I recently overhead a group of English-speaking tourists talking about how Paris has changed as globalization has taken hold. "Back when I first came here in the late '70s," one guy was saying, "people would look at you with murder in their eyes if you didn't speak any French. Now all the waiters and shopkeepers are so excited to get to show off their English skills."
I've also noticed a change from my first trip to Paris over a decade ago, when a baker haughtily chastised me for ordering a "croissant au chocolat". She clucked, shook her head and huffed, "Il s'agit d'un pain au chocolat, Madame!" Lately, even when I make small mistakes, corrections do still come (French people are generally happy to offer linguistic guidance), but these are always gentle, if occasionally a bit teasing. And even though it's obvious that I speak French fluently, Parisians often break into English with me, saying they appreciate the opportunity to practice.
So a shift has occurred even in the past ten years, from what I can tell. But in my book, this is no excuse to lazily forgo learning some basic French travel words and expressions. Even if you only have the time to learn a few niceties in French, making the effort can go a long way in improving your experience in Paris.
Read More: Useful French Travel Vocabulary Guides
- Basic Polite Greetings and Questions in French
- Paris Restaurant Vocabulary: Words and Expressions for Eating Out
- Paris Metro Vocabulary: Getting Around the City
- More French Travel Lessons from About.com French Language Guide Laura K. Lawless
Image: 2010 Mecredi Dis/Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons License.