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En Francais s'il vous plait...

Discussion in 'Touring and Adventure Cycling' started by Kirstie, 28 Jun 2010.

  1. ...forgive the lack of circumflex and cidilla

    Anyway, I'm off touring in France for the first time in a few weeks. I've got reasonable French, but having never cycled there don't know much in the way of French cycing vocab.

    So what do I need to know? Key words and phrases please...!

    e.g. 'My pump is stuck in my trouser leg'
    'I ran over my camembert'

  2. threebikesmcginty

    threebikesmcginty Corn Fed Hick...

    ...on the slake
    donnez-moi le gâteau
    grandes bières froides svp
    cette chaîne est lâche
  3. Dave Davenport

    Dave Davenport Guru

  4. yello

    yello Guru

    Just shout and speak as if they're idiots. Seems to work for some of the English that live here at any rate!

    Hopefully, someone can track down and post a link to useful phrases but perhaps the most useful day-to-day one would be...

    pouvez-vous remplir mon bidon s'il vous plaît

    ...when you want your bidon refilling. Ask in any bar or tabac, they'll happily oblige, or you could even knock on a door and ask if supplies are getting desperately low.

    Generally speaking (very generally mind) many French people can understand an amount of English. I certainly wouldn't rely on it but if you're prepared to have a go in French, and are polite etc, then you might find that those English lessons they took in school get used to their fullest!

    I'll post more as I think of them...

    Oh, you don't 'ride' a bike. Colloquially, you 'roll' one. They'll talk of 'making the bike' (faire du velo) but once the cycling context is established (or if it is already there) it becomes 'rouler'. For instance, 'j'ai roule soixante kilometres aujourdhui' is litterally 'I rolled 60km today'.
  5. Landslide

    Landslide Rare Migrant

    Called to the bar
    Cut down on costs by asking for "une pression" (draught beer) rather than "une biere" (often comes as a bottle).

    (Apologies for any grammatical errors).
  6. yello

    yello Guru

    Cheers landslide, you reminded me, a panaché (pana-shay) is a lager shandy. Hits the spot nicely on a warm day.

    café crème or café au lait - in practice, the same thing. Coffee with milk. Asking for a café will get you an espresso. Just point at the boulangerie, but there's nothing on this planet that tastes like a fresh pain au chocolaté or pain au raisin
  7. Arch

    Arch Married to Night Train

    York, UK
    The EU has published a cycling lexicon, useful if you stray elsewhere as well as France.


    Scroll past the dull blurb, and print from page 15.

    My main tip would be not to get too hung up on grammar and so on. Make the effort, and have some basic vocab, and you can get by - if you need a bottle filled, then producing it and asking "C'est possible...? (poss-eeb-ler) l'eau s'il vous plait?" will get the message across. My friends who live there said that too many people get hung up on whether it should le or la, and consequently get tongue tied. Just have a stab, and there are few occasions when you'll be misunderstood (I gather one of them is the difference between Le Tour (as in 'de France') and La Tour (as in 'de Eiffel'))

    I've been three times cycling now, and the first couple of times I was very much relying on my friends to do the talking - this time, I felt quite a bit more confident, although I had little more in the way of vocab.

    Panache is definitely a good choice for a hot day, as is Orangina, which always tastes much better in France.

    We found a phrase lacking from any book - "Excuse me sir, but my friend's sock has fallen from our balcony to the balcony of Room 20, is it possible to open the room so that we can get it?"

    I could just about have managed it, but I'd had a couple of beers and was laughing too much to say it in English, let alone French...
  8. yello

    yello Guru

    French bread MUST be eaten fresh. Don't buy it in the morning for the afternoon/evening... or lunch for that matter. It's pretty much stale after a few hours. You could beat people to death with it after 8 hours. Fret not though, most (all?) boulangeries do several bakes a day.

    Don't rely on anything being open between midday and 2pm. And not at all in July! Except perhaps the hairdressers.

    Ah, hang on, it's phrases you want...
  9. aramaic

    aramaic Guest


  10. Arch

    Arch Married to Night Train

    York, UK
    Good tip about stuff being shut at lunchtime - even big supermarkets. Shop for lunch stuff like cheese, meat and fruit (assuming you're picnicing) good and early (although the bread is best fresh - we tended to buy the loaf shaped stuff sliced (pain de campagne I think) rather than the baguettes, and it was fine after a couple of hours.)

    Also, cafes/bars won't necessarily have food, but they seem to be fine with you eating pastries you've bought elsewhere.
  11. Speicher

    Speicher Vice Admiral Staff Member

    On this subject Yello, you might add your tuppence worth.

    I have often found that I can think what I need to say in French, but get half way through a sentence and still hesitate over one word. This means not finishing the sentence, but the listener may have grasped my meaning. But if I do not get to the end, I may not get around to adding "s'il vous plait". So to get round this omission or mistake, :angry: I got into the habit of starting the sentence with "please". Thus, if I made a mistake, or did not finish the sentence, because they finished it for me, at least I had started off on a polite note.

    It may sound odd to a French person, but do you think that its "oddness" is compensated for by its politeness?
  12. Arch

    Arch Married to Night Train

    York, UK
    I would think so. It would sound odd in English too, but understandable.

    I tend to start with s'il vous plait too, while I work out the rest of it...
  13. andym

    andym Über Member

    I’m pretty fluent in french but the last time I was in France
     I had to try to explain that I needed the mechanic to trim
    the cable outer because I hadn’t put it into the ferrule properly.
     Not surprisingly I had to fall back on pointing and saying

    J’ai un problème avec ceçi ...

    ...always a useful fallback.

    If you need to buy an inner tube it’s a 'chambre à aire'.

    J’ai crevé is “I’ve got a puncture” not to be confused with je suis crevé(e) - “I’m knackered”.

    [edit: I don't know why the margins went haywire here!]
  14. Muddyfox

    Muddyfox Veteran

    Avez Vous a cuppa .. i learnt that from the tea adverts with the monkeys and if i remember rightly they were also cycling in france ?

  15. yello

    yello Guru

    It may sound foreign or odd but I doubt there'd be a problem. But in honesty, I have no idea. When I speak French, I really have no feeling for what I'm saying. Likewise when I hear it, I don't intuitively respond. I'm not fluent by any stretch of the imagination and, to be honest, I really speak English with French words (give or take).

    My French teacher told us not to worry about mistakes and the like as most French speakers make them too! And I mean so-called basic mistakes; getting the gender wrong (le/la) or getting verb conjugations wrong (I is, I telled him, etc etc etc). Or not knowing the correct verb or it's conjugation so using 'faire' for just about everything (useful verb is 'faire', it means to make or do but pretty much any noun can be 'faire'd! Don't know the conjugations for the verb 'to clean'? then simply 'faire' the adjective/noun, e.g. 'I clean the car' = 'I make clean the car' . ).

    Sure, some folk speak an educated and, some would say, flawless French but I get the impression that your average French person is just as likely to butcher the rules as any foreigner might... just perhaps more confidently!