"Bon Jour je suis anglais"...erm...what next?

Discussion in 'Touring and Adventure Cycling' started by Bigtallfatbloke, 28 Jun 2008.

  1. Bigtallfatbloke

    Bigtallfatbloke New Member

    Ok seasoned french tourer types yet again I find myself in need of your input and seeking to pick your brains...I speako no lingo de france...nada...nothing at all, just enough to say good morning,,I think. So i am going to be totally stuffed in France as far as the language goes. So what are some key phrases you chaps and ladies use when over there? particulary stuff related to fixing bikes, eating, directions, hotels etc....and yes I am going to get aphrase book but it's really the bike stuff that will help. I fully intend to make good use of pointing my finger and shrugging etc but I feel a few sentences shouldnt be beyond me.
  2. vernon

    vernon Harder than Ronnie Pickering

    Meanwood, Leeds
    It's all very well being able to spit out the phrase book phrases - it's the understanding of the resposes to them that matter:biggrin:

    Although I made it my mission not to speak English while cycling from the Channel to the Med - I reckon that I'd have been able to get by with no conversational French at all as just about every camp site had English speaking owners and phrase books supply the transactional French needed to purchase food and drink (avoidable if you use a supermarket).

    Here's your first few bike specific words yuo might find them wheely useful xx(

    moyeu - hub
    roue libre - freewheel
    rayon - spoke
    jante - rim
    pneu - tyre
    chambre a air - inner tube
    crevaison - puncture
    valve a la francais - presta valve
    valve a l'anglais - schrader valve

    Purriez vous gonfler les pneus - could you inflate the tyres
    Pourriez vous redresser la roue avant - could you true the front wheel
    Pourriez vous redresser la roue avant - could you true the rear wheel

    vent de front - headwind
    vent arrier - tailwind

    A bike specific lexicon can be found at: www.sheldonbrown.com/eng-fren.html

    The French appreciate efforts to communicate in their tongue and will accommodate your mangling of their language with good humour and then fill in the gaps when you struggle.

    Have fun with the struggle.
  3. OP

    Bigtallfatbloke New Member

    Murky bucket mon ami!
  4. Haitch

    Haitch Flim Flormally

    The most useful word in French, and perhaps the only one you will ever need, is "chose", meaning "thing". La Chose, une chose, cette chose. Just point and say "Cette chose-ci" (this thing here) and everyone will understand.
  5. yello

    yello Legendary Member

    You'll know a lot already bftb. English and French share many words, they're just pronounced differently. It does depend on the speaker, but you'll probably be surprised at just how much French you'll be able to understand.

    Many French understand some English too; it's on the radio and tele a great deal. And they do learn it at school and have done for many years.

    BUT you MUST make the effort to speak French. Do that, and you'll find people will try and help you. The French are surprisingly conservative & shy (says he with sweeping generalisation), don't mistake this for aloofness. I found that once you break the ice (by making mangled attempts at their language!) then they open up and are warm and good hearted. Especially the older generation.

    If you do need to repair/replace anything, do keep in mind that there is not the availability of stuff here as in the UK. Unless you're in a big city, you'll never be blessed with choice. So be prepared to be flexible. If you see something that remotely serves your purposes then get it there and then! This applies to just about anything; bike spares, camping stuff, food.... And the French tend to be laid back. Stuff rarely happens immediately, so be prepared to chill out and wait. Also, pretty much everywhere closes between 12 and 2 (lunch), except cafes and restaurants obviously. Keep this in mind when route planning.


    It's arrière for the rear wheel. I do recommend you take a list of French words for various bits of the bike. It's easier than wheeling a loaded tourer into a bike shop and pointing!

    Have you posted a route? Praps our paths can cross somewhere.
  6. asterix

    asterix Comrade Member

    Limoges or York
    There's no need to explain that you are 'Anglais', they almost always seem to know!

    It's expected that you will start a conversation with 'bonjour' and possibly a handshake, say when meeting a bikeshop proprietor to explain a problem.

