Talk:French phrasebook

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Ronline, I'm not sure I agree about some pronounciations. I think that "é" is usually pronounced as "ay" in "hay," though perhaps slightly shorter (think of né and countless other verbs conjugated in the passé composé ... also look at the pronounciation for "désolé(e)" given in the phrasebook.)

I'm actually responding to the question in your summary. No, there's not a standard for pronunciation, and I'm afraid we're going to run into trouble with this. The way an Irishman or Australian would say "hay" sounds very different from the way a Canadian or American would say it. I'm still kind of flummoxed on this issue -- suggestions are very much welcome. I've thought about using IPA or SAMPA, but they're both kind of hard to learn and use. It'd be nice to find a pronunciation format that's precise yet intuitive for casual readers. -- (WT-en) Evan 09:26, 4 Nov 2003 (PST)
Including Ogg or Speex files, spoken by native speakers, could be a solution. Then the way the pronunciation is written isn't anymore of utmost importance. Oh, and I think _the_ way to recognize anglophone people speaking French is their way of pronouncing the "é"s as "ay" :) (WT-en) Guaka 14:21, 4 Nov 2003 (PST)
And we do tend to mess up the genders of nouns as well.. but yeah, it's really hard for us to avoid using the dipthong, just as it's hard to explain to a fellow english speaker that it's the first half of the ay sound without the dipthong y part at the end. I guess in french one would spell the english version éill, or something like that.. :) -- (WT-en) UchuHa 11:33, 5 Nov 2003 (CET)

Maybe we should use standard phonetics instead ? (but hard to represent with ASCII characters sometimes). -- (WT-en) Mathieu 22:55, 13 Nov 2003 (GMT +1).

Mathieu: first, add comments to talk pages at the bottom of the page (see using talk pages for more hints). Second: there's a discussion about this on Project:Phrasebook Expedition (scroll down a bit). I'd love to do some kind of standard phonetics -- like IPA or SAMPA -- but it tends to be completely unreadable. I don't think it's really useful to make English-language readers learn those abstruse symbol systems in order to use the phrasebooks. Anyways, it's not really necessary to get the pronunciations exactly perfect -- people just have to get close enough to be understood.
(WT-en) Maj's take on the matter, after some study (she's trained as a linguist), is that we should start working on a Wikivoyage-wide pseudo-phonetic guide for phrasebook makers. It would just be a listing of all the fakey English-like words we're using ("ah", "ow", "ung") and what they mean. Like ah -> 'a' in "father", 'o' in "bother". ung -> nasal 'un' in French "Verdun". And we could specify that ALL CAPS means the syllable has emphasis, and that syllables in the same word should be strung to-ge-ther with hyphens. That kind of thing.
This could make it easier for the great people contributing to the Phrasebooks to get things kinda right, and for us to have pronunciations for phrases that look kinda the same between and within languages. The alphabet isn't started yet; I should get off my lazy butt and get it moving. Or, of course, anyone else can get working on Project:Pseudo-phonetics guide for phrasebooks (make sure to link to it from the Phrasebook Expedition). -- (WT-en) Evan 14:35, 13 Nov 2003 (PST)

I'm a native speaker, though since I've never traveled in France I don't know all the words. In my pronunciation (which is probably pretty close to Norman since that's where my father came from) è is the same as the vowel in "set". Who pronounces it as in "cat"? (WT-en) PierreAbbat 16:27, 3 Dec 2003 (PST)

I agree with you on that point. However, some French people (namely those living in the northern part of the country) have a tendancy to say "è" like in "cat"... Sometimes. It's better for a foreigner to say "è" like in "set", as this will be understood pretty everywhere. (WT-en) Mathieu 08:16, 4 Dec 2003 (PST)


I dunno if you should vouvoyer people who are bothering you. "Touches pas" just sounds more forbidding than "Ne me touchez pas, s'il vous plaît." --(WT-en) Evan 08:01, 14 Dec 2003 (PST)

Whichever way it is, the text should match the pronunciation. "Touche pas" is also a lot faster to say - ask any doctor why he says "stat" instead of "immediately". -(WT-en) phma 16:57, 14 Dec 2003 (PST)

Which is better for "cheat": "tricher" or "tromper"? -(WT-en) phma 15:18, 15 Feb 2004 (EST)

Two things[edit]

'Tricher' is cheat like in a game, 'tromper' is cheat like 'to cheat on your wife' (tromper sa femme).

