French Basics: How to Thrive in France

French Basics: How to Thrive in France

We teach you the French basics to kick-start your learning. See top tips, videos of locals and common French phrases to help you share conversations.
March 29 2021

When you want to learn to speak French, the best place to start is with common French words and phrases. However, knowing where to find them could be tricky. You can learn French words (and really, the basics of  French language) fairly easily if you know where to look and how to fit learning into your life. Whether you’re planning on visiting France as a tourist, or you’re a beginner just starting out, we’ve got you covered with some basic French words and phrases that are incredibly useful to know. Read on to let the party begin.

French Basics: why are they important?

There are many reasons to learn French. The main reason is to create connections with others. Being able to communicate and connect with someone in their native language is amazing! You get to experience their culture, discover them more, and create new experiences only possible through that language.

Nailing the essential and easy French words and phrases is a great starting point that'll get you (even more) pumped up about learning French (WOO!!) and confident that you can speak in real life. Also, by learning some French basics, you also have a chance to strengthen your career prospects (you never know when it could come in handy), gain a different perspective of the world and do some brain training all at the same time. Now that's pretty cool.


Tips on first learning basic French phrases

Forget about the F-word 

We don’t mean that one (you can learn those if you really want to!) we’re talking about fluency. It’s important to note that fluency doesn’t come overnight. To speak French fluently, you need to proactively make time to learn and stick with it for a decent period of time, and make those essential French phrases your best friends!

Of course, you want those interpersonal connections as quickly as possible to feel like you’re succeeding in having a decent conversation! But it does take time. When you’re just starting out, it’s more fun to make someone laugh with a silly mistake than to correctly use the imperfect subjunctive - we promise! 

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes in French

Linked to the point above, mistakes help your understanding and teach you new things. Of course, It’s natural to make mistakes when learning a language, so it’s natural to worry about them. Who hasn’t got their French pronunciation wrong, mixed up the gender of a noun, or been tripped up by a faux ami? (a.k.a a false friend: words that look or sound similar in another language, but mean something totally different).

But mistakes aren’t something you should worry about. In fact, they’re actually doing you a massive favour. Messing up will make you think about why what you said was wrong. And by figuring out the reason it was wrong, you’ll start to understand the right way to say it. 

So, how do we help your understanding? Memrise encourages you to start speaking, right from the off. If you make a mistake when you’re learning new words, it’ll be marked as “Difficult Words”, and it'll be tested again with extra emphasis. This’ll form the beginnings of a home for the information to store itself in your brain.

Use online resources to learn basic French 

Learning French words and phrases online is another great way to bring French vocabulary into your life. You could find a French ebook to help with remembering spelling, genders and grammar. If you’re someone that learns by listening, find a French podcast or watch videos by a French YouTuber. The internet is your friend when it comes to learning French. (We love Loïc Suberville!)

Another fantastic online tool to help you learn basic French is online streaming platforms. You can access hundreds of French TV series, films and documentaries. If you’re a visual learner, it’ll help to keep your attention and not let it drift away and onto Instagram (we’ve all done it). Plus, it can help you with tone, gesture and intonation in the French language. 

Please could you repeat that?

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Common French Phrases to memorise

Here are a few quick, common French phrases you can pick up easily.

Okay, Alright / D’accord

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excuse me (plural; formal) / excusez-moi

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How are you? /Comment ça va?

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I'm good, and you? / ça va, et toi?

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Nice to meet you / Enchanté(e)

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What's your name? / Comment tu t'appelles ?

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My name is / Je m’appelle

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I love it / J’adore

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I’m sorry / Je suis désolé(e) 

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I don't like it / Je n’aime pas

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See you soon / à bientôt!

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Where do we meet? / on se retrouve où?

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Then once you’ve got these simple French sentences nailed, it’s time to head out and try them! You’ll need to put yourself out there. It might seem scary but try to forget about perfectionism. The best approach to learning conversational French is “Je ne parle pas parfaitement, mais je me fais comprendre!”, which means “I don’t speak perfectly, but I make myself understood!” Remember: everyone makes mistakes. That’s the best way to learn.

You can also learn loads more phrases like these spoken by real French speaking locals in our French Video Phrasebook!


Basic French Words: Top Tips

To master French vocab, you’re probably thinking you’ve got to knuckle down and direct your learning to French colours like bleu (blue), vert (green) and rouge (red), animals (you probably already know chat (cat), chien (dog), poulet (chicken)) and family members (such as père (father), mère (mother), grand-mère (grandmother). 

These can be usfuel, but they're often not super helpful when it comes to actually having a real-life conversation, when you need useful French conversation phrases, which assume your the goal here! As always, there are some useful exceptions, like learning the words for different feelings/emotions like happiness (joie/bonheur), sadness (tristesse) and anger (colère), or learning how to ask for water (Est-ce que je peux avoir de l’eau s'il vous plaît ?) 

If you want to expand your vocabulary, by all means, you can go and learn the topics mentioned above. But to get around Paris, order a beer in Marseille or just make friends with the locals, learning conversational vocabulary is going to be way more important. (Start our French course and check these videos from it below!)

Hi/Hello / Salut

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Really? / Ah bon ?

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Thank you / Merci

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Goodbye / Au revoir

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The secret to learning French language basics

The secret? Getting started learning simple french words on the Memrise App! Why? Because studying boring French grammar books or impersonal online classes take a lot of your time, money and  patience. Learning French should fit into your schedule, not the other way round! The key to success in learning basic French is to integrate regular exposure to French content into your daily routine - i.e. to practice. You should combine listening to native speakers with some key vocabulary in the form of some basic French words. Add a couple of simple French sentences and a few clever language hacks and you have a magic recipe for basic French conversation. Just 5 minutes a day can go a long way.

We’ve got it all here for you, in one handy simple French course. Check it out by clicking "Start learning for free" below and tag us on social media when you’ve completed it and moved onto the next level (Look at you go! Smashing it 🚀)

With these basic French phrases, you’ll be sure to enrich your world by learning some basic conversational French vocabulary. If you found this useful, find out more about learning French now! 


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