Many of you tell me: I don't know how to talk to the French - The French are inaccessible - I have trouble talking to the French, I don't know what to say to them.
Starting a conversation, even in your native language, is difficult! But, if you are expatriates in a French-speaking country or even if you often go to vacations in a French-speaking country, cit's good to create links, to make friends or simply to practice your French.
We will see today some tips to start a conversation in French with a French speaker and I have prepared some phrases to start a conversation in several situations.
The tips we will see are to start simple conversations and have nice and friendly interactions with French speakers. We will also see how to continue conversations and what topics of conversation appeal to the French and those to be avoided.
Being polite :
First, the most important thing is to be polite. The French in particular are very attached to politeness.
Always start your sentences with "Bonjour” or “Bonsoir” if it's after 7pm.
If you are going to ask someone for something, you can start your sentences with :
Bonjour, pardon de vous déranger
We don't talk about it much, but body language is very important to have good interactions. It is necessary to have a body language that reflects sympathy towards your interlocutor.
Smiling is always nice and well received.
Do not have your arms crossed or in your pockets.
Look your interlocutor in the eyes
Do not be too agitated
Subconsciously, doing this will put your interlocutor at ease and he will send a positive message. It's true that when we talk to a stranger, we are always suspicious. Therefore, it is important to reassure the person you are talking to by using positive body language.
Body language will also help us see who we can and cannot talk to. Before starting a conversation, look to see if the person is receptive. Look to see if the person is not busy, if they seem to be in a good mood and not in a hurry. See if the person is looking at you and at that moment, it is a good time to have a first interaction.
Start a conversation in French:
Now let's see how to start a conversation with someone in different situations and especially see what you can say:
Start a conversation in French in a bakery/pastry shop:
If you come or live in France, you must go to the bakery from time to time. It's a must! The bakery is a good place to have a conversation.
For example, if there are many people there, you can start a conversation with the person in front or behind you.
You can make a comment:
Et bah il y a un sacré monde aujourd’hui !
You can also introduce the fact that you are expatriates or on vacation in France, I find that it brings sympathy, because the person sees that you make an effort to speak in French. Moreover, they may be curious and want to know where you come from.
To introduce this subtly, you can say:
Bonjour, excusez-moi, mais je voulais savoir s’il y a toujours autant de monde d’habitude ? Je suis surpris de voir à quel point les Français adorent leurs boulangeries. Je viens de *pays* et c’est totalement différent.
Bonjour, excusez moi. Je viens de *pays*, ça fait pas longtemps que je suis en France et je découvre les boulangeries françaises, c’est merveilleux. Est-ce que vous pouvez me conseiller une pâtisserie à absolument goûter ou peut-être une spécialité de la région ?
Of course, you can also ask the baker questions. However, make sure he or she is not busy. If there is no one in the bakery and the phone is not ringing, take the opportunity to talk to him or her. If there are many people, avoid starting a discussion with him or her.
Start a conversation in French on public transport:
Public transport, especially the bus and train, is a good place to interact with others in French. Strangely enough, in the metro and in the tramway, a little less. People are often more closed and in a hurry. It's possible, but I find the bus and the train more favorable.
When you don't know much about the country, you are not always sure if you took the right bus or the right train. It is then important to ask someone if you did not make a mistake and why not start a conversation in French.
You can say :
Bonjour, excusez-moi, est-ce que je suis bien dans le bus qui va à *destination* ?
The person will answer you. If it is the wrong bus or train, you have to change quickly and the conversation will not take place. If it's the right train, you can continue with :
Merci. J’ai toujours peur de me tromper, je ne maitrise pas encore parfaitement le français, je viens de *pays*.
Là encore, vous indiquez que vous n’êtes pas de France et c’est un bon moyen de commencer une conversation en français et d’attiser la curiosité de votre interlocuteur.
Start a conversation in French in a sports or leisure club:
If you are moving to a French-speaking country, I strongly advise you to join a sports club or a leisure club. In a badminton club or an art club for example. It is a great way to meet new people and to practice his French.
Normally, you will naturally talk with people in the club. You're going to talk about the activity that you do, so start a conversation in French.