Also, saying casse-toi to someone is a hell of a lot more impolite than 'buzz off.' Replace the Buzz with every American's favorite adjective and you've got a better idea of what it means. It's likely to get a foriegner beat up, frankly. I think 'Laisse-moi tranqille' would be better, or at the worst a simple 'dégage.'

Point taken. I think that was my mistake, and I'll fix it now (unless you already have.) My excuse for this error is that I probably picked it up at the punk-rock club that I hang out at. I think I've seen it in Titeuf as well, which is not surprising considering its author at least used to hang around l'Usine as well.. ;) -- (WT-en) Mark 04:44, 28 Feb 2004 (EST)

Link to list[edit]

I removed the link to the list of phrasebooks. I don't see why it'd be valuable, and it's very bad form to link out of the main namespace to another one. --(WT-en) Evan 16:37, 10 Aug 2004 (EDT)


Wouldn't it be better to use the more accurate and internationally understood "brun/brune" instead?

Ouais. I suppose that would be better. Please feel free to fix it, but if you don't I will sometime soon. -- (WT-en) Mark 16:55, 16 Oct 2005 (EDT)


"traveler's chèque" : could/should it be "Chèque de voyage"?

What's the goal of this?[edit]

I've often wondered what the benefit of putting such beautifully correct French in phrasebooks is. Why "comment allez-vous" and not just "ca va?" Why "Avez-vous ceci dans ma taille?" rather than "Vous avez un 8?" Why " Combien coûte le billet pour..." instead of "Le billet pour ..., c'est combien?" All of these alternatives are perfectly understandable, more likely to be used by actual French people, and best of all, much easier for a non-French speaker to construct on the fly.

For anyone likely to use a phrasebook like this, the best is to teach them a small number of words (like "ca", "c'est", "ici"...) and a few handy ways of combining them. No one is possibly going to sit down and memorise hundreds of brand new sentences. Beautifully constructed sentences with inversions are, at best, going to confuse a French person into thinking you actually speak French...

Note that I also simplified the phonology section a lot. I've lived here for two years (and studied French *and* linguistics at school and university), and I'm not that convinced that people make pronounce é and è that differently in normal speech. It's certainly not worth worrying about for an anglophone tourist! Also there was a bit of confusion about what diphthongs are - they're actually sequences of two vowels, something that French has precious few of. (WT-en) Stevage 17:44, 8 August 2006 (EDT)

Note on emphasis in French[edit]

Speaking French hardly has any individual word emphasis, which is completely contrary to English. Frankly, it's probably one of the largest inhibitors to comprehension by natives, just as in English the lack of emphasis by native French speakers is disconcerting and often hard to understand. I get the point of trying to show emphasis in pseudo-phonetics; however, for the purpose of the phrasebook I think the note should be made that emphasis comes at the end of phrases or sentences. On the same note, capitalized emphasis should be removed from this guide (especially because people seem to have a tendency to emphasize capital letters simply by saying them louder).

For explanations, please plunge forward! But for capitals in pseudo-phonetics, this has been debated before and remains controversial, but the closest we can come to a consensus seems to be that it's better to at least direct the user to put the stress where it will do the least harm, instead of expecting them to be able to remember the guidelines. (WT-en) Jpatokal 04:10, 1 May 2008 (EDT)

Excessive "G" in pronunciations?[edit]

