Pourriez-vous m'aider? (Could you help me?)Right off the bat, it's important to know how to say “Could you help me” in French. Parisians are more helpful to strangers than unfair stereotypes would have you believe. They're not exactly the type to approach you themselves, but when someone asks them for help, a lot of them respond as well. With that said, however, they won't just readily help someone they can't understand. When you need to ask for help, say “Pourriez-vous m'aider?”
Parlez-vous Anglais? (Do you speak English?)Perhaps the best question to ask a Parisian when you need help is if they can speak English. Don't forget that the French capital is a pretty global metropolis. Lots of people come here from all around the world and, at the same time, many locals have also been taught to speak English. Whether they look like a tourist or a local, there's a good chance they can speak English. All you have to do is ask them, 'Parlez-vous Anglais?'
Je ne pas parle Francais (I don't speak French)As simple as it is to make friends in Paris, the language barrier can oftentimes make a difference. Let's say a local wants to talk to you but you can't speak or understand French. What do you do? Just say 'Je ne pas parle Francais' and they'll instantly get it.
Je ne comprends pas (I don't understand)Do you know what's also a great French phrase to say when you don't understand something? “Je ne comprends pas,” which literally translates to “I don't understand” in English. You can't get any more concise and succinct than that! It's a basic phrase that's more helpful than you probably realize. It's also your best bet to let someone know that you have no idea what they're talking about. And it works even if you understand French yourself!
Que veut dire ça? (What does that mean?)Whether you can speak French or not, there are some things you simply couldn't understand. Perhaps it's a sign in the 8th arrondissement. Or the name of a dish you see on the menu of a local bistro. Whatever it is, you'd do well to ask someone “Que veut dire ça?” when you don't understand something. The phrase means 'What does this mean' in French. It's a simple and succinct question that Parisians will undoubtedly understand upon hearing it.
Comment dit-on __ en Français? (How do you say __ in French?)Sometimes, it's much better to say something yourself. Let's say you're ordering in a historic cafe in Paris. A local friend brought you there because it's a must-try and there's already a dish you want to order. Instead of relying on them to say your order, you can just ask them “Comment dit-on __ en Français?” which means “How do you say __ in French?” And once they've answered you, you can just talk to the server directly and you're good!
Repetez, s'il vous plait (Repeat, please)Do you know what is one of the best ways to try to understand French (or any other language, for that matter!)? Hearing it repeatedly. If you ask someone to repeat a word or phrase as often as they can, you'll eventually learn what it means and how to say it yourself. So when you're in Paris and you asked a local for help, saying “Repetez, s'il vous plait” will be a big help!
Encore une fois, s'il vous plait (One more time, please)There is, however, the risk of annoying a Parisian when you ask them to repeat what they've said. Stereotypes aside, anyone would get pretty irritated when someone—especially a stranger—makes them repeat their words again and again. What if they're in a hurry to get to where they need to be? And at the same time, what if you really still couldn't get it? What do you say then? Well, just politely say “Encore une fois, s'il vous plait.” If they repeat it, good. If not, then just ask someone else for help!
Où se trouve la station de métro la plus proche? (Where is the closest métro station?)The Paris Métro is the city's main mode of public transport. Especially if you're a tourist who doesn't have a car in the city. Though there are still taxis and buses, the métro is simply the easiest and cheapest option. And if you're looking for the nearest station, just say 'Où se trouve la station de métro la plus proche?' Parisians will know to point you in the right direction.
C'est combien? (How much is it?)Paris (or France as a whole) sometimes has a different way of doing things. This includes writing the prices for what they're selling. From restaurant menus to signs in the supermarket, if you can't understand how much something costs, simply say 'C'est combien?' It's especially helpful to use this phrase when you're shopping at flea markets, where various stalls don't even put up signs of how much they're selling their items for in the first place.
Où sont les toilettes? (Where are the toilets?)Need to go to the restroom? Use the phrase “Où sont les toilettes?” to look for it. This is definitely a helpful French phrase as the comfort rooms aren't always easy to spot. In some cafes in Paris, they're tucked away at the darkest corners of the place. In the big parks, you might have to trek a couple of kilometers to get there. Asking where the restrooms are will make it easier for you to navigate your way to them.
Pardon or Je suis desolé (I'm sorry)And finally, don't forget to learn the phrases “Pardon” and “Je suis desolé,” both of which mean “I'm sorry” in totally different contexts. “Pardon” is used when you inconvenience someone or when you let them know that they have to repeat what they just said in order to understand them. On the other hand, you say “Je suis desolé” when you want to express remorse or ask for forgiveness. Both are absolutely necessary for you to learn when you try to navigate the bustling city of Paris!
How can you navigate Paris as a non-French speaker better? Learning more than just the basic phrases! As long as you can say these phrases clearly, any local you bump into will understand you perfectly.