If you’re learning French either as a beginner or at a more advanced level, your goal is probably to become fluent. Fluency is the ultimate benefit of language learning and learners are usually highly motivated by having the ability to engage in conversation in the target language.
Small talk is an important aspect of getting to know people and starting conversations with French speakers. These informal situations will crop up regularly, whether it’s in the form of telling your French teacher what you did at the weekend or buying a coffee on a trip to France. The French are a very sociable nation of people and engage in small talk every day, on the way to work, in the coffee shop etc., so it’s good to get to know some of the key phrases, which will give you confidence in your French speaking skills and be a good stepping stone towards more challenging conversations.
L’arte de la conversation / The art of conversation
Conversation and the words we share with each other is essentially what makes the world go round and helps the different nations of the world develop and maintain relationships with each other. If you are an English native learning French, learning some conversational skills opens your opportunity to communicate with 220 million French speakers across the world.
It’s a well-known stereotype of the French that they are very romantic. When you think of France you may think of a beret-clad handsome gentleman charming a lady in a quintessential French cafe. Paris is known worldwide as the city of love, and many French learners dream of taking a trip there and meeting the French man/woman of their dreams (even if you don’t admit it!), but if you want to improve the chances of this happening, you’ll need to work on your French conversation skills — how will you be able to flirt if you can’t even ask how the person is?
On a more serious note, French is a leading business language, particularly in Europe. If you set yourself high goals and have ambitions of a multi-national career, French is certainly a top choice of languages to learn. Business is all about negotiations, which is really just a more sophisticated word for conversations! If you hope to strike business deals with French companies then you will need to get to grips with small talk and conversation starters first!
Finally, speaking in French is a great way to make friends and practice your language skills, but the hardest thing is starting! If you are a beginner or haven’t spoken French in a while the prospect of opening an informal conversation with a French speaker can be a little daunting! Small talk is a great way to ease you in to the conversation and help you build confidence — soon you’ll be chatting away like a native and will have made lots of French speaking friends!
Key French small talk phrases
Starting a conversation
1. Comment tu t’appelles ? (What’s your name?)
2. Tu viens d’où ? (Where are you from?)
3. Tu as quel âge ? (How old are you?)
4. Qu’est-ce que tu étudies ? (What are you studying?)
5. Où est-ce que tu travailles ? (Where do you work?)
6. Qu’est-ce que tu aimes faire ? (What do you like to do?)
Flirty conversation starters
1. Tu es jolie/ Tu es mignonne, tu t’appelles comment ? (You are pretty / you’re cute, what’s your name
2. Tu danses bien, est-ce que tu veux danser avec moi ? (You dance well, do you want to dance with me?)
3. Excuse-moi est-ce que tu aurais du feu ? (Excuse-me, have you got a light?)
4. Est-ce que tu aurais l’heure s’il te plaît ? (Do you know what time is it please?)
5. J’ai apprécié notre conversation / J’ai vraiment aimé discuter avec toi, est-ce que tu veux échanger nos numéros ? –When you want the number of someone after a short conversation– (I appreciated our conversation/ I really liked to discuss with you, do you want to exchange our number?)
Talking about the weather
1. Il fait beau aujourd’hui/ il fait bon (The weather is nice today.)
2. Il ne fait pas beau aujourd’hui (It’s not good weather today).
3. Il va pleuvoir/neiger (It’s going to rain/snow)
4. Il y a un grand soleil dehors (There is great sun outside)
5. Il fait froid/mauvais (It’s cold, It’s a bad weather)
6. Il ne fait pas chaud aujourd’hui, hein ? (It’s not hot today, is it?)
7. Il fait un froid de canard (It’s freezing cold) –Top points for using this idiomatic phrase! Literally meaning ‘It is duck cold!’
8. Il fait un temps de chien (It’s really bad weather)
Talking about hobbies/interests
1. Qu’est-ce que tu vas faire ce week-end? (What are you going to do this weekend?)
2. Est-ce que tu vas sortir ce soir ? (Are you going out this evening?)
3. Est-ce que tu as vu le dernier film de… ? (Have you seen the last… movie?)
4. Est-ce que tu as regardé le dernier épisode de… ? (Have you seen the last episode of…)
5. On se fait un ciné /resto/bowling … , ce soir ? (Would you like to go to the cinema/ restaurant/ bowling…tonight?)
6. Est-ce que tu connais cette chanson ? (Do you know this song?)
Other tips for improving French speaking
As well as learning the informal phrases above to gain confidence speaking French, there are lots of ways that you can improve your French speaking skills more practically too. How about finding yourself a language buddy? This could be a classmate or a colleague or friend who’s also learning French. Not only will they help you to stay motivated, but learners often find it easier speaking French with a friend the first few times instead of a native speaker. Try to find language meetups in your area. They will usually have both French and English speakers so you can try and speak French or just listen and get used to conversational speech. You could also use language exchange platforms if you’re feeling more confident, allowing you to practice your French with a native speaker.
How about attending a French class? At a French class you’re exposed to French and will have to do some speaking too – but everyone around you (apart from the teacher) will be at a similar level. Finally, we recommend integrating French into your everyday life through listening to French radio and watching French movies and TV shows. Although this doesn’t involve you actually speaking French you will get used to how French sounds and pick up useful words and phrases to use in conversation.
Do you have a go-to French small talk phrase? Please share it with us in the comments below or on Twitter @FlashSticks.