro which is like the equivalent of our Tube, and then you’ve got the RER, which is the RER, which is more like suburban, a sort of express service which goes further out to the suburbs. Is that right? Have I got you?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Yes, but both of them are underground.

Rissa de la Paz: And both of them are underground.

Françoise Ugochukwu: Most of the time.

Rissa de la Paz: Okay, that’s great. So if I needed to go on the underground and I wanted to say, ‘Where can one buy a ticket?’ or ‘How much does it cost?’ what sort of phrases could I use?

Françoise Ugochukwu: You go to the place where they buy the ticket, or if you don’t know you say, ‘Where can I get a ticket? ‘, ‘Où achète-t-on les billets?’, ‘Où acheter les billets?’ and then you can also say, ‘Combien ça coûte?’ and then you have to indicate what you want, and so for that you need the direction.

And that is very important because in London, the underground functions with the north, south, east, and west. In Paris, for example, it’s with different directions, and the direction is the terminus, so you have things like Pont de Levallois, Porte de Clignancourt. Obviously you need a map.

Rissa de la Paz: Okay, so basically the direction is like, it tells you what the last stop is?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Exactly.

Rissa de la Paz: The name of the last stop, so that’s very helpful. And what about changing, what if you have to change lines? How would I know that?

Françoise Ugochukwu: That is important too, because if you are a bit bold you could decide to go faster. So you can take the RER part of the way and then change to the Metro, and it’s just like in London. You have an indication where you can change to so, so, so line, and the Metro lines are numbered 1 to 14. The RER lines are numbered A to E with letters.

Rissa de la Paz: One thing I vaguely remember from visiting Paris some years back is it’s plastered all over the Metro, you see signs which say correspondance. Is that where you change?

Françoise Ugochukwu: That’s where you change.

Rissa de la Paz: That’s where you change. Okay, that’s good. So if I needed to ask in what direction is this going or what platform does this leave from, what are some useful phrases there?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Well, you have ‘dans quelle direction?’, ‘in what direction?’, ‘on which platform?, ‘sur quel quai?’, ‘quelle ligne?’, especially for the Metro or also for the RER, and that’s ‘what line?’, and then you want to know whether it’s direct obviously because you may not need to change depending on the direction of your hotel, so you may say, ‘dans quelle direction?’, ‘sur quelle ligne?’, ‘c’est direct?’, ‘à quelle station faut il descendre?’ That’s ‘what stop should I get off?’

Rissa de la Paz: That’s ever so helpful. I’m definitely going to need to remember all those, but again just as a reminder, we will be repeating those key phrases in our phrase book section towards the end of this episode.

But anyway, back to transport in Paris, Françoise. Now, assuming I’m a coward and decide I can’t cope with all the language to do with the Metro and I decide to go by cab, tell me how would I say, ‘Where can I get a cab?’ ‘How much does it cost?’ What sort of thing can I say?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Well you just ask, ‘Où sont les taxis?’, ‘Where are the taxis?’ and then you get your hotel address ready, you just show and you say, ‘Combien ça coûte?’, ‘How much is it?’ and you enter. That’s easy, but remember that the taxis may be costly and they may get stuck in traffic.

Rissa de la Paz: Okay, I’ll bear that in mind, but assuming before I get into the taxi there’s a queue, can you just tell me a little bit about are there queuing rules I should be aware of? What survival tips there do you have to offer?

Françoise Ugochukwu: As for taxis there is no problem because taxis only take one person or a group at a time, but if you are in for another transport like the Metro or RER or buses, then you may have a bit of a problem if you want to be too polite.

So people don’t usually queue in very respectful queues. They just wait around in crowds, and then the transport arrives, the door opens and then you are supposed to leave people out first, but people don’t always do it, and then there is a rush forward and everybody pushes his way or her way through.

And you have to do it otherwise you will not be able to go in, and if you see that you are a bit far and the door is going to close, you may decide either to wait for the next line of Metro or to push your way through with, ‘Pardon, pardon, pardon,’ and then you go in.

Rissa de la Paz: Okay Françoise, by hook or by crook I’ll manage somehow to negotiate my way through the public transport. But now it’s the question of where to stay. Tell us a little bit about the options that are available to me.

Françoise Ugochukwu: You might have made some inquiries before taking your trip obviously, and the hotels are rated a bit like here with stars, so the more stars the better. But you may not wish to go there, and so you have an option to go to ‘chambres d’hôte’, that is in private homes that offer one room or two rooms to people to keep them company, and it’s a more homely atmosphere.

