This week, millions of European football fans will descend on France for the beginning of the European championships. So of course, as outspoken proponents of language learning and cultural understanding, we at Babbel feel obliged to help out any way we can. That’s why we’ve put together a simple list of dos and don’ts for the visitors. And if enough people pay attention, it might just make life a little easier for their hosts too.
Get to know the natives (and native speakers)
Okay, you might not want to get too close to the French, Swiss or Belgians if your team happens to be up against theirs, but what’s to say you can’t pass the time watching the other games together in le bar? And seeing as this is France we’re talking about, you might like to try a wine in place of your usual half-time pint.
Finding a bar that’s showing matches in the first place needn’t be too tough – pop your head in the door, say “Bonjour” and ask “sera-t-il possible de regarder le match de foot ici ce soir ?” Not only will you get the oui or non answer you need, you’ll endear yourself to the bar staff right from the off. If you’re going to be in the same city for a while, that’s a wise move.
Pick up some lingo
So, you’ve found a bar, got yourself a great spot and some cheap plonk (somewhat better than the type you find back home, bien sûr), and you’re ready to enjoy the match with your newfound Francophone friends. But how are you going to manage without some basic phrases? We’re big believers that a little goes a long way when it comes to languages, so we’ve got your back:
- Nettoyer les toiles d’araignées – “to clean the spider webs” – a goal scored right in the top corner
- Avoir des gants en peau de pêche – “to have peach-skin gloves” – directed at butter-fingered goalkeepers
- Planter sa tente – “to pitch his tent” – for the forward that’s just been flagged offside for the fifth time
- Sortir une biscotte – “to pull out a cracker” – this one’s about the referee: it means he’s pulling out a card. The origins of this phrase are uncertain but a pocket full of crackers is not a bad idea in a country full of cheese.
Prepare for the worst
Not to bring down the mood, but there are 24 teams heading to the tournament. The fans of 23 of them will be going home at least a little disappointed. Even the most heartbreaking of penalty shootouts needn’t ruin the whole trip, however. There’s plenty to do in France during the warm summer months: pétanque for example – particularly if you find yourself in the south. Football’s not the only game that matters, you know (and you can’t play it with a drink in your hand).Don’t
Just follow the crowd
Put a large enough collection of people from one country in one place, and they’ll tend to club together. National spirit is all well and good, but your experience is bound to be more rewarding if you break from the pack, take a stroll, meet the locals and see the sights. After all, there are plenty of host cities that most people are unlikely to revisit – explore them while you have the chance!
Believe the clichés
On the subject of less-visited cities, don’t be fooled into thinking all French people are just like les parisiens – and certainly don’t let anyone hear you suggest that they might be. Whatever stereotypes you hold of French people, even if there’s some truth to them, be aware that it’s a diverse place and most (or even all) may not apply to the locals of the region you’re in. At risk of repeating myself: get to know them and see for yourself.
Oh, and don’t be a cliché either – here are some hints.
Expect everyone to speak English
Again, this varies by region. In Paris, of course, there are streets on which every bartender speaks perfect English. In much of the country though, you’ll struggle to find anyone who can. Fear not, you probably need far less French than you think to understand and to make yourself understood. And with each conversation you have, your skills and confidence grow. Convenient, right?
Get a head start with our French holiday courses, and don’t forget to download them to your mobile device and avoid those pesky roaming charges.