Don’t translate word for word

It’s amazing the number of students who translate every single word from English to French. And this is so wrong. First, because it takes too long, and second, because in most cases, your vocabulary in English is much, much more developed than your French one. So, you may want to say „What a delightful place, the food is exquisite,” but very few of you would actually be able to translate such a complex sentence. Think of the idea, the essence of what you want to say — a compliment on the location and the food. Then use simple words and structure: „Le restaurant est beau. Et très bon” will get your point across, and Parisians will be delighted that you did pay a compliment, as they so often do.


There is nothing Parisians dislike more than a tourist stumbling over the name of one of their glorious cultural venues or street names. The idea that this might be difficult to pronounce for a foreigner does not even cross their minds. For them, it’s basic knowledge that anyone ought to know. So, here, pronunciation is really worth studying. I have recorded all these words in a slow pronunciation track that allows you time to repeat and practice, in my bilingual intermediate novel/travel guide „Une Semaine à Paris,” a Paris Guide With a Novel Twist,” available at my site.

If hugging is a common greeting in the States among friends and family, Parisians never hug. When I arrived for the first time in the States, it was so awkward to me that it actually took me about six years to feel comfortable enough to truly hug my friends. Parisian men shake hands: a firm, strong shake, looking into the eyes. If you are really happy to see the person, you may cover your handshake with your other hand. Women shake hands in a professional situation, or if they don’t know each other at all, but move on to kissing very quickly, even at work among colleagues — with both genders. For example, you may arrive at a party and shake hands, then socialize, make friends, and get kissed when you leave. The kiss is more of an air kiss, but the cheeks do touch, unlike the mocking American air kiss. Parisians usually kiss twice, once on each cheek, and it will feel weird if you stop at one. In other parts of France, the French kiss up to 4 times. This is also a question of social class. The higher up in social class, the less kissing and more handshaking. In more working class situations or with younger crowds, men sometimes kiss each other. Always on the cheeks, twice. They may even hug a bit, but more of a “tap on the back” kind of motion, not a big American hug.