You may, if you are young, go to a youth hostel, that is ‘auberges de jeunesse’, but they are not everywhere so you need to check that before your departure.

Rissa de la Paz: Well actually, probably because I’m just going for a quick weekend break I will probably have booked in advance so I know exactly where I’m going and waste as little time as possible just looking for accommodation. So, assuming I’ve got to the hotel of my choice, tell me a little bit about some useful phrases for when I’m checking in.

Françoise Ugochukwu: Well don’t forget to greet, after which you say, ‘J’ai reservé’, ‘I’ve booked’, and then you mention your name, ‘au nom de’, and then after that you may decide to go out and in again, and then you need to give the number of your room. So it’s a bit of an exercise with numbers that I advise, but also the key. So can I get the key to number three, for example, then you say, ‘La clef du numéro trois s’il vous plait.’

Rissa de la Paz: And in terms of help with luggage, are you expected to tip or not?

Françoise Ugochukwu: No, usually not, what they call ‘service compris’, that’s nowadays. In the past it used to be different but now you don’t need to tip, and most of the time unless you have very huge luggage you may wish to take them in the lift with you. So not a problem.

Rissa de la Paz: Okay. Also what about towards the end of my stay at the hotel and I want to check out, what are some useful phrases then?

Françoise Ugochukwu: You may wish them to prepare the bill so you will say, ‘Pourriez-vous préparer ma facture.’ ‘I would like to pay’, ‘Je voudrais régler la facture,’ or ‘I leave tomorrow morning,’ because obviously you have to say, ‘Je pars demain matin,’ for example.

Rissa de la Paz: And normally service, as you say, is usually included in the price of the room?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Yes, although if you feel very happy with your service you may wish to give a little tip, but that is very much to the discretion of clients.

Rissa de la Paz: Okay. Normally then is breakfast included as part of the rate for the room?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Yes it is, and you have two types of accommodation; you have hotel and hotel restaurant, and you see that from the outside and also when you look for it before travelling. So if it’s a hotel it’s only bed and breakfast. If it’s hotel restaurant you can have all your meals there.

Rissa de la Paz: And how would you then say, ‘What time is breakfast,’ or something like that?

Françoise Ugochukwu: That is a very important thing obviously. You don’t want to get up by 6 and find out that it’s closed. So usually the breakfast is between 7 and 9, and you say, ‘A quelle heure est le petit déjeuner?’ or A partir de quelle heure?’ what time does it start? ‘A partir de quelle heure est le petit déjeuner?’

Rissa de la Paz: Okay, so that brings me to a topic very close to my heart, which is basically the sort of food and drink that I’m going to be able to enjoy during my weekend break. Françoise, take us through a typical day and tell us a little bit about the different meals that you can enjoy. For a start, can I look forward to a nice hearty breakfast?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Oh, I wouldn’t say so. The French don’t eat a lot at breakfast, in fact many people don’t eat anything.

Rissa de la Paz: Oh no.

Françoise Ugochukwu: What’s most important is the coffee. So they start breakfast around 7 o’clock, and it’s usually served between 7 and 9, and the coffee is usually very, very small. It’s like espresso type of cup.

So if you don’t like that and you want a coffee with milk then you will have to say, instead of saying, ‘Un café’, then you will say, ‘Un grand café,’ or ‘Un café crème’, ‘un café au lait’. So café crème is smaller, café au lait is bigger. And with that they can eat croissant or brioche or bread, sometimes toast, but nothing else. And butter and jam of course.

Rissa de la Paz: I’m going to have to be very self controlled then. So when’s lunch?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Lunch is usually by 12, and lunch is important. It was even more important before. Nowadays many people work through the day, and so you have places that serve lunch, and you find that many people go to a café to get lunch, you don’t need to get to a restaurant. And there are pizzerias and other places, of course.

And lunch is usually between 12 and 2, and those families that can make it have it in their home. The children are usually getting out of school between 12 and 2, it’s a break time and many shops are closed to allow for lunchtime, because lunch is still an important part. And then the evening meal is between 8 and 9 pm, and many people watch TV while eating their evening meal because the news are not at 10 like here, but 8 o’clock so they go together.

Rissa de la Paz: Okay, so TV dinners are a done thing in France then?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Not quite, but people do it sometimes.

Rissa de la Paz: Okay, back to the restaurants though. Can you tell us about the choice of menu in a restaurant? Is there a set menu or how does that work?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Well for a start you have to make sure there is a space. So you will say, ‘Do you have a table?’, ‘Je peux réserver une table?,’ and then you ask for the menu. And the menu is actually a set menu. So you may have different one, two, or three set menus at different prices, and the difference is really in the quantity of the components.

