Tag Archives: French Language

Parlez Vous? Formal Instruction in French Language

While you can get by in Paris without speaking French (particularly if you speak English), it’s not a strategy I’d recommend.  You will be constantly frustrated, both by your inability to fully understand what is going on around you and your inability to say what needs to be said.   And the people with whom you are trying to communicate will get crabby too.  So do yourself a favor, even if you think you have no talent for languages, and make an effort. 

In the city of Paris, every mairie (town hall for the arrondissement) offers some kind of instruction for French language learners.  These vary in their intensity and quality; what they do have in common is they tend to be close to your home and the fees are quite reasonable.  The downside is that the instruction is variable and the classes often quite large. These sessions fill up quickly so don’t mess around once you figure out when registration will take place. 

There are dozens of options in Paris for language learners.  Here are a few that seem to pop up on everyone’s list. As always, leave a comment if you have information to share about these or other programs.

Alliance Francaise
101, boulevard Raspail
75006 Paris
Rolling enrollment; options range from 4 to 20 hours per week.

Ecole PERL
6, rue Spinoza
75011 Paris
Standard and intensive courses with class size limited to 15 students; rolling enrollment with courses starting throughout the year.

French As You Like It
Private French lessons focused on learning grammar and vocabulary for practical everyday purposes.  Learn the French you need for business or to go to the market.  Private and semiprivate (up to 4 students) offered for children as well. 

Institut Catholique de Paris
21, rue d’Assas
75006 Paris
A wide range of French language programs are offered on a traditional academic calendar, although there are also intensive short courses.

Institut de Langue Française (ILF)
3, avenue Bertie-Albrecht
75008 Paris
A variety of courses offered at all levels including private instruction and special courses for kids.  Standard courses are 10 or 20 hours per week with courses beginning the first of each month; classes limited to 15 students.

Institut Parisien
27, boulevard des Italiens
75002 Paris
General courses are for 15 or 20 hours per week with workshops also offered in conversation, phonetics, and written French.  One on one instruction is also available as is a special program for au pairs.

Lutece Langue
23, boulevard Sebastopol
75001 Paris
Intensive and standard courses with start dates every Monday.   This school also offers short courses for those whose schedules do not permit them to attend regular classes as well as private and semi-private tutoring. 

Paris Langues
30, rue Cabanis
75014 Paris
Small group instruction at range of levels with new courses starting each month; courses range from 2 weeks to 9 months.

16 bis rue de l’Estrapade
75005 Paris
The Sorbonne’s courses in French language and civilization are suitable for levels from beginner to advanced.  There are a lot of options in terms of intensity, time of day, and focus.

Verlaine Langue
18, rue Martin Bernard
75013 Paris
Small group (no more than 6 students) with instruction daily (1.5 hours per day) and the expectation that you will complete 1.5 hours of homework daily.  Courses start every Monday.  No advanced courses.

Deciphering Acronyms Used by French Language Programs

CECR : Cadre Européen Commun de Référence
CERT: Certification
CFTJ : Club Français du Tourisme des Jeunes
CIDJ : Centre d’Information et de Documentation Jeunesse
CIJP : Centre International des Jeunes à Paris
CIEP : Centre International d’étude Pédagogique
DALF : Diplôme d’Approfondissement de la Langue Française
DELF : Diplôme d’étude en Langue Française
ECTS: European Credit Transfer System
FLE : Français Langue Étrangère
TCF : Test de Connaissance du Français
TEF : Test d’Évaluation du Français

Special thanks to Maureen Bartee for collecting much of this information.


Technical Difficulties

Time for another language lesson from ielanguages.com, an incredible, free on-line French language resource created by Jennie Wagner, an English lecturer at the Université de Savoie in Chambéry, France. Jennie has graciously allowed Posted in Paris to repost several of her tutorials. Make sure you follow the links in each post back to her site for the sound files.  Today:  some useful vocabulary for setting up a cell phone account and dealing with computer problems.

