Language in Paris: A Practical Guide with Tips and Phrases

Wondering about the language in Paris?

Well, you’re in the right place.

Not only did I live and work in Paris for three years, but I’m also fluent in French, English, and Spanish. I know the linguistic makeup of the city and what you need to know to get by, both as a tourist and an expat.

And, while you might think French is the only language spoken, I’m here to tell you it’s not.

Below I’ll cover the language they speak in Paris and answer all your questions so that you can know what to expect.

The Language in Paris - What Language do they Speak in Paris?
The Language in Paris – What Language do they Speak in Paris?

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Table of Contents

What Language Do They Speak in Paris?

There’s no denying that Paris is a popular city, for expats and tourists alike. The food is delicious, the sights are spectacular, and who can resist spending a summer vacation in Paris? But what about the language? What language do they speak in Paris?

French is the main language in Paris, but it’s not the only one you’ll hear. English, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Chinese are also quite common, especially among expats and tourists.

If you’re visiting Paris for the first time, it’s always best to pick up a few basic French phrases before you go. This will help get you around the city, order food at non-touristic restaurants, and interact with locals on a more personal level.

Learn French with the Best Language Platform here ➔

What are the Top 3 Languages Spoken in Paris?

In France, the top three languages spoken are French, Occitan, and German/German dialects. But in Paris, you won’t hear these languages very often. In fact, the top three languages spoken in Paris are French, English, and Spanish.

It’s estimated more than 96% of the population in Paris speaks French. English comes in second with 24% of people speaking it. And, finally, Spanish, but only by 9% of the population in Paris.

Can You Get by Speaking English in Paris?

Yes, you can get by speaking English in Paris. In fact, most expats and tourists speak English and they will be more than willing to help you if needed.

When I lived in Paris, I was often approached by tourists asking for directions. And most of them spoke English.

While you can get by speaking English, it’s not something I would recommend. If you’re visiting on vacation, a few phrases will be sufficient. But, if you want to live abroad, then you’ll need to be ready and willing to learn French.

Do You Need to Speak French in Paris?

No, you don’t need to speak French in Paris.

But should you speak French in Paris?

This is an entirely different question.

In my opinion, you should speak French in Paris, and in France, in general. Learning and speaking the language is a great way to experience a destination. It’s not only fun but it will also help you understand the culture and communicate with locals.

Learn French with the Best Language Platform here ➔

Should I Speak Spanish or English in Paris?

As always you should try to speak the language of the country you’re visiting. And, since the main language in Paris is French, you should try to speak French before any other language.

However, if you are struggling with French, and you already speak Spanish and English, I would recommend speaking English in Paris. It’s more widely spoken among tourists and locals.

What Accent is in Paris?

The Parisian accent is considered the standard French pronunciation, especially by Parisians. It’s so clear and concise that it’s, actually, the preferred accent for French textbooks and online courses.

Over the years I’ve had several French tutors and all of them had a Parisian accent. And when I took the TEF exam for my 10-year resident permit, the individual who gave the oral exam had a Parisian accent, even though I was in Strasbourg.

Should Americans Try to Speak French in France?

Yes, Americans should try to speak French in France. The language barrier can be a frustrating experience, especially if it’s your first time traveling or living abroad. And, in France, it’s no secret that this barrier is quite difficult to overcome. In fact, it’s a reason why a lot of people dislike France.

Should Americans try to speak French in France? Yes!
Yes, Americans Should try to speak French in France!

When I first arrived in Paris, I struggled with the language barrier. French was my first language, and it took me a few months to grasp the sentence structure. I was also scared of sounding stupid.

But, once I got over it and accepted that I would make mistakes, my French dramatically improved. I was able to communicate with locals and connect with the people I worked with. It changed my life and now, I love learning languages.

Whether you’re traveling or planning on moving to France, speaking French will, no doubt, have a positive impact on your experience. And, if I can do it, so can you!

Is It Easy to Learn French?

Your ability to learn French depends on several factors. The biggest two include your native language and your prior experience with languages. According to the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), French falls under category one. This means French has a lot of similarities with English and is somewhat easy to learn.

But, of the category one languages, French is the most difficult. On average, the FSI states that it takes 30 weeks to master French.

Having learned French myself, I would say this is a very accurate time frame. It took me about five months to be conversationally proficient in French. Then, an extra two months to be completely fluent.

Now, you’re probably wondering why it takes so long to learn French.