I've browsed through the pronunciations on the page, and the first thing that strikes me is a lot of "g"s in the pronunciations. I am by no means fluent, but I have studied French for 4 years and been to France tice and have never heard pronounced "g"s in such words as: demain (duh-MANG), besoin (bu-SWANG), dents(DAHNG), pain (pang), jambon (zhahng-BONG), saumon (saw-MOHG), and tens of others... So is this just one particular dialect, or is this how it would sound if you speak British/Australian English (I don't think so, just suggesting)? It would seem, in my understanding/experience of French, that more appropriate pronunciations for the above words (and there are many more like them) should be: demain (deh-mahn), besoin (bez-WAHN), dents (dahn), moyans (moiy-AHN), pain (pahn), jambon (zham-BON), and saumon (soh-MON). Of course this might differ between those of us speaking American vs British/Aussie english...but I still don't understand the excessive use of "g". Any reasons? (WT-en) AHeneen 23:52, 12 October 2008 (EDT)

I'd agree, a nasalized n is very different from a velarized ng. I think the way it is currently written is misleading, and would confuse me (a non-French speaker). --(WT-en) Peter Talk 00:57, 13 October 2008 (EDT)

External links[edit]


Is it really such a good idea to teach people how to bribe?-- 02:11, 25 March 2010 (EDT)

Keep in mind French is widely spoken throughout West and Central Africa...including many of the most corrupt governments in the world. While bribing isn't a good thing, it is necessary to get around most of francophone Africa. (WT-en) AHeneen 07:16, 25 March 2010 (EDT)
Note: Only consider attempting this in third world countries. DO NOT try to do this in France or Canada as it will get you in worse trouble! should likely read "don't try this in Canada or Europe". It won't go over well in Switzerland (where everything runs like clockwork) and trying it in Belgium will likely get you Smurfed out of the village. K7L (talk) 14:40, 16 October 2012 (CEST)7
I agree. I'll change it. --ThunderingTyphoons! (talk) 18:55, 19 January 2013 (UTC)


is this really considered offensive? It's been used in many French films I've seen. (WT-en) Upamanyuwikivoyage( Talk )( (WT-en) Travel ) • 06:09, 18 November 2010 (EST)

Yes. It really is. It literally means "boy", and shouldn't be used for anybody over 12 years old. -- MarkJaroski (talk) 10:25, 19 January 2013 (UTC)

Pronounciation of "œ"[edit]

The pronounciation of the ligature "œ" is [é] when placed at the beginning of a word followed by a consonant like in œnologue, œsophage, œdipe...

Is pretty much like the German ö. The closest equivalent in English is the way speakers with very posh British English accents pronounce the "er" at the end of a word. -- MarkJaroski (talk) 10:27, 19 January 2013 (UTC)


This phrasebook is continually using the letters "ng", when the nasal is involved. Is this some Wikivoyage thing, as it seems very unintuitive to me, as if I didn't speak French, I would say "bong" (IPA: bɑŋ) for the pronouncation guide given for "bon". Should this be changed? Betweenarock (talk) 23:45, 7 May 2014 (UTC)