 Cell Phones

pay as you go plan sans engagement text message SMS
credit/minutes le crédit photo message MMS
to recharge your account recharger votre compte call waiting le double appel
contract plan le forfait caller ID la présentation du numero
extra charges hors forfait unlimited calls les appels illimités
payment plan le plan tarifaire PIN code le code PIN / secret
land line la ligne fixe SIM card la carte SIM
voicemail la messagerie vocale locked bloqué
account summary le suivi conso to download télécharger
empty / no credit épuisé ringtone la sonnerie


You can find the sound files here.


computer l’ordinateur scanner le scanner
disk la disquette laptop le portable
document le document internet l’internet
CD-ROM le cédérom internet user l’internaute
monitor l’écran online en-ligne
keyboard le clavier link le lien
mouse la souris bookmark le signet
printer l’imprimante e-mail le courriel / le mail
memo la note de service password le mot de passe
fax machine le télécopieur search engine le moteur de recherche
photocopier la photocopieuse chat room la salle de tchatche
typewriter la machine à écrire bulletin board le forum
software le logiciel homepage la page d’accueil
file le dossier website le site
cabinet le placard web browswer le navigateur
memory card la carte mémoire cable le câble
flashdrive la clé USB DSL l’ADSL
external HD le disque dur externe to sign on / off se connecter / déconnecter
attachment la pièce jointe to scroll up / down dérouler le texte
to attach joindre to download télécharger


Sound files can be found here at #95.

At the Salon

It is with some trepidation that we launch into making recommendations for beauty salons.   After all, what one woman considers classic, another considers frumpy.   But if you’re terrified about the thought of letting someone new touch your hair, much less someone with whom you cannot communicate with 100 percent confidence, here are some ideas for getting started.  If you have other suggestions, leave a comment and we’ll incorporate them into the post.  Note:  if you are under 26, many salons will offer you a discount.  If it’s not posted, it doesn’t hurt to ask.



A Cut Above
2, boulevard Fernand Hostachy
Croissy sur Seine
Phone: 01 39 52 01 44
Notes: Sandra speaks English.

Audebert Coiffure
88, boulevard Saint Germain 75005
Metro: Cluny-Sorbonne
Phone: 01 43 26 90 25
Notes:  Jean-Philippe, owner of this salon, speaks English.

Jean-Claude Biguine
Many locations in Paris
Notes: appointments not always necessary, good products

Richard Chambers Hair Salon
22 rue Scheffer 75016
Metro: Trocadero
Notes: Native English speaker

Coiffure Sylvie Sandy
6, rue Castellane 75008
Metro: Madeleine
Phone: 01 4265 4234
Notes:  “Daniel won’t charge you a ridiculous amount, but he is not one of those cheap clip places, either.”

Many locations in Paris
Notes:  “I like the way they do highlights there. Just paint them on – no fuss with foil or any of that stuff. I went to it in Hong Kong and found one in Neuchatel, Switzerland of all places. It is international. The one I go to is 4/6, rue de Gericault, 75016 (tel 01 42 24 71 24). The woman who did my color was Sylvie whom I liked very much.”

En a Parté
2, rue Edmond About 75016
Metro: Avenue Henri Martin or Rue de la Pompe
Phone: 01 45 04 51 12
Notes:  “They are a great local salon. Pedro & Mickael are extremely friendly and speak English.  My only basis for comparison price-wise is Frank Provost — and these guys are definitely more expensive.  But you can usually get last minute appointments and we’ve been pleased with their cuts (they cut the entire family’s hair!)  I’ve heard mixed reviews for color — but I’ve never had first hand experience.”

Hair Bar
3, rue de la Croix Nivert, 75015
Metro: Cambronne
Phone: 01 44 49 98 84
Notes:  “The owner speaks English and actually does what you ask.”

Jessika Ester
81, rue Jouffroy d’Abbans 75017
Metro: Wagram
Phone: 01 47 63 74 63
Notes: “Jessika cuts my hair and a colorist, Claude, colors it with her input. She speaks English. Fee is around 100 euros depending on what you have done.”

Jamal Fakih
55, avenue Marceau 75016
Metro:  George V
Phone: 01 40 70 00 20
Notes:  “Fancy neighborhood, small homey salon. Anna has twice given me an excellent haircut, exactly what I asked for.  And if color should ever be wanted, Catherine is very good as well.  They don’t speak English.”

