How To Start Speaking French Before Your Vacation

So you want to learn some French for your vacation to France, but don’t know where to begin? Never fear! With these Babbel courses, we’ll have you comfortable and confident in just two weeks!
Une carte colorée et imagée de la France avec ses principaux symboles et ses grandes villes

Illustration by Aura Lewis, courtesy of the Bright Agency.

You’ve bought your plane tickets, done your hours of research, and planned your itinerary. You’re just about ready to go, but there’s one thing missing: You don’t speak French. Whether you’re heading off to Paris for some art and culture, Brittany for a breath of fresh Atlantic air, or Bordeaux for the wine tour you’ve always dreamed of, you’ll enjoy it even more if you have a bit of the language under your belt. But where should you begin? Luckily for you, here at Babbel, we have tons of courses to teach you everything you’ll need for your trip.

Learning some French for your vacation will make it easier for you to get around, to order exactly what you want to eat or drink in a restaurant or café, and to really experience the culture by making connections with the local people. Here’s a little timeline we put together to get you speaking confidently in just two weeks!

Days 1-3: Get Started With The Basics!

There are some pretty standard things everyone should know how to say in the local language when they travel to a foreign country. Here are just a few:

To master these things in French, we suggest you start with our French beginner’s courses. They teach topics that range from introducing yourself and asking simple questions, all the way to booking a hotel and finding your way around a busy Parisian train station! You’ll also find a number of lessons focused on pronunciation, so you won’t have to worry about being misunderstood when you speak.

Depending on what you plan to do during your stay, some courses might be more valuable to you than others. Really think about what you plan to do on your trip, and try to come up with a list of situations you can imagine yourself in.  We recommend taking a look at the courses on our web version so that you can see exactly what each lesson contains. This way you can pick and choose which lessons will be the best for you.

Here’s an additional lesson we think is a must-do:

Category Course Lesson
Countries and Traditions French for your vacation Bonjour, mademoiselle!

Finish that one, and you’ll have the vocabulary and phrases you need to be the most polite tourist ever!

Days 4-6: Practice Ordering A Meal!

Ratatouille, bœuf bourguignon, crêpes, quiche … the list goes on! France is a veritable wonderland of food and flavor, and you’ll most likely be spending a fair amount of time in restaurants and cafés. That being said, you should plan to brush up on some useful words and phrases for ordering a meal. As menus are often only in French, it’s a good idea to learn as much food vocabulary as you can! After all, you want to make sure you know exactly what you’re ordering.

For example, let’s say you’re craving a nice Surf and Turf with scallops and a juicy steak, so you order the escalope and filet mignon. You will be understandably disappointed when you end up with a veal cutlet and a pork tenderloin. But don’t worry, we can help you avoid embarrassing situations like this. Under the “Countries and Traditions” category, you’ll find our “French Cuisine” section, which gives you a rundown of the culinary specialties from the different regions of France. After doing these courses, you won’t be surprised at what you find on your plate when you order les cuisses de grenouille!

We also have a couple of other courses about food, drink, and ordering. Here are two you should try before you jet off:

Category Course Lesson
Countries and Traditions French for your vacation On prend un apéritif ?
Countries and Traditions French for your vacation Tu prends une entrée ?

These two lessons will introduce the phrases you’ll need in order to understand the menu, order food, and ask for the bill. The satisfaction of getting through an entire meal in a restaurant en français will make the time you spend practicing absolutely worth it!

Bon appétit!

Days 7-10: Learn To Ask For Directions And Use Public Transportation

Getting lost in a place where you speak the language is bad enough. Now imagine being lost somewhere where you can’t communicate with anyone! Knowing how to ask for help will definitely lower your stress levels if you get turned around.

Now, you should have made it through some of the beginner’s courses, but just in case you missed some of them, here’s a little tip. In Beginner’s Course 2, you’ll find a unit called “Pardon, où est … ?”. These lessons will teach you all you need to know to bravely go where no tourist has gone before! You’ll not only be able to ask for and understand directions but also learn some vocabulary for common locations in a city. Make a list of the places you’d like to visit so you can learn the words for these things as well.

If you still feel like you want a little more practice, then check out these lessons too:

Category Course Lesson
Countries and Traditions French for your vacation Où est la banque?
Countries and Traditions French for your vacation Où est le métro?
Countries and Traditions French Signs Street Names

These will help you perfect the skills you learned from the beginner’s course, and also give you more specific information about using public transportation, which can be a confusing affair. It’s also a good idea to learn a bit about French signs and street names. After completing these lessons, you’ll truly be a well-prepared voyageur!

Days 11-14: Put It All Together (And Have Some Fun!)

With just a few days left before you leave, you’ll want to review everything you’ve learned so far so that it’s fresh in your mind and ready to be used! This is where the Babbel Review Manager will come in handy. All of the core vocabulary and phrases you’ve picked up over the last two weeks have been stored there so you can easily go back over them and practice.

If you’re feeling confident with the basics, then now it’s time to have a little fun! We have a huge selection of courses with interesting cultural and linguistic content that you can find under the categories “Countries and Traditions” and “Specials.” With these lessons, you can get your French slang up to snuff (cimer!), find some ideas for sightseeing, learn a bit about true and false friends, and also pick up a few idioms to really impress the locals. We promise it won’t all be pour des prunes!

After these two weeks, you should be more than ready to communicate effectively during your vacation. Our final tip for you is, of course, to have fun!

Bon Voyage!

Learn a new language today.
Try Babbel