If you don’t like the menu, for example you have only a little appetite, you are just peckish but you don’t want to really eat, then you will say, ‘A la carte,’ and la carte is a lot of choices and you can pick and mix the way you like.

Rissa de la Paz: So how would I know whether a restaurant serves a set menu or a la carte? What are the words for saying it’s a set menu? How would I know?

Françoise Ugochukwu: You have ‘le menu’ or ‘le menu du jour’. That’s the special for the day, and usually that one is on a slate fixed at the door so you can see, but most of the restaurants have in their shop window an indication of the different menus and cartes, and also there is a separate information for the drinks, boissons.

Rissa de la Paz: So basically the set menu will have ‘menu’ or ‘menu du jour’ or whatever, and then for a la carte would be the pick-and-mix choice?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Exactly.

Rissa de la Paz: So as far as choice is concerned, is there much choice for vegetarians?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Not quite.

Rissa de la Paz: Really?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Some places find it difficult, especially little restaurants are not usually used to vegetarians because there are not a lot in France. So the best bet for you would be to go to a la carte, because there you are sure that you can pick what you like, and you could use either a vegetable meal or potatoes, like purée or frites, that’s chips.

Rissa de la Paz: So if I did want to ask ‘do you have a menu for vegetarians?’ what sort of thing might I say?

Françoise Ugochukwu: ‘Avez-vous des menus végétariens?’, ‘Do you have vegetarian menus?’

Rissa de la Paz: If I wanted to know a little bit about what the special for the day is or the set menu, what would I ask then?

Françoise Ugochukwu: You want to say, ‘Quel est le plat du jour?’

Rissa de la Paz: Okay, so what if I were interested in picking and choosing from a number of different courses? What are the key phrases that I’d need for the different courses?

Françoise Ugochukwu: It’s actually the same words for both the menu and the carte. So you need to know they are kind of subtitles. So you have the starters, ‘les entrées’, then the vegetables, ‘les légumes’, then the main course, that is ‘le plat principal’, and then the dessert, and before that you have an assortment of cheese, ‘les fromages’.

Rissa de la Paz: Now what about things to drink? What sort of things can I look forward to and ask for?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Well usually the drinks are separate on the card that they give you, and French people drink with their meals. Actually it’s an art, and you have to know that with such a type of meat it’s usually red wine, fish usually takes white wine, but you may decide to go for fruit juice, and then you have different types of mineral water.

Rissa de la Paz: And when I’m happy with what I’ve got and I’ve had my fill, what sort of thing might I say?

Françoise Ugochukwu: You need to say, ‘L’addition s’il vous plait’, that’s you want to pay, and before that of course you have to say, ‘Merci, ce sera tout’, that’s ‘I’m alright’.

Rissa de la Paz: And is service normally included in the bill?

Françoise Ugochukwu: It is, yeah.

Rissa de la Paz: So you don’t have to worry about tipping?

Françoise Ugochukwu: No, some people do tip and it’s up to you really.

Rissa de la Paz: Okay. So assuming I can manage to stagger away from my three course meal and have some energy to do some sightseeing, maybe you can just tell us a little bit about what’s on offer in terms of what to see and do.

Françoise Ugochukwu: The best place to go to get every information you need is the tourist office, ‘l’office du tourisme’, because there you can get absolutely every information you want, have leaflets, maps, timetables. That’s the first port of call. If you don’t know where it is obviously you have to ask for directions. So, ‘Quelle est la direction?’, ‘Où est l’office du tourisme?’ ‘Montrez-moi sur la carte,’ and then you have the map handy and then the nice person will try to find where you are there and tell you which way to go.

Rissa de la Paz: So that phrase there, ‘Montrez-moi sur la carte,’ is show it to me on the map. That’s a very useful thing because you can actually see for yourself, can’t you, and get not too tied up with the left and the right and the straight.

Françoise Ugochukwu: Exactly, that’s easier.

Rissa de la Paz: That’s very helpful. But now what about actually getting to the various places? Will public transport be fairly effective and helpful?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Yes it is, yes, not only in Paris but in many other towns. You have the choice between buses, obviously taxis we talked about. The tram is actually growing in a number of towns and is very, very handy, and you have discount tickets, and in fact you can get lots of them from the Eurostar in London. Before you travel you can get discount tickets, especially if you stay in Paris.

Rissa de la Paz: Great. So that’s ways of making the most of any special offers for travel.

