We are aware that the french language is tough to learn; the grammar has so many rules and there are so many letters that you are not supposed to pronounce! So we don’t expect you to speak perfectly french just for your weekend in Paris, but it is highly appreciated if you try at least to start out with french words and then, switch back to english, especially if you are asking for something. Try obviously to put the right words in the good context… don’t just shout them randomly to your tourguide. So the french words I usually hear out of the blue during my tours would be…
1/ BONJOUR (Hello) even if we have already greeted each other, you still like to practice this word! Don’t get mixed up with “au revoir” (goodbye) that you rarely use anyway as you have already switched back to english by the time you say goodbye. You don’t have to stress the second syllable so much. It can be creepy but cute! Just say it quickly like us. You can also say “Salut“, which means “hi”. As it is less formal, don’t use it with anyone.
2/ MERCI (Thank you) You know this one no problem. If you feel comfortable enough, you can even add “beaucoup“, (very much), which can make a huge difference. Once again, don’t scare your interlocutor by stressing too much the second syllable. I have noticed as a tour guide in Paris that you guys really enjoy the “ou” sound in french, except that our “ou” is not supposed to be long like the “u:” in english.
3/ OUI (Yes) or “ouioui” as you like to say… One “oui” is enough, thank you! You could even say “ouais“, (pronounced like “way”), which mean “yeah”, only if you wanna be cool. Perhaps do not reply “ouais” to the baker when he repeats your order just to make sure it is correct. He/she might glare at you.
4/Ohlàlà!!! (Wow!!) You like this one, don’t you! But somehow, you never get it right. When we say “ohlàlà”, first we put the stress on the third syllable, with a long “a:”; second, you have to know that it is not a happy word. We usually say “ohlàlà” when we are angry or mad at you (just kidding). So, if you hear your tourguide say “ohlàlà”, it is not a good sign… Don’t get mixed up with the reknown “Oulàlà“, which is totally different…and used in a totally different context. Please, don’t overuse “oulala“.
5/ Mademoiselle (…) You know this one pretty well eventhough it’s a hard one! I don’t want to disappoint you after all your efforts to memorize this word but you cannot use it anymore…Now you have to say “madame” even to a young woman of 20. Indeed, some french feminists tried to rule out the “mademoiselle” status in all administrative papers for it was considered as a reminder of women’ dependance on either their father (Mademoiselle) or their husband (Madame). Paris has a lot of hardcore feminists so just to be safe, always say “madame” to all women.