Changed to what, though? What English-language sound is it closer to? None that I can think of. Ikan Kekek (talk) 00:01, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
By the way, I don't agree with you that "comment" sounds like "koh-moh." There is no "oh" sound in the second syllable in any accent I'm familiar with (including Midi, Provencal, Parisian and Burgundian; I can't remember how Quebecois pronounce vowels, but since I was used to French accents from France, I found their accent very strange). I'd approximate it as "koh-mahng." Note, too, that we don't expect people to learn IPA symbols in order to use our phrasebooks, so while it might be OK to put them in parentheses (we'll see what others say), we have to approximate French words with English sounds to the extent possible. We can't expect new French speakers to sound like Parisians overnight. I will change the pseudo-pronunciation of "comment" unless you can give a good reason for the "oh" sound as the second syllable. Ikan Kekek (talk) 00:07, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
French is not my native language, but I'd like to say I speak it pretty well. My French dictionary gives both the IPA, kɔ.mɑ̃, which is a bit unfriendly, but also the English approximation, ko-mon. To me that sounds more like the word "comment" being used in both Metropolitan French as well as in Québécois.
as an example. To me adding the "-ng" at the end, looks like it should be pronounced like a velar nasal, as in "sing". I can change as needed, but I just thought that may be useful. Just my two cents. Thanks! Betweenarock (talk) 03:35, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
"Ko-mon" could be equivalent to "ko-mahn," but not in all accents of English. It's not the same as "ko-moh." Ikan Kekek (talk) 05:55, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
I went on a hunt for what the general agreement is for representing that sound. (The second syllable in comment) in English-esque spelling. The Lonely Planet French Phrasebook says "koh-MON" for "comment". GlobalTourisim says "kuh-mahn" for "comment". My worry with "-ng", is that it encourages people to say "koh-mong", with the last syllable rhyming with "gong". I do understand that that particular nasal vowel isn't found in English, but I think that "ng" just muddies the waters. Thanks for your interest. Betweenarock (talk) 18:23, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
We could represent that sound as (ng), in parentheses. Look at the Malay phrasebook and how I've represented unaspirated T's and P's at the end of words. Ikan Kekek (talk) 21:54, 8 May 2014 (UTC)
I really like that idea, with one caveat: I think that the letter should be just an (n). To me, that balances the nasalization without implying too much of a velar, like "sing". I think that should be a good compromise that works best for all involved.
But I do think it's more of an (ng) than an (n). Anyway, though, it's nasal. Ikan Kekek (talk) 06:14, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
To me, the French 'n' has always sounded like a softer version of the English 'N', as if they are going to pronounce the full 'N' sound but stop before it really makes it out of their mouth. And it is of course pronounced much further back in the mouth (it's nasal, like Ikan says) than in English. I've always disliked the use of '-ng' for much the same reasons as Betweenarock, but I'm also not convinced by either the "co-moh" or straight up "co-mon" options and can't really think of a better English combination of letters. The trouble with the suggested "(n)g" is that although it successfully diminishes the 'N' sound it also insinuates that you should pronounce the 'G' quite strongly.
I would say IPA is the way forward but so many people don't understand it, so there has to be a viable way of expressing the sound using only letters and symbols common to English. Along the lines of employing brackets, wouldn't "n(g)" be more accurate than "(n)g"?. As an alternative suggestion, could we write the 'N' with a strike through it (e.g "co-mon") to indicate its status as being "not quite pronounced"? Just a thought, seeing as you have reached somewhat of an impasse (now there's a French word we English speakers pronounce poorlyǃ)
Alors, à vous, --ThunderingTyphoons! (talk) 12:06, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
I was suggesting (ng), definitely not (n)g. If both of you feel (n) is better, I'll defer to you. N(g) doesn't quite get it because the sound is nasal, with no enunciation of an "n" by the tongue, so I think it's better to put the whole sound in parentheses, or with a strikethrough if you prefer. In the end, we just do what we can, and people who want to learn better pronunciation need to listen to French being spoken by native speakers. Ikan Kekek (talk) 19:51, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
I do tend to prefer the strike through, although that may just be because it was my idea, so I wouldn't want to act on a narcissistic whim before any consensus was reached. I suppose the brackets would be easier to implement than all the faffing around with wiki formatting for the strike. Other than that, I agree there's only so much we can do. --ThunderingTyphoons! (talk) 20:35, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
Okay awesome. I think my vote is going to go for "ko-mo(n)". I feel that fits within the needs expressed by everyone involved. I also think that adding a note at the top of the phrasebook will be useful for that too. Betweenarock (talk) 22:14, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
I still disagree on the vowel. In American English, on="ahn"; that is not true in British or many other pronunciations of English. I really would suggest an "ah" vowel sound in the last syllable of comment. Do you really consider "ent" to be the same sound as "ont" in French? Ikan Kekek (talk) 08:51, 10 May 2014 (UTC)