Françoise Ugochukwu: Exactly, and not only travel but it includes visits to museums and the like.

Rissa de la Paz: Great. Now in terms of museums, are there days when they’re closed during the week? What sort of thing should I bear in mind?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Some museums are open all week, some are closed one day a week. For example, Le Louvre, that is well visited, so you have to ensure that you don’t go for that day obviously. Apart from that there are organised visits. If you want more information like instead of going on your own into the museum, you can have either an electronic device that will explain to you the way forward or somebody talking to a group and by yourself into it.

Rissa de la Paz: So how would I then say, if I wanted to know if there were organised visits how would I ask that?

Françoise Ugochukwu: ‘Il y a des visites organisées?'

Rissa de la Paz: And if I wanted to know the opening and closing times of various public places, how would I say that?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Opening times, ‘Quelles sont les heures d’ouverture?’ Closing times, ‘Quelles sont les heures de fermeture?’

Rissa de la Paz: So how would I say, ‘How much does it cost to get in?’

Françoise Ugochukwu: ‘Combien coûte l’entrée?’

Rissa de la Paz: Great. Now I wanted to ask also about is there a special dress code that I have to be aware of when I’m visiting public places?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Not the museums and the like, but for Catholic churches yes, especially big churches like Notre Dame or Le Sacré Coeur. Normally people ask you not to go in shorts, for example, and to have long sleeves, especially because to visit churches you may be allowed even though there is a service at the time, but you will be required to be quiet and not to take pictures.

Rissa de la Paz: Now, my ideal option would be if there were a way I could somehow combine sightseeing with sampling some of the cuisine. Is there any way that I could do that in my weekend break?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Oh yes, and that is actually part of tourism in France, and you have some guides that you can buy that are published every year with stars actually showing you how to make a gastronomy tour, and then you can visit the vineyards, you can visit cheese factories, you can eat your fill.

Rissa de la Paz: Well it sounds to me that I could start a sort of rival to the Michelin guide and no Michelin guide, it’s be Rissa’s Guide to the Gastronomy of France. But actually, another very important question for me is public toilets. Is it going to be easy for me to find public toilets as I wander about?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Actually nowadays there are public toilets here and there, especially in places like Paris, and you can see it because it’s portable toilets on the trottoir, on the pavement, and it’s indicated, and they are cleaned automatically so they are very clean and safe.

But if you are not too sure how to get in and out because it’s all automatic, then you go into a café, take a drink and afterwards just use the toilets there.

Rissa de la Paz: Great, but if I actually had to ask someone where the toilets were, what phrase would I use?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Où sont les toilettes?

Rissa de la Paz: Well assuming then that I’ve not completely spent all my cash either eating or sightseeing, and there is actually some money left to spend, obviously I might want to do a bit of shopping. So maybe you could just tell me a little bit about the shopping possibilities in France.

Françoise Ugochukwu: The first thing is to get some money, and possibly you have finished all that was in your purse and you may decide that you need some more cash. So you can either go to a cash machine, ‘un distributeur de billets’. So you will need to ask people where is it, ‘Où est le distributeur de billets?’ or you go to a bank.

You have to know that the banks are usually open from Tuesday to Friday. That’s a guarantee. Many banks are closed on Mondays because actually Monday is a day that is half closed. Many, many shops, banks, and other things are closed on Mondays. So some banks are closed on Mondays but opened on Saturday. Those that are open on Monday are closed on Saturday, so you have to check.

Rissa de la Paz: That’s worth knowing actually because Monday, I mean that’s quite an unusual thing for someone coming from the UK.

Françoise Ugochukwu: Exactly, and then the hours of opening for shops are rather late actually. It’s not 9 o’clock. Most of them open from 10, so you have to check first. Some do open at 9, but many do open from 10 to 12, have a break between 12 and 2 for lunch, and then open until 6pm. Some occasionally open later.

The big shops don’t usually close between 12 and 2. Sunday is a special day. You know France is a Catholic country, and although most people don’t go to church nowadays they are still observing the Sunday as a holiday, as a day of rest. It’s very much a family affair, and so most shops are closed on Sunday. Very few are open, especially if you go outside Paris to smaller places, then you expect Sunday to be a day where everything is closed.

But some places do have markets on Sunday morning to allow people to buy their chicken all roasted and ready to be eaten.