If not, you can always ask one of the people in the club:
Excusez-moi, je n’ai pas tout à fait compris ce que l’instructeur a dit. Est-ce que vous pouvez-vous me réexpliquer s’il vous plaît ?
And this is not necessarily wrong, there may be a time when you will be lost, which is quite normal. Don't hesitate to ask someone for explanations and take the opportunity to discuss.
Start a conversation in French at the supermarket:
This is not the best place to start a discussion, because people who go to the supermarket are busy shopping. But, you can still try.
To start a conversation in French in a supermarket, you can start by asking someone in the supermarket for information. Normally, you would ask someone who works in the supermarket, but since the person works, he or she may not have time to talk to you. Instead, try a customer in the supermarket. You can say:
Bonjour, excusez-moi, j’ai un doute est-ce que c’est bien de l’adoucissant pour le linge ?
The person will answer you and you can add:
Merci beaucoup. J’ai emménagé récemment ici et je ne maitrise pas totalement la langue française. Parfois, j’ai un doute sur le nom des produits et Google Traduction ne fonctionne pas toujours bien.
Of course, you can adapt to your situation. If you are on vacation, then say you are on vacation and not that you have moved here.
Start a conversation in French in a cab:
Unlike the supermarket, it's pretty easy to start a conversation in French in a cab. Cab drivers are generally very friendly and like to chat with their customers. It is then a great place to practice your French !
If the driver does not initiate the conversation himself, you can say:
Est-ce que vous avez des endroits sympas à me recommander ?
Est-ce qu’il y a beaucoup de circulation en général dans cette ville ?
Ça fait longtemps que vous vivez à *nom de la ville* ?
Continue a conversation in French:
We have seen some tips on how to start a conversation in French. Let's see now how continue a conversation in French.
Obviously, a conversation can happen naturally without the need to bring up a topic. Sometimes, the conversation may not happen and you have to accept it. This is not serious, you must try again and not get discouraged.
Talking about the weather in French:
I will give you some topics of conversation that often appeal to the French and that you can talk about without any problem. Of course, pay attention to the context and make sure that the person you are talking to is willing to talk. You can tell by his or her body language and if he or she is not overreacting to what you say.
The essential topic of conversation that can continue a conversation in French is the weather. There's always something to say about the weather. There's even a French expression about it: parler de la pluie et du beau temps. It is an expression to say that we exchange banalities, that we have a rather simple conversation.
Continue the conversation by commenting on the current weather, for example:
Il fait un froid de canard en ce moment ! Est-ce qu’il fait toujours aussi froid à cette période de l’année ?
Compare the weather in your home country with that in France, for example:
C’est fou en France en ce moment il fait 2 degrés alors que chez moi, il fait 30 degrés.
Talking about travel in French:
As you are expatriates or on vacation in France, you can talk about travel and ask your interlocutor if he or she has ever been to your country:
Est-ce que vous êtes déjà allé en / au / aux *nom du pays* ?
If he or she answers "oui," ask where and what he or she thought of your country. If not, quickly describe your country and recommend places to visit.
You can also ask for recommendations of places to visit or things to do in the region or city where you are in France. Ask for :
Au fait, ça ne fait pas longtemps que je suis ici. Avez-vous des endroits à visiter à me recommander ou peut être des activités à faire ?
Talk about the city where you are in French:
One thing you have in common with these people is being in the same city or neighborhood. So this is a good opportunity to talk about infrastructure and neighborhood life. Ask, for example:
C’est vraiment un chouette quartier. Est-ce que vous aimez vivre ici ?
French conversation topics to avoid:
There are some subjects that you should not talk about too much for the first time with a French person.
Don't talk about politics with the French. This is a subject to be avoided, because it is a very delicate subject.
Don't talk about money with French people either, it's not a thing at all in France.
Don't talk about too intimate things related to your private life with French people.
Do not say that you are looking for someone to talk to in French or for friends in French, they will think that you are just talking to them out of interest.
And if it's too intimidating to speak with French speakers for the first time, I invite you to join my French conversation group Ohlala French Coffee. It is a caring conversation group where each week we talk about a new topic of conversation.
I'll see you soon for new adventures, in French of course! 🇫🇷