How to speak French like a Parisian

by Marylol

If you’re going to be spending time in Paris you’ll want to blend in as much as you can. A good way of doing this is by being able to mingle with the locals. One of the best ways t

Paris is a fabulous city and the people are one of a kind. They’re considered to be brash, outspoken and even arrogant in certain quarters - they definitely have their own way. If you want to learn how to speak like a Parisian you’ll need to observe, listen and converse with them. You’ll find a number of suggestions on how to learn to speak like a Parisian in the article below, including immersing yourself, getting involved in debates, and cultural guidelines.

Immerse yourself

The best way to learn a language is on a good language course, like the ones offered at ESL Schools, and then take it into the real world. In Paris you can head for coffee shops, bars and parks to mingle with locals. Challenge yourself by talking to them and seeing how they respond. It’s the best way to build on your French and pick up the nuances of Parisian speak. So, get on the Metro, buzz around Paris and try out your skills on locals all over the city.

How to speak French like a Parisian
How to speak French like a Parisian

Pick up slang and an accent

When you mix it with the locals you’ll have the chance to pick up new words that aren’t traditionally taught but are used in everyday life. You’ll also develop an accent by listening and speaking - but a word of warning here, don’t overdo your accent as it may come across as over the top!

Cultural greetings

There’s a myth that the French are rude and arrogant, none more so than in Paris, but this isn’t the case. You just need to extend the courtesies that you would expect in your own country. When you arrive in a shop, café or bar greet the person you meet with bonjour or bonsoir, depending on the time of day. When you leave, make sure you say merci, au revoir. 

Don’t use alternatives to bonjour when you’re asking a question. For example, in England we might say “excuse me” before we ask, but it's not polite to do this in Paris. It costs nothing to say “bonjour” so keep this in mind and you’ll be fine.

Cultural greetings
Cultural greetings

Ask a question? Expect a response!

Be prepared to get a frank response when you ask a Parisian a question, and feel free to give back your own. Get a debate going and you’ll see it all come out, local slang, passion and fast-talking. This is a great way to see the locals at their best! Try to keep up by listening intently and chipping in when you can.  Passionate exchanges are an everyday event in Paris, so get involved!

You can have great fun when you study French in Paris and stay in France, and you’ll go away with a lifetime of memories!

Ask a question? Expect a response!
Ask a question? Expect a response!

Poll

How would you perfect your Parisian?

Resource Box

The Guardian: Paris

The Guardian’s guide to Paris.

Parisians

Philip Hensher reviews Graham Robb’s “Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris” in the Telegraph.

Essential French phrases

The BBC’s guide to everyday phrases.

Updated: 01/14/2013, Marylol
 
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Rose on 06/09/2014

I found that smiling and trying a bit of French was enough - most Parisians laugh and respond in English! They just want you to make the attempt in French first.

Mira on 01/17/2013

Haven't been to Paris in ages. I really look forward to traveling there in the near future. Thanks for the article.

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