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How to Navigate Paris with Kids Without Speaking French

How to Navigate Paris with Kids Without Speaking French

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Are you planning a Paris family vacation? Keep scrolling for tips on visiting Paris without speaking French!
This list of tips for visiting Paris with kids without speaking French was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

Hey there, fellow globe-trotting parents!

Have you ever dreamed of whisking your family away to the enchanting streets of Paris, only to hit the pause button because, well, the thought of navigating a foreign city (and language!) with kids in tow seems a tad overwhelming?

I feel you. Despite my high school French classes and even minoring in French in college, I find myself grappling with the language every single time we visit Paris. Funny enough, my French only seems to shine when I’m shopping. Go figure!

But here’s the good news: my husband’s fearless attempts at French and our kids’ enthusiasm for saying “bonjour,” “merci,” and, importantly, “fromage” (because cheese is life) have shown me that you don’t need to be fluent in French to enjoy Paris with your family.

Here’s how we navigate Paris with our boys, language barriers and all, making every trip an unforgettable adventure.

9 Paris Tips for Non-French Speakers

Dive into the Basics (and I Mean, Basic)

First things first, learning a few key phrases in French does wonders—not just for getting around but also for connecting with the locals.

My husband’s brave attempts, no matter how imperfect, often lead to smiles and a warmer response. And when the kids try? Absolute heart-melters.

If you need a vacation photographer in Paris, I recommend Olga with Flytographer!
Photo credit: Olga with Flytographer

Start with greetings, thank-yous, and useful phrases like “Où est la toilette?” (Where is the bathroom?).

There’s something about hearing your little ones say “Excusez-moi” that makes navigating the language barrier a part of the fun.

Technology is Your BFF

We live in a marvelous age where technology can be a lifesaver for non-French speaking travelers. Google Translate and similar apps not only help with translations but can also pronounce words for you.

Before our trips, I download the French language pack on my phone for offline access, so we’re never truly lost in translation, even without Wi-Fi. And let me tell you, it’s been a game-changer, especially when deciphering menus or explaining my son’s nut allergy.

Gestures Go a Long Way

Remember, communication isn’t just verbal. Gestures, facial expressions, and body language can bridge a lot of gaps.

Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Pointing to maps, using your fingers to indicate numbers when shopping, and, of course, the universal smile, have helped us more times than I can count.

Just be mindful of cultural differences—what’s an innocent gesture at home might not be so in France (or vice versa!).

Embrace the Awkwardness

Let’s be real, there will be awkward moments, and that’s okay! Once, my husband tried to order chicken but ended up with a plate of cheese (again, not a total loss because, cheese). Instead of fretting, we laughed it off and enjoyed our unexpected snack.

Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

These moments have become some of our favorite stories to tell. Teaching your kids to embrace these mix-ups shows them the beauty of exploring new cultures, languages, and the joy of unexpected experiences.

Find English-Speaking Locals and Expats

Paris is a cosmopolitan city with a large population of English speakers, from locals who are fluent to expats and travelers just like us.

Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Don’t be afraid to ask, “Parlez-vous anglais?” (Do you speak English?). More often than not, you’ll find someone willing to help.

Also, many visitor centers have English-speaking staff who are incredibly helpful with directions, recommendations, and tips for family-friendly activities.

Choose Accommodations Wisely

When booking our stay, I always look for family-friendly accommodations where staff are comfortable communicating in English.

Find out the best places to stay in Paris for families recommended by top family travel blog Marcie in Mommyland. Image of View on Paris at sunset, France

Many hotels and Airbnb hosts in Paris are accustomed to international visitors and offer incredible support in navigating the city. Some of my best tips and hidden gems in Paris have come from these conversations at check-in!

Visual Aids Are Invaluable

Before our trips, I arm myself with maps, pictures, and even a little booklet of common items and phrases with their French translations. They’re not just for the kids; they’re incredibly helpful for me, too.

When language fails, showing a picture of where you want to go or what you want to eat can save the day. Plus, it turns every outing into a mini-scavenger hunt, which the boys absolutely love.

Cultural Immersion Before You Go

To make the transition smoother, we immerse ourselves in French culture even before our plane lands in Paris.

From watching French cartoons (with English subtitles) to having French-themed dinners at home, these activities get the kids excited about the trip and familiar with the sounds of the language.

It’s also a great way for them to pick up new words in a fun, low-pressure way.

Sign Up for English Tours

When it comes to visiting must-see sites like the Musee d’Orsay or the Eiffel Tower, we opt for English-speaking tours.

Not only do they offer fascinating insights that we might otherwise miss, but they also cater to an international audience, making us feel right at home.

Plus, many of these tours offer skip-the-line access, a godsend when you’re traveling with impatient little ones.

Remember: It’s About the Experience

At the end of the day, traveling is about the experiences you share and the memories you create together.

Whether you’re navigating Paris with fluent French or just a handful of phrases, the adventures you have as a family are what truly matter. Our trips have taught us that laughter, love, and a sense of adventure transcend any language barrier.

Navigating Paris without speaking French might seem daunting at first, but with a little preparation, a sense of humor, and an adventurous spirit, it’s not just possible; it’s an incredible way to explore and bond as a family.

So pack your bags, brush up on your “bonjours” and “mercis,” and get ready to fall in love with Paris, one mispronounced word at a time. Bon voyage!

Looking for more Paris travel content? Check out 15 Things to do in Paris with a Toddler (from a real mom), 10 Tips for Visiting Paris with Kids: What Every Parent Should Know, 25 Things To Do on a Paris Family Vacation Besides the Eiffel Tower, and 10 Best Places to Stay in Paris for Families!

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