Rissa de la Paz: Right, so everything catered for. Now, apart from Sundays, are there any other special holidays that I have to be aware of in terms of shops being closed?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Actually there are two types. One is what people call ‘le pont’, it means extended bank holidays, because there are lots of Catholic feasts that are being observed and so sometimes like around Pentecost there are extended holidays, long weekends, and in that case you may find the shops being closed and it will be indicated ‘shop will open on Tuesday’, so ‘ouvert Mardi’, so you need to know the days of the week actually. Another thing is the ‘Long Vac’, the summer holidays, because the French are very, very respectful of them.

Rissa de la Paz: And so they should be.

Françoise Ugochukwu: Yes, especially August. In August in Paris you only meet tourists, you don’t see the Parisians, they’ve all disappeared. But some go in July. Factories do close in one of those two months. So July and August are times to look for and make sure that the shops around you are open, but usually what happens is if, for example, a baker is closed, they will put a notice, next baker is so and so street. The same for chemists, for example, and the local newspapers will give you information.

Rissa de la Paz: Now what if I’m doing my browsing around and I’ve seen some things that I like? What sort of phrases would I use if I wanted to buy something?

Françoise Ugochukwu: I would like to buy this, ‘Je voudrais acheter ça’, ‘Je vais l’acheter’, I’m going to buy it. If you think it’s too big for your cash, then you may wish to say do you take credit cards, ‘Vous acceptez les cartes de crédit?’ and then when you’ve finished meandering through a shop, then you are a bit lost and you want to find a cashier, you will ask where do I pay, ‘Où est la caisse?’

Rissa de la Paz: Great. Now one of the things obviously is if I am buying particularly clothes, shoes, that sort of thing, the clothes sizes and shoe sizes are different from those in the UK.

Françoise Ugochukwu: They are. The euro sizes are different to ones of the UK. So actually you need to have a little conversion chart but the sizes are indicated and all the prices are also indicated. And you don’t bargain really, you take the price the way it is including in local markets because local markets do indicate the prices on the different items.

Rissa de la Paz: Oh, so there’s no scope for a bit of sort of bargaining even in the local markets?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Not really, unless maybe in the South, but it’s not really.

Rissa de la Paz: No haggling then?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Possibly actually there will be a place. It’s if you go to ethnic markets. Especially in Paris there are some few places like Chateau Rouge that are well known to get food stuff from various countries, and those people are actually used to bargaining. So you can try and decide, but you need to know the price. If you are not too sure, then you say, ‘Combien?’ and then they will tell you.

Rissa de la Paz: I’ll definitely have to practice my numbers won’t I, if I’m going to be haggling over price?

Françoise Ugochukwu: That is very important.

Rissa de la Paz: But I suppose the other thing I’ve got to be careful about is when I’m in a market or round about just guarding my valuables presumably.

Françoise Ugochukwu: Yes, possibly, but it’s not all that dangerous everywhere. You have to just have a feel of the place.

Rissa de la Paz: Sure, but if worst came to worst and I did lose my wallet or my credit card, could you just give us some survival phrases that will just get me through?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Well you say my handbag or my credit card has been stolen, ‘On a volé mon sac’, ‘On a volé ma carte de crédit.’ I need to contact the police, ‘Je veux contacter la police’, or I need to contact the British High Commission, ‘Je veux contacter le consulat britannique.’

Rissa de la Paz: That’s presumably if you lose your passport or anything like that. That’s going to be very useful. What about if any health problems arise?

Françoise Ugochukwu: You may feel unwell and you say I need a doctor, ‘J’ai besoin d’un docteur.’ If you are looking obviously unwell, people may stop and start asking you are you alright, do you want some help? And then they may decide to go ahead and call an ambulance, or if you feel like you say, ‘J’ai besoin d’une ambulance. Une ambulance s’il vous plait,’ and the one that we’ll usually call is the SAMU. It will be written S-A-M-U, Service Aide Médicale Urgences.

There is a number for that that is at the moment the 15. So quinze, another occasion to use numbers. That number will call you a medical doctor on duty, 24-hour service that will try to find out what’s wrong with you, give you advice, and if need be call an ambulance that will pick you and send you to the emergency.

Rissa de la Paz: Is there a general number that I can bear in mind, 112 or something like that?

Françoise Ugochukwu: Most people use still the 15, the quinze.

Rissa de la Paz: Okay. So I’ll just remember the quinze if anything like that does arise. But as far as any treatment for medical emergencies, what sort of insurance cover can I look to?

Françoise Ugochukwu: That’s very important actually, and before people were using a form but now you have a European health insurance card provided on demand from the NHS, and you just travel with it and if you need any treatment you just go with it, and if you’re required to fill a form you fill a form, but that will ensure that you either pay nothing or get reimbursed.

