i would translate 'there is/are' to 'il y a', such as 'il y a un chat là-bas' [there is a cat over there] or 'est-ce qu'il y a des questions?' [are there any questions?]
ce is a fundamental building block of french grammar, probably as critical to fluency as the word 'it' is in english. once you get it down, itll be easier to use it than to explain it. but for anyone interested in my attempt at explaining it, read on
c'est, ce sont, ce n'est pas, etc all use 'ce' [it] which is also used in phrases like celui / ceux / celle / celles [the one/s], 'ceci' [this] and 'cela' [that]. ce [masculine singular, before consonant sound] / cet [masculine singular before vowel sound] / cette [feminine singular] / ces [plural] all essentially mean 'it' or 'the thing'. ce+elle=celle [it+she=that, fem], ce+lui+la=celui-là [it+him+there=that one there, masc], ce+est=c'est [it+is=it is], etc
I think this is confusing for us English speakers because when we say "chicken" we mean a female chicken. We wouldn't call a rooster a chicken. The word hen is used less frequently than chicken in English. So I guess it comes down to the fact that poule is the accepted way to refer to a hen in French, where if you say poulet you could mean a male or female?? Correct me if I'm off-base. Thanks.