Let’s get this straight right off the bat. You DO NOT need to speak French to study in Montreal. Canada is a bilingual country and most people speak both languages. I’ve yet to meet a single person who doesn’t speak flawless English. That said, learning a few French phrases is a great idea because it will enhance your experience. In Montreal, a little French will take you a long way.
I decided to study French before coming to Montreal because I love learning languages but it is not necessary to do so. Once in Montreal, you can take Survival French or just survive without it.
If you do decide to study in advance, the school has some great online resources. I especially like Mango languages. It has a course on Quebec French and a very laid-back approach. You use your Champlain login to get free unlimited access to Mango.
Montrealers are very laid back but they appreciate it when people make an effort to speak French. They won’t laugh at your American accent. Even if you immediately switch to English, starting a conversation with a few french words will be well received.
- Bonjour, Salut — Hello
Saying Hi is a great way to start a conversation. Bonjour or Salut are standard greetings in Montreal. Bonjour literally means good day. Bon means good and jour is day. Salut means hi. Use Bonjour when greeting workers in restaurants, people on the street, or just about anyone else.
- S’il Vous plaît (sil vu play) — Please
It’s the golden word that your mother always told you: please. Say S’il Vous plaît when you ask anyone for anything. You will often find the acronym SVP is often used on notices and signs when the writer wishes to be polite. Canadians are incredibly helpful but always remember to say S’il Vous plaît when you ask for things.
- Merci (Mersee) — Thank You
S’il Vous plaît et Merci (Please and thank you) are the two most essential french phrases to learn. When studying in Montreal locals will be very helpful and you’ll want to make sure to thank them by saying, merci. If someone does something very nice for you say merci beaucoup (Thank you very much).
- Pardon — Excuse Me
When you bump into someone on the subway or stop to ask directions say Pardon (Excuse Me). In a bustling city like Montreal, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to practice this easy-to-remember French word.
- Parlez vous Anglais (parlay voo anglay) — Do you speak English?
When you don’t speak French, you’ll find yourself asking others if they speak English a great deal. Asking in French is more polite than simply assuming they will understand you.
- Je ne parle pas français (Je ne parl pan francay) — I do not speak french
Often, after greeting someone with your flawless Bonjour they will assume you speak French. Use Je ne parle pas français to politely inform them that you don’t understand.
- Je voudrais (je voo dray) — I would like
Je voudrais is a polite way to ask for something. Remember to follow it up with S’il Vous plaît and Merci. In any of the million wonderful little cafes in Montreal, you can eat quite well by saying Je voudrais un croissant. If you don’t know the name of the item you want you can point at it in the case and say Je voudrais ça (I would like that).
- Je m’appelle… — My name is …
Canadians are very friendly and you’ll want to introduce yourself to all your new friends by Je m’appelle.
- Je vais à l’école à Montréal — I go to school in Montreal
When meeting new people they may be curious about why you are visiting the city. You can let them know that you are a student by saying Je vais à l’école à Montréal
- J’aime la province de Québec — I like the province of Quebec
If you ever want to make friends in Quebec say J’aime la province de Québec. Quebecois (Quebecers) are very loyal to their beautiful province. Praising Montreal and Quebec is a sure way to make friends.