Rissa de la Paz: So that’s great, but hopefully we’re not going to need any of those during our trip. I won’t need any of these emergency phrases. Hopefully we shan’t, but we’ll just manage to sort of clock this up as yet another wonderful European weekend break. So thanks, Françoise, for joining me, guiding me through France, the language, and the culture.

Françoise Ugochukwu: Thank you.

Rissa de la Paz: And that’s about all we have time for here on our weekend break for France. Bear some of our tips in mind and have a go at speaking the language. It’ll transform your whole experience. Don’t forget we’ve got other episodes in this series available in Spanish, German, and Italian. You can get them all from Open2.net along with transcripts of the programmes. We’ll leave you with a list of key phrases that you’ve heard on the program together with others that you might find useful.

French Phrasebook

Greetings

Hello / Good morning — Bonjour

Good evening — Bonsoir

How are you? — Ca va?

Bye — Au revoir

Have a nice day — Bonne journée

Survival Phrases

Do you speak English ? — Vous parlez anglais?

How do you say …. ? — Comment dit-on …. ?

Could you repeat ? — Vous pouvez répéter?

I didn’t quite understand — Je n’ai pas bien compris

Sorry — Pardon

Sorry — Désolé

Thanks — Merci

You’re welcome! / don’t mention! — De rien !

Getting around

How do I get to….? — Comment aller à?

Where is the station? The underground / the tube? — Où est la gare? Le métro?

Where are the taxis? buses? trams? — Où sont les taxis? Les bus? / les trams?

I need a taxi / a tram — Je cherche un taxi / un tram

Where can I get a ticket? — Où achète-t-on les billets ?

How much is it? — Combien ça coûte?

Is it far? — C’est loin?

In what direction? — Dans quelle direction?

At what time does it leave? Arrive? — A quelle heure il part? / il arrive?

How long will I have to wait? — Faut-il attendre longtemps?

The next train / tube?Le prochain train / métro?

On which platform?Sur quel quai?

What number? What line? — Quel numéro? / Quelle ligne?

What time is the connection ? — A quelle heure est la correspondance?

Will I need to change? — Je devrai changer?

Is there a supplement? — Y a-t-il un supplément?

Where do I validate my ticket? — Où faut-il composter ?

The meeting point — Le point rencontre

I’m lostJe suis perdu

Hotels

Have you got a room? — Vous avez une chambre?

Single / double / with two beds — Single/ Double / Twin

En suite — Avec salle de bain

I have booked — J’ai réservé

In the name of …. — Au nom de …

My name is … — Mon nom est…

For one/two/three nights — Pour une/deux/trois nuits

Could I see the room? — Je peux voir la chambre?

Have you got anything else? — Vous avez autre chose ?

Can I get the key to number… please? — La clef du numéro … s’il vous plait ?

Could you take my luggage upstairs? — Vous pouvez monter mes bagages ?

Service included — Service compris

The tip — Le pourboire

Room service — Service de chambre

What time is the breakfast? — A partir de quelle heure est le petit déjeuner ?

Could you prepare my bill? — Pourriez-vous préparer ma facture?

I leave tomorrow morning — Je pars demain matin

At what time should I leave the room? — A quelle heure dois-je libérer la chambre ?

Food and drink

At the cafe — Au café

At the bar — Au bar

At the restaurant — Au restaurant

At the inn — A l’auberge

I’m thirsty! — J’ai soif!

Would you like to have a drink? — Vous voulez boire quelque chose?

What drinks do you serve? — Qu’est-ce que vous avez comme boissons?

Still water — De l’eau plate

Sparkling water — De l’eau gazeuse

A coffee with milk — Un (café) crème

A beer — Une bière

Lemon tea — Un thé citron

Orange juice — Un jus d’orange

pineapple juice — Un jus d’ananas

With ice — Avec de la glace

Another one! — Une autre bouteille!

Do you have a table? — Je peux réserver une table?

For tonight — Pour ce soir

Could you give me the menu? — Le menu s’il vous plait!

Off the menu — A la carte

What vegetarian options do you have? — Avez-vous des menus végétariens ?

Chef special / daily special — Quel est le plat du jour ?

Starters — Les entrées

vegetables — Les légumes

Meat — La viande

fish — le poisson

Thank you, that’s all! — Merci, ce sera tout !

The bill, please! — L’addition, s’il vous plait !

We’d like to pay separately — Nous payons séparément

Service included (in the bill) — Service compris

Going out

Which is the way to… ? — Quelle est la direction de…?

