Answers from Our Experts (1)
One of the most interesting facets of visiting Paris is the language barrier. Many visitors come to France thinking one of two things: either, everyone speaks English so I don't need to know French, or the exact opposite. It's important to know before you come to Paris that the French people take their language very serously. There is even a governing body called the Academie Française that was founded hundreds of years ago for the purpose of protecting the French language and determining which modern words would be added each year!
As for the language barrier, I think the easiest way to determine whether you should assume one way or the other, is to imagine if a French person came to your home state and just began rambling off in French to you, expecting that you could reply back in their language. That is exactly how they feel when a visitor does the same to them in English (or whatever your mother tongue is).
Before you come to Paris, it's always a good idea to buy a little guide book with commonly used French phrases. They are often spelled out phonetically, making the words much easier for the Anglophone tongue to pronounce.To be courteous, try to learn how to say hello and ask them if they speak English in French before diving in.
To put you at ease in case learning even these phrases makes anxious, it's true that most Parisians can understand basic English, but I can't promise that they'll always acknowledge your question. There are also many ex-pats in Paris, and in some of the trendy restaurants in town you are bound to hear a handful of English-speaking patrons.