There are two main reasons.

The first has to do with French grammar. The sentence structure is more complex than in English and it’s difficult to grasp in the beginning.

Second, French words are very challenging to pronounce. Every word seems to be an exception to the rule. And oftentimes most of the letters are silent.

I’ll admit that learning French wasn’t easy, especially in the beginning. But I didn’t let that deter me and neither should you. If you’re able to overcome the challenges I mentioned above, I can guarantee that you won’t regret it.

Easy French Phrases

Easy French Phrases
Easy French Phrases

As I’ve mentioned a few times, learning a few French phrases before you arrive will ease the language barrier. So, to help you, I’ve put together some easy French phrases.

1. Hello / Good Morning – Bonjour

“Bonjour” is the word you will use a lot. It’s used as a greeting from the morning until early evening.

To say “Good Morning” or “Bonjour” in French, you’ll say bown-zhoor.

2. Hello / Good Evening – Bonsoir

“Bonsoir” is like “Bonjour,” except it’s used in the early evening until bedtime.

To say “Good Evening” or “Bonsoir” in French, you’ll say bown-swahrr.

3. Good-bye – Au revoir

“Au revoir” is used when leaving a place, like a restaurant or a shop, or an event.”Au revoir is used when leaving a place, like a restaurant or a shop, or an event.

To say “Good Evening” or “Au revoir” in French, you’ll say OH-ruhv-WAA.

4. Yes – Oui

“Oui” is another word that you will need often. You can use it to respond affirmatively to any question.

To say “Yes” or “Oui” in French, you’ll say Wee.

5. No – Non

“Non” is very similar to the English version.

To say “No” or “Non” in French, you’ll say No. But the ‘o’ is pronounced quickly with an emphasis on the first ‘n’. The second ‘n’ is silent.

6. Please – S’il vous plaît

“S’il vous plaît”, when translated to English, means if it pleases you.

This is the formal way to say please. There is an informal version, but in most cases, unless you are with friends or family, it’s considered impolite.

To say “Please” or “S’il vous plaît” in French, you’ll say seel-vooh-pleh.

7. Excuse me – Excusez-moi

“Excusez-moi” is a polite way to say, “excuse me.” This is often used before asking a question, like the ones listed below.

To say “Excuse me” or “Excusez-moi” in French, you’ll say ek-sku-ze-mwa. In the phonetic spelling, the ‘u’ is pronounced like the letter and the ‘w’ is soft.

8. Thank you – Merci

“Merci” is an easy one. It’s a great way to express your appreciation while also being polite.

To say “Thank you” or “Merci” in French, you’ll say mehr-see.

9. Do you speak English? – Parlez-vous anglais?

“Parlez-vous anglais?” is a polite way to ask if someone speaks English. If you’re French is limited, this phrase will come in handy, especially in Paris.

To ask, “Do you speak English” or “Parlez-vous anglais?” in French, you’ll say pahr-lay vooz an-gleh. Here the ‘n’ in anglais is soft.

10. Where is the bathroom? – Où sont les toilettes?

“Où sont les toilettes?” is useful no matter where you are or what you are doing. If you’re in a restaurant or café, most people can guess what you need and point you in the direction of the bathroom. But it’s still good to know how to ask.

To ask, “Where is the bathroom” or “Où sont les toilettes?” in French, you’ll say oo-sohn leh twa-let. Again, the ‘n’ in sont is soft, almost silent.

Learn French with the Best Language Platform here ➔

Conclusion: Language in Paris

So, what language do they speak in Paris? The answer is, obviously, French. You might get away with speaking English, but I, personally, wouldn’t recommend it.

Learning a few words and knowing how to introduce yourself before you arrive will definitely make for a more rewarding experience.

And, hopefully, this article has answered all your questions about the language they speak in Paris and whether you need to speak French.

Read More Articles About France

I hope you enjoyed my article on the language in Paris and found it useful. Here are some other articles that I think you might find interesting.

Jen Ciesielski
Jen Ciesielski

Jen Ciesielski is the creator of Dabbling in Jet Lag. She has lived abroad for over ten years, traveled to more than 50 countries, and speaks French and English fluently. Her areas of expertise include moving abroad, learning languages, and travel planning. Originally from the United States, she now lives in France, where she has been for more than six years. She has also traveled extensively around the country. She shares her experiences as an expat living in France and helps thousands of people plan their trips every month.

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