    'Je Voudrais..' (I would like) is an important start to many transactions, don't be afraid to speak pidgin French, it's best to keep it simple if in doubt and not feel embarrassed.

    On parting it is polite to say 'au revoir'.
  7. Cathryn

    Cathryn California Correspondant

    Voici la route pour xxx....is this the road to x?

    Je cherche...I'm looking for

    Ou est la gare?....where is the station? Always a good place to head for in a city, especially Montpellier where there are no flipping roadsigns
  8. dragon72

    dragon72 Veteran

    Mexico City
    Deux bières, s'il vous plaît. C'est mon pote qui paye.
    Two beers please. My mate's paying.
  9. OP

    Bigtallfatbloke New Member

    xx(:biggrin::biggrin::biggrin::biggrin::biggrin:.....no wait you said 'Parting':blush:
  10. asterix

    asterix Comrade Member

    Limoges or York
    ..sorry, I can't help you with the response you were looking for, you'll have to go it alone on that one;)
  11. dragon72

    dragon72 Veteran

    Mexico City
    Beurk! Est-ce que votre chien a pété?
    Gross! Has your dog farted?
  12. John the Monkey

    John the Monkey Frivolous Cyclist

    If you can point to the offending part, "C'est cassé" (Seh cassay) "It's broken" or "Il ne marche pas" (Eel nuh marsh pah) "It doesn't work" can be helpful.

    For general day to day French, I really like the Rough Guide phrasebook.
  13. wallabyhunter

    wallabyhunter New Member

    Perth WA
    Bonjour BTFB, when're you off? I picked up the bike last week, done a few miles, pulled into a McD's to check emails, thought I'd call in here & see who was around.

    Good luck with the french,I bought a cd I could listen to in the car, that worked ok for me. I think any way, I guess I won't realy know until July when I get across the ditch
  14. Arch

    Arch Married to Night Train

    Salford, UK
    I don't think I can offer many specific phrases.. I'm just back from nearly three weeks in France and agree with Yello and Asterix - have a try, be self effacing about your lack of language and smile a lot, and they will be pleased you tried and make the effort to be understood back. My friend (who has a house there) did pass on the word "douchement" to me - 'gently' - to be used in the context of someone speaking french back to you too fast for you to understand.

    A tip - almost any word ending in 'ion' will mean the same as in English - there are about 3 exceptions. Exception is not one of the exceptions.

    To feel like you're really blending in, when you say au revoir, say it sort of slurred in to one - "auvoir". I found that once I'd got a few familiar words pronounced in a french way, rather than in a stilted English way, I felt more confident. I had schoolbook French from many years ago, and some experience from a trip two years ago, and felt much more confident after a week immersed in the language.

    oh, 'pas probleme' (pas pronounced without the s, as 'pa') - no problem, no worries. I used this at the end of an unsuccessful attempt to get directions from an old chap leaning on a gate - although I was still lost (he understood me, I half understood him, but he just didn't have the answer to my query). It just felt better to say "ah, well, no worries, thanks" than to just drive away...

    Also, on a cultural note, be prepared if you're in a cafe or bar/tabac, especially in little villages, for people to walk in and greet the whole bar and recieve 'bonjour' from everyone in there. Join in with a bonjour - there is a wonderfully old fashioned formality-yet-friendliness about rural France. And most bars don't sell pastries or such like, but are often happy for you to eat one you've brought with you, while you drink your coffee. I never did the asking but I think it went something like "Si possible que manger notre croissants, s'il vous plait?" For you on your own it would be 'ma croissant', I think (phonetically - Si posseeb, k' manjer ma croissant, si vou play?) Waving your bag of buns and grinning should help. Tip is to get the buns when you first get on the road - boulangeries often sell out early, and you want them nice and fresh...:smile:
  15. friedel

    friedel New Member

    On our bikes!
    How about 'deux cafes au lait s'il vous plait et deux pains aux chocolat' for the morning after those 'deux bieres'?? have a great time!!
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