Photo of a street in Quebec City


Do not be surprised if during your holiday in Canada, you hear as many 'bonjour's' as you do 'hello's'. While English is the primary language of Canada, French is just as commonly used to communicate. There are several communities and provinces that are overwhelmingly French-speaking. For instance, Quebec, New Brunswick and areas in Ontario such as Toronto and Ottawa, are regions of Canada where French is frequently spoken. But Cover-More has your back, with 10 French phrases you should know before your next Canadian holiday.

'Hello Mrs. /Mr. /Miss'

In French: 'Bonjour Madame/Monsieur/Mademoiselle'

Why: Canada has so many natural wonders and outdoor adventures for you to explore that frequently you will find yourself taking guided tours or day-long hikes led by locals. It is considerate to address your guides in French, and they will be flattered when you attempt to speak their language.

'Please' & 'Thank you'

In French: 'S'il vous plaît' & 'Merci'

Why: It is always important to remember that you are a guest in this country, and being a guest means being polite. What better way to be polite than to say please and thank you?

'Sorry to bother you…'

In French: 'Excusez-moi de vous déranger...'

Why: It is important to remember that while you are on holiday, your travel destination is still someone else's home. The locals are not there to cater to your every whim. If you need help or have a question, make sure you can politely interrupt or get someone's attention.

'Can you help me?'

In French: 'Pouvez-vous m'aider?'

Why: No matter what the native language is, you never want to find yourself somewhere where you cannot ask for help. This is particularly important as a tourist where you are especially vulnerable for theft or scams. Asking for help in the native language is the quickest way to get someone's attention.

'Please, I am looking for…'

In French: 'S'il vous plaît, je cherche…'

Why: Being able to ask politely where a destination is or how to get to the next rest stop will come in handy if you ever find yourself lost or having trouble understanding the map.

'Do you speak English?'

In French: 'Parlez-vous anglais?'

Why: Ten phrases may not get you very far if everyone on your trip is speaking fluent French. Knowing how to ask if someone can speak English will come in handy if you have a lengthy or difficult question to ask.

'I speak a little French'

In French: 'Je parle un peu français'

Why: It is considered courteous to attempt to order your food in the dominant language. With this phrase in your pocket, if you are spending time in a French-speaking town or province and trying to communicate with a native speaker, you will be able to clarify that your French-speaking abilities are limited. This will allow the other speaker to describe certain items on the menu to you in simpler terms.

'I am here on vacation'

In French: 'e suis là pour les vacances'

Why: If you ever find yourself lost or in an emergency situation and must be able to explain why you are in the area, this phrase will prove helpful.

'Where are the restrooms?'

In French: 'Où sont les toilettes?'

Why: This one should be self-explanatory; of course, you will want to be able to ask where the bathrooms are.

'Would you take our/my picture?'

In French: 'Est-ce que vous prendriez notre/ma photo, s'il vous plaît?'

Why: There are several sites in Canada that you will not want to forget, such as exploring Niagara Falls or hiking Fundy trail. There will be many times you will want a photo taken, and there is no harm in asking for someone to take your picture. Attempting to do so in their own language might make them more willing to take your photograph.

Being able to speak these key phrases in the language of the country you are visiting is a great way to show the locals that you are interested in and care about their culture. It is also a safety measure to know how to speak certain words in the dominant language. But understanding how to say 'help' is not the only proactive measure you can take in case of an accident; be even more protected with international travel insurance. Compare plans to find the best policy for you.

Image courtesy of Flickr user LilyyyB; cropped from original