No, you're right; "ent" and "ont" are (ever so slightly) different. I'm not sure if English has this subtle a pronunciation difference though. Just speaking personally, if I saw "ah" written, and I didn't know any French, I would assume it was a flat A sound (as in "tap"). What about "aw", as in "co-mawn", which has the benefit of already appearing in the guide somewhere. With this continued disagreement about how sounds should be represented by letters, it's becoming increasingly clear that our current approach is somewhat inadequate.
Would it not just be better to record some sound files and upload them to the pronunciation guide? I've been speaking French since I was in primary school, and I'm having a tough time wrapping my head around which is the exact pronunciation, as I learnt pronunciation through actively using and hearing the sounds, parroting if you will. Sound files of 'on', 'en', 'ain', 'em' etc, even for the words and sentences in the 'phrases' section, really might be of more practical use than our confusing approximations of how they should look if written in English. That way, people can just click on the file and find out exactly how a letter, sound, or word sounds, and then parrot away to their heart's content. Admittedly this wouldn't be so good for the stated project aim that everything on WV should be printable, but the number of people taking their smartphones and tablets on trips is only going to keep increasing. Plus, I think I'm right in saying that you can download all the sound files on here as MP3 files.
It will take a bit of effort, but once a sound file is recorded and uploaded, preferably by a native speaker, it can be there forever, with no ambiguity or confusion. Thoughts? --ThunderingTyphoons! (talk) 15:19, 10 May 2014 (UTC)
Sure thing. Wikimedia Commons already has sound files for most sounds in French. I think having a combination of English-esque phonetic spelling, for the printed version, as well as sound file would be ideal. 17:04, 10 May 2014 (UTC)
Well that revelation makes things easierǃ We still need to agree on a good set of phonetic spellings though, not least for all the endless variations of the nasal N. --ThunderingTyphoons! (talk) 17:12, 10 May 2014 (UTC)
Sorry, but sound file are currently banned here. See Wikivoyage:Image policy#Other media:
"One of Wikivoyage's goals is to have Wikivoyage articles useful as printed pages. We therefore do not use other media files like digital sound clips or video images."
However, I haven't located any prior discussion of sound files specifically, rather than video clips. I'd suggest making a proposal to allow them at Wikivoyage talk:Image policy. Present the same case you've presented here, and let's see whether we can come to agreement on this. I think there will be some support and some resistance, and I'm not sure what the outcome will be, but it's worth discussing. Ikan Kekek (talk) 22:23, 10 May 2014 (UTC)
Getting back to pseudo-pronunciation, when I see "ah," I think of the "a" in "father." I pronounce the "a" in "tap" very differently in my accent of English. Granted, the "a" in "father" is further forward in the throat than the "e" in "comment," but it's a lot more similar than the "aw" sound or the way I pronounce "a" in "tap." Ikan Kekek (talk) 22:27, 10 May 2014 (UTC)
Yeah, when I was writing "tap" it occurred to me that we probably pronounce the word very differently from one another, but hopefully you get the idea that "ah" can be perceived by different people as representing two very different sounds, and this ambiguity is what's problematic. Unfortunately I can't really imagine in my head how a New Yorker would pronounce father (if only there was some way you could record yourself and share it with us hereǃ) but I'll trust you're right that it's similar to the 'E' in "comment".
Weirdly, I actually had a American accent cliché in mind when I proposed "aw" (I mean no disrespect, but think "cuppa cawfee in Bawston"), because its UK pronunciation (rhymes with 'or' with a non-rhotic R) doesn't fit the French at all. I suppose "ah" the word, of "Ah-haǃ" fame, is like the long A in father, but the British way of saying "father" really doesn't sound like "comment". Once again the diversity of the English language is doing its best to thwart any attempt at representing French pronunciation in a way for everyone to understand.
The listen function on Google Translate, which is great for pronunciation demos if little else, highlights how uncannily close "comment" is to how an English person would say "c'mon". The "ent" is a really quite well-rounded O and the actual "o" in the word is closer to a U or the ə sound I learned today is called a "schwa", which is easily the most flamboyant-sounding word I've heard in a while.
As for the question of which of the many ways to represent "ent" is better, I'm stumped. --ThunderingTyphoons! (talk) 03:29, 11 May 2014 (UTC)
You nailed it here: "I suppose "ah" the word, of "Ah-haǃ" fame, is like the long A in father." Yep, I pronounce that "a" and the one in "father" the same way. As for the "aw" sound, in New York (and a lot of American pronunciation), I'd say that "raw," "moth," "talk" have the same vowel. In New York pronunciation, "coffee" has an "aw" vowel with at least a slight "w" consonant following (in extreme accents, it's very pronounced or may be pronounced "koow-fee"). However, most Americans don't have New York accents, and this is the French and not the New York English or American English phrasebook, so as long as we use pseudo-pronunciations that are more or less understandable throughout the English-speaking world, we'll be OK. Ikan Kekek (talk) 05:41, 11 May 2014 (UTC)

