DuoTrip to Paris

Today I've reached 600 streak and tomorrow I'm leaving for Paris. I hope to check how good is my French, if I am able to understand most of what I hear there and of course visit one of the most beautiful cities in the world :) I'm going to use English as little as possible, though my French still needs a lot to improve (I haven't finished the tree yet; am doing passe compose at the moment) Any hints/advice? I'll share my impression when I am back!

July 30, 2015


Watch out for the "gold" ring and other scams. If you are recognised as a tourist and someone dodgy approaches you speaking English, pretend to talk in some obscure language. Maybe Klingon on Duo has a use after all.

July 30, 2015

I have a suggestion:

If you don't have a phrasebook, borrow one from a library, buy one, or download one.

Glance through it quickly, and write down the sentences that you think you might use, but might not know very well yet (Where is the bathroom? Is there a ___ nearby? How much does that cost? How long will it take?). Put these into an SRS like Memrise or Anki.

This was a huge help for me. Duolingo can teach you a lot of vocabulary and give you a strong basis for grammar, but there some critical phrases that it might not teach that you might find in a phrasebook.

Have fun!

July 30, 2015

I was just in France with all that I had learned in Duolingo and did just fine. I think you will be pleasantly surprised with how much you can understand! The most important thing is to greet people in French and don't switch to English even if they do. Have fun!

July 30, 2015

Congrats. The worst is that when they hear you speaking French they are excited and take it for granted that you speak very well. I know something about as I work at the airport in Warsaw. One of my favourites french expressions are "lentement" and "un petit peu" if you know what I mean!

July 30, 2015

Haha! Of course :)

July 30, 2015

That's excellent advice! I've had some strange conversations in which I spoke (badly) the language I was trying to learn and the other person spoke English (often just as badly, but trying to be helpful). Forcing yourself to stick to speaking French (or whatever less comfortable language you're trying to learn) really helps!

August 1, 2015

I'd say, if you can avoid English at all costs, it would be even better. Just bring a dictionary.

July 30, 2015

I'm sure you already know but by starting each request with "Je voudrais..., s'il vous plaƮt" will go a long, long way with the French. Have a great trip.

July 31, 2015

Hey there !

It's a very good idea ! If I may give you a piece of advice : Parisian people can sometimes be obnoxious with foreigners. You might meet some people who will be very happy to help you with french as you might meet some who won't be supportive. Don't get discouraged by them :)

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask ! (I'm Parisian, born and raised)

Have a nice day :)

July 31, 2015

No, you are not too optimistic. Just don't get discouraged if it takes you a few days to adjust to the live interaction. Remember, learning is a continual process!

July 30, 2015

Remember to say " Bonjour" to everyone you meet! You are going to have the time of your life! I'm a bit jealous.......

July 31, 2015

I have not been to Paris, but I have been to France.

Here are a few tips I found useful, especially if you are nervous about your French skills:

1) Greet people (salesperson, etc.) in confident French.

2) Before going out, review relevant French words/phrases/sentences for the day's planned activities (e.g., if you are going to a restaurant, practice how to order things at a restaurant; if you are going to a museum, practice words/phrases for buying tickets, etc.). Don't worry about planning everything, but a quick review could be useful! If you are unsure of your grasp of the language, I believe this will help a lot. If you are confident in the language, it might not be necessary.

3) Just try your best in the language and don't worry! I found that everyone was very appreciative of my attempt to converse in French and were very forgiving of any mistakes I made.

Have fun and let us know how it goes!

August 1, 2015

What an encouraging conversation! I have just booked a trip to Paris in October and joined duolingo today. I wish you a super trip.

August 1, 2015

My experience in Paris, and on a subsequent trip to Provence, is that people are really glad to help, and they appreciate your efforts. I'm sure there are a few snotty people around, but I never met one. Something that happened quite often with us was that we'd take our best stab at a question or statement and the person would very casually re-state the sentence with the correct gender/verb tense/vocabulary and then carry on the conversation. It was never done in a pointed or snarky way, it was very helpful. We very rarely had anyone switch to English, btw, although I'm sure most of them could have.

At one restaurant, my husband expressed our appreciation for the helpfulness of Parisians in general and our waiter in particular, and their patience in putting up with our shaky French. He grinned and said he was just glad to be speaking French with us instead of being yelled at in English. Sigh. We did witness a few examples of that kind of behaviour - very embarrassing.

August 3, 2015

Congtats and good luck. I just hit 100 today and feel pretty confident in being able to at least communicate (I'm less confident in listening comprehension), so I imagine you'll do pretty well.

August 1, 2015

So... I'm back.

To start with, I'll begin with the city. It's marvelous, the famous landmarks are really impressive, but even the minor ones are charming. You can take a walk to the Eiffel Tower through tiny streets and feel the spirit of Paris with its restaurants at every corner. In the afternoon I was suprsised that almost every cafe was full and people just sat and chat. I've taken about a thousand unforgetable photos, but even without them, I'd remember the trip for a long time...

