vous parle anglais?

vous parle anglais? This is the pidgin equivalent of “Do you speak English” which is climbing up my charts as the most frequently used French sentence. And it is turning out to be very effective in enlisting help. I came across this phrase by chance when I overheard a friend interacting with a French speaking person. The friend in question immediately got a positive response in broken English. So, I decided to ask and learn this magic sentence by heart.

Now, this is the first question I ask whenever I approach someone for help. I get two kinds of responses. Most common is a shrug followed by the words “a little”. For everything, the French has a shrug accompanying their sentence. I wonder why. The second response is a gesture by using the thumb and index finger indicating “a little”.

From that moment onwards, it is very easy. You ask them the real question haltingly with emphasis on the verbs aided by gesticulating hands. This always yields the answers you are looking for.

If you are going to France, this phrase will come in handy. So far, I have not encountered anyone who answered in negative!

Tags: Musings,France,Magic Sentence


  1. Yes, during my trip to Paris I have experienced this. At the airport and the Hotel, it was very embarrassing.

  2. The French generally will refuse to acknowledge that they speak English, I found it very difficult to get around and had to depend upon a lot of hand gestures to make myself understood!

  3. French is very tricky indeed. They write something and pronounce something else. I know a bit, like- Comment vous vous appelez? comment allez-vous? fumez-vous?ce qu'il ya à manger?...ETC.....and of course- Je vais bien, merci..:))

  4. i will comment after visiting france heheh

  5. It was the reverse for us. The husband was trying his french that he learnt at college and the exasperated lady at the counter asked us parlez vous anglais?!!

  6. strange i guess they did not like my Face cause when i asked i did not get a response ..

    if you go into interior france they dont like people talking in english :)


  7. I'd say you've been a lucky person not to have offended anyone so far. Usually the French never speak or even acknowledge that they know even a word in the English language. I experienced that in Geneva, which is predominantly French.

    My second language in University was French and that helped a bit. But English to a French guy is a no-no...Well, I wish you keep on getting the two finger gestures and not the middle one :D just kidding.. :D

  8. The French people think their language is superior to English. So if you are in the middle of a French speaking community it is better to apologize for not speaking in French


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