Let's use appropriate tools[edit]

Apart from holy tradition, why exactly are we not putting the traveller first and using real sound file examples such as

rather than struggling with tortuous and non-obvious stuff like "ko-mong" ? -- 22:38, 10 May 2014 (UTC)

Please make your argument in Wikivoyage talk:Image policy, as I suggested above. Making an argument about policy here is not going to have any effect. Ikan Kekek (talk) 22:48, 10 May 2014 (UTC)
Sounds like a plan. Thank you for the info presented above Ikan; I'll go and do what you suggest sometime soon. Anonymous user, please come by and support me when I do, as it seems like this proposal could do with all the help it can get, going against official policy and all. --ThunderingTyphoons! (talk) 02:33, 11 May 2014 (UTC)
Unfortunately, the anonymous user was apparently a banned troll who prefers to diss policies and moderation instead of trying to seek consensus about new policies, so they won't be around to offer support. However, I will, if we can agree about the scope of allowable sound files. Please make the proposal, and please include a link in this thread. Ikan Kekek (talk) 02:50, 11 May 2014 (UTC)
Thank you, I am most gratefulǃ I'm thinking that proposing the sound files just for this guide and others like it (so basically phrasebooks), in order to hopefully minimise resistance. I can't think of anywhere they'd be especially useful beyond language learning anyway. I will write the proposal later today, and let you know when it's live. --ThunderingTyphoons! (talk) 16:20, 11 May 2014 (UTC)

Proofreading of the French translations[edit]

I went over the various translations, and a few things looked wrong to me. I'm not fixing them directly as I'm not able to change the pronounciation at the same time

  • Call an ambulance/the fire brigade/the police/the coastguard

This is translated as if this was the infinitive form "To call an ambulance", but I think this is meant to be an imperative "Do call an ambulance". The correct translations would be "Appelez une ambulance/les pompiers/la police/la garde côtière".

  • Clock time

I think this section needs work, the "et demi", "et quart", "moins vingt" modifiers are only used when a 12 hour clock is used, otherwise I would just use the usual number for the minutes (ie 15h40 is either "quatre heures moins vingt" or "quinze heures quarante", but not "seize heures moins vingt"). I haven't looked for a reference to check if it's just something personal or something well defined, but I don't think I've heard people using "seize heure moins vingt".

  • Directions

"Past the... " would be better as "Après avoir passé le/la/les" and same for "Before the..." : "Avant d'arriver au / à la / aux " ChristopheFergeau (talk) 06:31, 6 July 2014 (UTC)


This is what is currently written in "Semi-vowels":

like "wa" in "walk"

I don't think it's just a New York thing to pronounce "walk" quite differently from "wok". If you differentiate "awwwwwwww!" from "ahhhhhhh!", you may be able to follow me here. "Walk" in much of the U.S. is pronounced "wawk", whereas "wok" is pronounced "wahk". In other parts of the country, the two words are both pronounced "wahk". Anyway, I don't think we want people saying "Kwaw?" for "Quoi?", and I know that "wok" uses quite a different vowel from "ah" in many parts of the English-speaking world including the British Isles.

So here's my proposal.

like "wa" in "want"

OK, sure, in some parts of the U.S. South and elsewhere, people may pronounce that word "wawnt", but I'm not sure what other alternative we have that's not pretty complicated and I think most people reading here would consider "wawnt" a non-standard pronunciation of "want", whereas "wawk" for "walk" is entirely standard and normal in large swathes of the U.S.

By the way, I just edited the explanation of "eu", because loads of English-speakers pronounce the "r" in "burp", but I think just about all English-speakers will understand the "u" in "burp" as having more or less the same sound. I'll look through the rest of this phrasebook to see if it's too geared toward only Brits learning to pronounce French. I'd like to see this phrasebook featured in time. Ikan Kekek (talk) 19:07, 9 January 2017 (UTC)