Where is the city centre — Où est le centre ville ?

The tourist office — L’office du tourisme

The museum — Le musée

The cathedral — La cathédrale

The market — Le marché

The internet café — Le cybercafé

The post box — La boite aux lettres

The cash machine — Le distributeur de billets

How do I get to…? — Comment arriver à… ?

Show me on the map — Montrez-moi sur la carte

Can I get there on foot?On peut y aller à pied ?

Straight aheadTout droit

Turn right — Tournez à droite

Turn left at the next crossingTournez à gauche au prochain carrefour

It’s about 15minutes walk — C’est à quinze minutes environ

The sights — Les attractions

Are there any guided tours? — Il y a des visites organisées?

City bus tour — Visite en bus

Tourist boat — Bateau mouche

What time does it open? close? — Quelles sont les heures d’ouverture ? de fermeture ?

How much is the entry fee? — Combien coûte l’entrée ?

Where are the toilets? the cloakroom? — Où sont les toilettes ? le vestiaire ?

Where can I leave my bag? — Où est-ce que je peux laisser mon sac ?

Shopping

Where is the cash machine — Où est le distributeur de billets

I am just browsing — Je regarde

I am looking for a dress / a pair of trousers — Je cherche une robe/un pantalon

A blouse — Un corsage

A shirt — Une chemise

Could you help me? — Vous pouvez m’aider ?

Do you have something smaller? bigger? — Vous avez quelque chose de plus petit ? de plus grand ?

A pair of summer shoes — Une paire de chaussures pour l’été

My shoe size — Ma pointure

My dress size — Ma taille

The sales — Les soldes

Special offers — Les promotions

I’d like to buy this — Je vais l’acheter

Could I exchange this? — Je peux l’échanger?

Do you take credit cards? — Vous acceptez les cartes de crédit?

Where do I pay? — Où est la caisse?

Emergencies

My car’s broken down — Ma voiture est en panne

Is there any garage nearby? — Y a-t-il un garage par ici?

I have lost my passport / my credit card/ my mobile — J’ai perdu mon passeport / ma carte de crédit / mon portable

My handbag / my credit card has been stolen — On a volé mon sac / ma carte de crédit

I need to phone the police — Je veux téléphoner à la police

I need to cancel my credit card — Je veux bloquer ma carte de crédit

I need to get to the British Embassy — Je veux aller au consulat britannique

I am not feeling well — Je ne me sens pas bien

I need a doctor — J’ai besoin d’un docteur

Rissa de la Paz: That’s it for the key phrases.

We hope you enjoyed Weekend Break and don’t forget you can get a transcript of this programme, and the rest of this series on open2.net.

I’m Rissa de la Paz and I was joined by Françoise Ugochukwu.

The programme was produced by Michael Brodbin and this is a BBC Worldwide production for The Open University.

Phrasebook

Here's a reminder of the key phrases from the programme.

Greetings

Hello / Good morning — Bonjour

Good evening — Bonsoir

How are you? — Ca va?

Bye — Au revoir

Have a nice day — Bonne journée

Survival Phrases

Do you speak English ? — Vous parlez anglais?

How do you say …. ? — Comment dit-on …. ?

Could you repeat ? — Vous pouvez répéter?

I didn’t quite understand — Je n’ai pas bien compris

Sorry — Pardon

Sorry — Désolé

Thanks — Merci

You’re welcome! / don’t mention! — De rien !

Getting around

How do I get to….? — Comment aller à?

Where is the station? The underground / the tube? — Où est la gare? Le métro?

Where are the taxis? buses? trams? — Où sont les taxis? Les bus? / les trams?

I need a taxi / a tram — Je cherche un taxi / un tram

Where can I get a ticket? — Où achète-t-on les billets ?

How much is it? — Combien ça coûte?

Is it far? — C’est loin?

In what direction? — Dans quelle direction?

At what time does it leave? Arrive? — A quelle heure il part? / il arrive?

How long will I have to wait? — Faut-il attendre longtemps?

The next train / tube?Le prochain train / métro?

On which platform?Sur quel quai?

What number? What line? — Quel numéro? / Quelle ligne?

What time is the connection ? — A quelle heure est la correspondance?

Will I need to change? — Je devrai changer?

Is there a supplement? — Y a-t-il un supplément?

Where do I validate my ticket? — Où faut-il composter ?

The meeting point — Le point rencontre

I’m lostJe suis perdu

Hotels

Have you got a room? — Vous avez une chambre?

