When planning to travel to a foreign destination, being able to communicate is one of the first concerns that springs to mind. Fortunately for anyone lucky enough to be planning a journey to France’s capital, Paris is a multicultural city with citizens who can communicate effectively in many languages.
The most common languages they speak in Paris are French, German, and Arabic, while there are also significant numbers of Portuguese, Italian, and Spanish speakers. English is increasingly spoken with high efficiency in Paris.
With the number of languages spoken in Paris, there is little wonder why the city is such a significant destination for tourists from around the globe.
In this article, I’ll review all the details about speaking and communicating when you’re in Paris to help ensure that you have smooth communication during your visit.
What Languages Do They Speak in Paris?
The most commonly spoken language in France is French, and Paris is no exception. Well over 90% of all French citizens are native speakers of French, though many local dialects from around the country will appear in Paris.
Immigration accounts for many other spoken languages; notably, these include:
Each of these languages has a significant number of native speakers within France, contributing to even further fluency within the French population.
Regarding Arabic, France’s colonial legacy has led to a significant movement of people between former colonies in North Africa (Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria), which can account for the number of native Arabic speakers in Paris.
Many European languages are present throughout Paris due to immigration and France’s shared borders with German-speaking countries (Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, and Luxembourg), Spanish and Catalan-speaking countries (Spain and Andorra), and Italy.
On the other hand, English has become a common language to speak with tourists from around the world. Additionally, more young people speak English due to increased English education and the proliferation of English film, television, and music.
What Are the Top 3 Languages Spoken in Paris?
The top three languages spoken in Paris are French, English, and German. These three languages are commonly spoken due to the number of native speakers and tourists sharing the streets of the destination city.
- French: As the official language of France, it should be no surprise that it’s also the most common language in Paris. Expect nearly all communication, signage, and menus to be in French when you visit Paris.
- English: While France has relatively few native English speakers, English is the top language for tourism. This alone makes English the second most common language to hear in Paris. If you speak English, you’ll easily be able to get by and communicate in Paris.
- German: This language is common due to a combination of tourism and native speakers. Though spoken at a lower rate, shared borders and ample German tourists make the language common in France’s capital.
Is It OK To Speak English in Paris?
It is OK to speak English in Paris, as most Parisians speak some English. Notably, France has the 11th most English speakers worldwide. However, tourists should expect to use some French words and phrases to be polite guests and receive better treatment when traveling.
In large international cities like Paris, you may hear plenty of rumors and anecdotes that warn of language barriers and rude locals who refuse to help you unless you’re fluent in their language.
Unfortunately, many stereotypes exist about French people, especially Parisians, being rude and refusing to speak a word of English. In my experience, this couldn’t be further from the truth, as more and more young people are fluent in English, and the language continues to be standard in the service and tourism industries.
In fact, English is spoken so well in France that EF rates the country as “Highly Proficient” in its English Proficiency Index.
However, while you can use English in Paris, it isn’t polite to walk up to someone in their own country and immediately speak another language.
Perhaps all the tales of rude encounters with Parisians began with rude tourists. Instead, a French greeting or phrase is an easy way to show that you value the local culture. Besides, learning some common French phrases will enrich your experiences and allow you to engage with the people and culture more genuinely. Simple phrases to learn and use include:
- Hello: Bonjour
- Goodbye: Au revoir
- Good evening: Bonsoir
- Thank you: Merci
- Please: S’il vous plaît
- Excuse me: Pardon
- I’m sorry: Désolé
For further French immersion, apps to learn the language are freely available and are a great way to prepare and build excitement for your big Parisian adventure. I recommend both Duolingo and Memrise. As you prepare for your trip, be sure to review my other helpful tips and guides for your international adventure, like this guide on preparing your boarding passes.
What Kind of French Is Spoken in Paris?
The most common kind of French spoken in Paris is “Metropolitan French,” which is also regarded as the standard form of French. However, speakers of other dialects are present throughout the city.
If you’re learning some French in anticipation of a trip to the city, Metropolitan French is the version that nearly every major language learning course, app, or website utilizes. However, because people move to Paris from all over France and other French-speaking countries, it’s not uncommon to encounter native speakers of various French dialects.
These French dialects include Oïl languages, such as Picard and Norman, and Occitan languages, including Gascon and Limousin. Additionally, dialects of French have developed outside of France and have a presence, including Belgian French and Swiss French.
Fortunately, while speakers of these different dialects are ever-present, it’s safe to presume that speakers of these other dialects will be able to communicate in standard, Metropolitan French.
Many languages are spoken in Paris, so you should have little trouble finding someone to communicate with on your travels.
This is especially true with younger generations and those Parisians working in the service industry, where levels of English are notably high. However, learning a few French words and phrases can be done quickly and will go a long way toward enabling more genuine interactions with locals and immersing yourself in the culture. Bon voyage!