Mark Shimada

A trip to the market to learn French? Why not!

By Lilia Ahmed Ali

Ah, le marché! That place where the colors of the fruits and vegetables and the shimmering energy of the city's residents mingle in perfect harmony. It is certainly one of the most animated places in a city. But did you know that it is also an excellent place to learn French?

So why not venture into the markets of the city during your stay in France? - Whether it's in Paris or any other city in France. It's a great opportunity to practice your French while bonding with locals and trying out some of their typical products and foods!

In this article, you will discover how a trip to the local market can help you learn French more spontaneously.

Learn French by practicing the language with locals

One of the main advantages of strolling through the bustling market is the opportunity to practice French with the locals, both with the merchants and with the customers, all while shopping.

This allows you to listen closely to the expressions and vocabulary related to the market, like asking for prices, information, advice and recommendations about the products.

I came across this short anecdote while scrolling on the internet and it quickly caught my attention. This experience illustrates perfectly the importance of exposure to the language and of practicing it to improve one's linguistic skills. So, I want to share it with you! 

It's about a young English student who went to visit Paris during her last college vacation. She wanted to go to the Montorgueil market, one of the largest markets in Paris, on her own to find a few low budget deals. 

At first, she wasn't very comfortable with the idea of talking to merchants in French or even negotiating the prices, but luckily, she met a very nice saleswoman who owned a vegetable stand with fresh fruits and vegetables and with whom she was able to interact with.

The young student greeted the saleswoman and pointed to a tray of strawberries and asked, "Combien pour ça ?” (“how much for this ?”). 

The saleswoman understood that she was a foreigner due to her English accent and answered: "Quatre euros, mais pour vous, je vous fais une réduction, je vous les fais à trois euros !". ("Four euros, but for you, I will give you a discount, I will make them for three euros!”)

The saleswoman, wanting to help the girl, gives her some advice and teaches her some basic expressions so she can fully enjoy her tour, such as: "C'est un peu cher, non ?" or "Tu peux me faire un prix ?” ("It's a little pricey, isn't it?" or "Can you make me an offer?") or to find a particular shop like a bakery or a butcher “Où est la boulangerie/boucherie ?” (“Where is the bakery/butcher? ”).

The young lady did not hesitate to use these expressions with other vendors or locals and even managed to get some discounts!

See how the simple act of shopping at the market and interacting with the local merchants is an amazing way to practice a language and boost your confidence?

Discover French culture through its local markets!

Besides being a great opportunity to improve your French, the local market is a lively place brimming with colors and flavors where you can explore the diversity of French culture, including its culinary culture, products and local specialties!

Some merchants even invite you to taste some of the iconic products featured on their stands, such as seasonal fruits and vegetables, nut breads and cheeses.

Fact: France is reputed for its great variety of cheeses and produces more than 1,200 kinds!

For example, if you decide to visit the Montorgueil market, you can discover one of the most authentic and lively places in Paris. 

The district is famous for its original stores, restaurants/bars and its winding streets. Experience a day in the life of a Parisian!

Learn French with these examples of basic conversations with the merchants!

To make the most of your trip to the local market, here's a list of basic French expressions to use in order to practice French, and make fruitful exchanges with vendors and customers and get the best deals.

The polite phrases "bonjour (hello/good morning) - merci (thank you) - s'il vous plaît (please)" are not to be skipped! Retailers do not appreciate a lack of politeness from customers.

You want to ask for information on products available for purchase:

“Bonjour monsieur, ces légumes sont-ils bio ?”.

"Good morning sir, are these vegetables organic?".

‘’Bonjour monsieur, d'où vient cette viande ?”.

''Hello sir, where did that meat come from?".

You want to ask for prices or to negotiate:

"Combien coûte ce poisson ?"

"How much is this fish?".

To get the best price, you can say:

“C'est trop cher, pouvez-vous me faire un prix?”.

“It's too expensive, can you give me a quote?’’.

You want to ask how much money to pay:

“Combien est-ce que je vous dois ?” “euh...5 euros svp”.

“How much do I owe you?” “uh...5 euros please”.

You want to ask for a certain quantity or amount:

“Donne-moi un kilo de bananes s'il vous plaît”.

“Give me a kilo of bananas please”.

The best way to discover a country’s culture and language is through its picturesque corners and the exchanges you can have with its inhabitants. So why not hit two birds with one stone and go to the nearest market during your stay in France to do some grocery shopping, improve your French AND return home with delicious cheese and new French expressions!

You might also like

Learn French through Tasting Wine!
French and its vocabulary can be easily acquired when practiced in a real-life context. How about learning French while having a good time tasting delicious wines? France is widely known for the quality of its wines. For French language learners passionate about wine, they can participate in wine tasting sessions with local wine lovers and sommeliers. Perfect for socializing and interacting with natives, learning new words, asking questions about the flavors, different qualities…while enjoying some win!
French language and culture
Read more
How to avoid looking like a clueless tourist at French restaurants?
Planning to visit France? You will surely be tempted to dine in French fancy restaurants. This article is for you if you want to avoid making a faux pas in a French restaurant and end up being seen as a clumsy tourist. Be ready to learn French etiquette and experience real culinary moments with your family and friends!
French language and culture
Read more