Salon Manhattan
35, avenue Theophile Gautier, 75016
Metro: Eglise d’Autueil
Phone:  01 42 24  86 10.
Notes:  “The owner is named Sandra and she speaks English.  She worked in New York City for two years and then came back to Paris to open her own salon.  She cuts and colors my hair and the cost is about 85 euros.  I am happy with her and certainly she is a good start for people when they move, particularly as she speaks English.”

2, rue Edouard Vasseur
Ivry sur Seine 94200
Metro: Pierre et Marie Curie
Phone: 01 46 70 25 69
Notes: The entire team at Stylepixie speaks English.

Toni & Guy
248 Rue Saint-Honoré, 75001
Metro: Palais Royale – Musee du Louvre
Phone: 01 40 20 98 20
Notes:  A number of the hair stylists and the receptionist speak English.

Joel Villard
16, rue de Saint-Simon, 75007
Metro: Rue de Bac
Phone: 01 45 55 85 69
Notes: The only licensed Aveda salon in France; all stylists are trained by Aveda and Aveda products are for sale. Most stylists speak some English.

Home services

“Paulo Sousa will wash, cut and blowdry hair in your home.  He uses the bathroom sink or the sprayer in your tub and cleans up everything as if he were never there.  I love him.  Only speaks French, but if I can handle it, you can.”
Phone: 06 46 36 38 77

“Severine, a stylist who works at a television station doing hair and makeup in the early mornings, is available for appointments in your home.  She is French but speaks English very well.”
Phone: 06 81 61 78 14

“Romain is very reasonably priced compared with what a person would play in a salon. He does both my cut and highlights and I think he does a great job. He speaks some English but not proficient.  I recommend him highly. ”
Phone: 06 98 19 44 67

“Natalie, who does nails and waxing, is the owner of Aquarelle Institut at 9, rue Saint-Didier in the 16th arrondissement.  She is beautiful, funny and speaks English as well!  She uses excellent products.”
Phone: 01 45 53 09 09

Kristina offers skin care treatments such as facials in her home in the 16th arrondissement.  Contact her by e-mail at skincarebykristina@wanadoo.fr 


Click here to go directly to the ielanguages.com site for the sound files.  Scroll to the middle of the page for “At the Hair Salon/Chez Le Coiffeur.”

bangs la frange braid la natte / les tresses
highlights les mèches / le balayage ponytail la queue-de-cheval
hair cut la coupe de cheveux barette la barrette
blowdry le brushing head band le serre-tête
curly bouclés hair clips les pinces à cheveux
wavy ondulés hairband l’élastique (m)
frizzy frisés / crépus hairpin l’épingle à cheveux (f)
straight raides buzz cut la coupe en brosse
dyed teints completely shaved head la boule à zéro
lightened décolorés bald chauve
layered dégradé (note: effiler means to thin, not to layer!) part la raie

There is a slight difference between se couper les cheveux (to cut one’s hair – by oneself) and se faire couper les cheveux (to get one’s hair cut – by someone else). The same is true of se teindre les cheveux (to dye one’s hair – by oneself) and se faire teindre les cheveux (to get one’s hair dyed – by someone else).

Asking for Help (in French)

Another in a series of posts drawn from ielanguages.com, an incredible, free on-line French language resource created by Jennie Wagner, an English lecturer at the Université de Savoie in Chambéry, France. Jennie has graciously allowed Posted in Paris to repost several of her tutorials. Make sure you follow the links in each post back to her site for the sound files.

Key Phrases

Click here to go directly to the ielanguages site for the sound files. Scroll down to “Asking for Clarification/Help.”

Excusez-moi de vous déranger, monsieur/madame, mais j’ai un problème.   Sorry for bothering you, mister/miss, but I have a problem.

Est-ce que je peux vous poser une question ? Can I ask you a question?

Qu’est-ce que vous avez dit ? What did you say?

Pourriez-vous répéter, s’il vous plaît ? Can you repeat that, please?

Je n’ai pas entendu ce que vous avez dit. I didn’t hear what you said.

Comment est-ce qu’on écrit ça ? / Ça s’écrit comment ? How is that written?

Comment est-ce qu’on prononce ça ? / Ça se prononce comment ? How is that pronounced?

Qu’est-ce que ça veut dire? / Ça veut dire quoi ? What does that mean?