That was for Paris in general. As far as French language and its native speakers are concerned I was surprised. I heard that they might not be very helpful and don't speak English at all. That's not true. You can easily find out on the street who's French native speaker and who's not and they offered me their help at least several times (without my asking). I just stopped by to make sure that I'm on the right way and one guy offered my his help and guidance to the place I was going to. It was nice. I was alone so I had to take either selfies or ask someone else to take me a photo (I generally asked other tourists). I was twice asked if I would like to have my photo taken by them... What a nice surprise, not to ask a fellow-camera-man to take a picture of me!

Finally, my French. I knew form the beginning that my accent and pronunciation skills were quite qood and haven't had any problems with them at all. My weakest point was the listening and understanding. I used to travel many times by metro and listened to their conversation, AND... I could hardly distinguish what did they say. At least I heard it in natural environment, it was their common talk, but I could only get single words out of it. It was one flow of neverending words which appeared to me as just one long one, but I suspected it was going to be like that.

I always started speaking in French, just as some of you suggested. Some expressions I knew very well, so I pronunced them correctly and then all of a sudden my interlocutor speaks so fast that they only thing I could say was "Je ne comprends pas". Only then did they realize that I was a foreigner and my French wasn't as good as they thought, so they: 1) Explained it to me in simplier words, more slowly and I got the message, I was still trying to speak French; 2) Switched to English, and I either switched as well or understood the message and tried to answer it in my simple French. I welcomed the both ways, so I didn't speak only French there.

There were situations when I didn't know what they were saying, or I didn't know how to ask in French and we couldn't communicate in English as well. I remember the situation on the first day at the airport train station. The automat accepted only coins or paycard and I had only banknotes. I went to Relay shop to ask for a change. I tried in French and she probably didn't understand what i was saying, so I switched to English, but still without a result. I had to ask some airport staff and they told me what to do. Generally, it is true that the elderly in French don't know English at all, so You'd better say it right in French. Small shop owners also have difficulties in English.

I had simple conversations, sometimes I tried to say something more difficult and saw that it wasn't said correctly, but still they understood what I meant. In the hostel where I was staying nobody in my room spoke French (even a bit), so we spoke English. There were many Brits and other English native speakers so I could practise my English as well (It's not my mother tongue, and to understand a Brit speaking fast is also challenging). They congratulated me on my English speaking skills. It was nice to hear that! The hostel staff spoke English very well, so if I had to switch to English it was all OK. I tried to talk to them in French and they knew I'm the beginner and let me pracise on them.

I wonder if you, got to the end of my post. It took more than I expected. If you have any questions, do not hesitate and ask me. I will share my experience.

My impressions? Go to Paris even if you don't know French very well. Don't get discouraged. You will love your stay and have an opportunity to find out more about France, its culture and language. It's worth it.


I just remebered one of the expressions that I haven't had on Duo but still understood it: It was "vas y". So if you ask me whether you shall, go my answer is - VAS Y!!!

August 5, 2015

Congratulations. My last visit to Paris was in 2008 and I have many vivid, pleasant memories. I'm glad your experience of the kindness of Parisians was similar to mine.

August 6, 2015

Unfortunately I will have no french dictionary on me... Am I too optimistic? :)

July 30, 2015

Am I too optimistic?

In a word, yes.

I consider myself fluent in Italian and I still check words in a dictionary once in a while. Hell, I still check words in a dictionary for my native language!

A pocket French-English dictionary is not expensive, it's small and light. Go to a book store and buy it, now. It'll serve you all your life. See it as an investment in your language learning.

Alternatively, I think you can maybe find one at the airport, in the duty-free shop, but I wouldn't be sure it's cheaper than in a real bookstore.

July 30, 2015

Sounds reasonable but I thought that I'd use google translator in case of emergency. I hope it won't be necessary :) Thanks for tip

July 30, 2015

Well, Google Translate is a dictionary.

Edit : You can download the language pack to use it even without internet connection, to save on data roaming.

July 30, 2015 has a useful app and you can download the English to French dictionary which has words (duh) and also popular phrases and idioms. I found it very useful when I'd forgotten the odd word :)

July 30, 2015

I agree that a very small pocket dictionary is probably a good idea. In some cases, you might not have access to google translate. Are you sure that your electronic devices will work there everywhere?

July 30, 2015

If you have an iphone (maybe also on Android?) I find the French English Dictionary+ app very good (i've paid for the better version but there's a free version), then at least you don't have to carry the dictionary around. It's also helpful to have the audio and an easily searchable database.

July 31, 2015

I have never managed to bring a dictionary with me anywhere. It's probably a great idea, but I've always gotten by (in Spanish, Korean, Arabic - not tried with French yet) when I'm not understood by changing the sentence or using hand gestures. Have fun!!

August 1, 2015

please share your experience as I hope to go to Nice in November on the same mission. I want to see how well I can do with what I have learned. I chose Nice as I think the weather will be milder than Paris ( I have been to Paris several times so looking for warmer weather and a different experience.) Have a wonderful time and good luck.

August 1, 2015

May I make a suggestion for your visit to Nice, if you enjoy art, visit the Chagall gallery. It is wonderful. Marc Chagall was still alive when it was designed and built and gave his guidance and ideas. Also, I recommend using the audio guide, it gave intriguing additional information about the background to the works and how they were conceived and made.

August 1, 2015
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