Single / double / with two beds — Single/ Double / Twin

En suite — Avec salle de bain

I have booked — J’ai réservé

In the name of …. — Au nom de …

My name is … — Mon nom est…

For one/two/three nights — Pour une/deux/trois nuits

Could I see the room? — Je peux voir la chambre?

Have you got anything else? — Vous avez autre chose ?

Can I get the key to number… please? — La clef du numéro … s’il vous plait ?

Could you take my luggage upstairs? — Vous pouvez monter mes bagages ?

Service included — Service compris

The tip — Le pourboire

Room service — Service de chambre

What time is the breakfast? — A partir de quelle heure est le petit déjeuner ?

Could you prepare my bill? — Pourriez-vous préparer ma facture?

I leave tomorrow morning — Je pars demain matin

At what time should I leave the room? — A quelle heure dois-je libérer la chambre ?

Food and drink

At the cafe — Au café

At the bar — Au bar

At the restaurant — Au restaurant

At the inn — A l’auberge

I’m thirsty! — J’ai soif!

Would you like to have a drink? — Vous voulez boire quelque chose?

What drinks do you serve? — Qu’est-ce que vous avez comme boissons?

Still water — De l’eau plate

Sparkling water — De l’eau gazeuse

A coffee with milk — Un (café) crème

A beer — Une bière

Lemon tea — Un thé citron

Orange juice — Un jus d’orange

pineapple juice — Un jus d’ananas

With ice — Avec de la glace

Another one! — Une autre bouteille!

Do you have a table? — Je peux réserver une table?

For tonight — Pour ce soir

Could you give me the menu? — Le menu s’il vous plait!

Off the menu — A la carte

What vegetarian options do you have? — Avez-vous des menus végétariens ?

Chef special / daily special — Quel est le plat du jour ?

Starters — Les entrées

vegetables — Les légumes

Meat — La viande

fish — le poisson

Thank you, that’s all! — Merci, ce sera tout !

The bill, please! — L’addition, s’il vous plait !

We’d like to pay separately — Nous payons séparément

Service included (in the bill) — Service compris

Going out

Which is the way to… ? — Quelle est la direction de…?

Where is the city centre — Où est le centre ville ?

The tourist office — L’office du tourisme

The museum — Le musée

The cathedral — La cathédrale

The market — Le marché

The internet café — Le cybercafé

The post box — La boite aux lettres

The cash machine — Le distributeur de billets

How do I get to…? — Comment arriver à… ?

Show me on the map — Montrez-moi sur la carte

Can I get there on foot?On peut y aller à pied ?

Straight aheadTout droit

Turn right — Tournez à droite

Turn left at the next crossingTournez à gauche au prochain carrefour

It’s about 15minutes walk — C’est à quinze minutes environ

The sights — Les attractions

Are there any guided tours? — Il y a des visites organisées?

City bus tour — Visite en bus

Tourist boat — Bateau mouche

What time does it open? close? — Quelles sont les heures d’ouverture ? de fermeture ?

How much is the entry fee? — Combien coûte l’entrée ?

Where are the toilets? the cloakroom? — Où sont les toilettes ? le vestiaire ?

Where can I leave my bag? — Où est-ce que je peux laisser mon sac ?

Shopping

Where is the cash machine — Où est le distributeur de billets

I am just browsing — Je regarde

I am looking for a dress / a pair of trousers — Je cherche une robe/un pantalon

A blouse — Un corsage

A shirt — Une chemise

Could you help me? — Vous pouvez m’aider ?

Do you have something smaller? bigger? — Vous avez quelque chose de plus petit ? de plus grand ?

A pair of summer shoes — Une paire de chaussures pour l’été

My shoe size — Ma pointure

My dress size — Ma taille

The sales — Les soldes

Special offers — Les promotions

I’d like to buy this — Je vais l’acheter

Could I exchange this? — Je peux l’échanger?

Do you take credit cards? — Vous acceptez les cartes de crédit?

Where do I pay? — Où est la caisse?

Emergencies

My car’s broken down — Ma voiture est en panne

Is there any garage nearby? — Y a-t-il un garage par ici?

I have lost my passport / my credit card/ my mobile — J’ai perdu mon passeport / ma carte de crédit / mon portable

My handbag / my credit card has been stolen — On a volé mon sac / ma carte de crédit

I need to phone the police — Je veux téléphoner à la police

I need to cancel my credit card — Je veux bloquer ma carte de crédit

I need to get to the British Embassy — Je veux aller au consulat britannique

I am not feeling well — Je ne me sens pas bien

I need a doctor — J’ai besoin d’un docteur