French for Shopping

This is the first in a series of posts drawn from ielanguages.com, an incredible, free on-line French language resource  created by Jennie Wagner, an English lecturer at the Université de Savoie in Chambéry, France.   Jennie has graciously allowed Posted in Paris to repost several of her tutorials.    Make sure you follow the links in each post back to her site for the sound files.

From the French VII tutorial:  follow this link and scroll down the page midway to “Going Shopping” 


department store la grande surface  
outlet store le magasin d’usine 
second-hand shop la boutique d’articles d’occasion 
discount store le magasin hard discount  
flea market le marché aux puces 
department le rayon
to go window-shopping faire du lèche-vitrine
to go grocery shopping faire les courses
mini market la supérette
supermarket (food) le supermarché
super store (everything) l’hypermarché (m)
shopping center le centre commercial
fitting room la cabine d’essayage
club/loyalty card la carte de fidelité
heels des talons
flip-flops des tongs
tank/halter top le débardeur
underwire bra le balconnet
thong le string
spotted à pois
flowery à fleurs
frilly à frous-frous
glittery à paillettes
striped à rayures


Est-ce que je peux vous aider ? / Je peux vous renseigner ? / Vous désirez ? Can I help you?
Non, je regarde seulement.
No, I’m just looking.
Je vais réfléchir.
I’ll think about it.
Quelle est votre taille ? Vous faites du combien ?
What is your size? What size do you wear?
Quelle est votre pointure ? Vous chaussez du combien ?
What is your shoe size? What size shoe do you wear?
Ça va, la taille ? C’est la bonne taille ? Is the size right?
C’est trop grand. / C’est trop serré. It’s too big / too small.
Ça coûte combien ?
How much does this cost?
C’est en solde ?
Is it on sale?
Quelle escroquerie ! / Quelle arnaque !
What a rip-off!
Avez-vous une carte de fidélité ?
Do you have a club card?
Vous réglez comment ? / Vous payez comment ? How are you paying?
En espèces/par carte bleue. Cash/with a bank card.

A good way to increase your vocabulary is to look at ads for stores that are available online, such as Carrefour, Géant, Monoprix, etc.

On-Line French Language Learning

If you’re just starting to learn French or want to brush up existing skills, on-line language learning sites offer free and flexible support.  While none of these are adequate substitutes for a formal program of language instruction, they can be great tools for staying in practice when you don’t have the time for anything else.  Here are a couple favorites:

About.com:  The French language section of the huge About site includes exercises, tests, and explanations of grammar rules and conventions for both beginning, intermediate, and advanced French speakers.  Work on those pesky prepositions, practice conjugations, or improve your vocabulary.  The navigation is a bit clunky so when you find the spot in the site that works for you, be sure to bookmark it.  You can also sign up for the e-mail newsletter, a nice touch if you need some extra encouragement to keep working on your French.

BBC:  This site primarily focuses on tourist basics although it does have a section, “Cool French” to help you learn the latest slang.  There are lots of audio files to help with pronunciation and some listening comprehension activities from the BBC’s own news coverage.

Daily French Pod:  There are tons of French podcasts for language learners available from iTunes and other sources but this one is my favorite.  Each day, Louis brings you a 5-7 minute clip based on current events.  You can subscribe for a nominal monthly fee to access other tools such as .pdf transcripts, video vocabularies, and forums but the podcast is free.

Google Translate:  If you want to be sure that you really understand the instructions for your washing machine or the fine print on the airline Web site, Google Translate can come in handy.  But take it with a grain of salt.  Using this tool for your personal correspondence is not a good idea; the syntax often comes out garbled and you won’t trick anyone into believing that you can write an elegant sentence in French.

ieLanguages.com:  An unbelievably rich free site with tutorials on grammar plus a wealth of phrases and vocabulary (and mp3 files so you can hear those words as they are supposed to sound).  This site also includes many exercises to help you practice grammar and spelling.  The French VII tutorial includes many phrases useful in daily life: in a restaurant, at the doctor’s office, opening a bank account, and on the telephone.

Radio France Internationale:  RFI offers simplified news coverage for language learners including quick tests to see how well you understand what you hear.   The news content changes daily.