It's a good idea to learn some useful phrases before you go; the French will appreciate the effort. Most people can speak at least a few words of English, but fluency is rare in rural areas.


The government site (under ‘Francophony’) and list language schools.

Centre Méditerranéen d’Études Françaises Côte d’Azur language school since 1952.


Word gender is indicated as (m) masculine or (f) feminine; (pl) indicates plural.

abbaye (f) – abbey

AOC – Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée; wines and olive oils that have met stringent government regulations governing where, how and under what conditions the grapes or olives are grown and the wines and olive oils are fermented and bottled

arrondissement (m) – one of several districts into which large cities, such as Marseille, are split

atelier (m) – artisan’s workshop

auberge (f) – inn

autoroute (f) – motorway or highway

baie (f) – bay

bastide (f) – country house

billetterie (f) – ticket office or counter

borie (f) – primitive beehive-shaped dwelling, built from dry limestone around 3500 BC

boulangerie (f) – bread shop or bakery

calanque (f) – rocky inlet

carnet (m) – a book of five or 10 bus, tram or metro tickets sold at a reduced rate

cave (f) – wine or cheese cellar

centre (de) hospitalier (m) – hospital

chambre d’hôte (f) – B&B accommodation, usually in a private home

charcuterie (f) – pork butcher’s shop and delicatessen; also cold meat

château (m) – castle or stately home

chèvre (m) – goat; also goat’s-milk cheese

col (m) – mountain pass

conseil général (m) – general council

corniche (f) – coastal or cliff road

corrida (f) – bullfight

cour (f) – courtyard

course Camarguaise (f) – Camargue-style bullfight

dégustation (f) – the fine art of tasting wine, cheese, olive oil or seafood

département (m) – administrative area (department)

DFCI – Défense de la Forêt Contre l’Incendie; fire road (public vehicular access forbidden)

digue (f) – dike

domaine (m) – a wine-producing estate

église (f) – church

épicerie (f) – grocery shop

étang (m) – lagoon, pond or lake

faïence (f) – earthenware

féria (f) – bullfighting festival

ferme auberge (f) – family-run inn attached to a farm or château; farmhouse restaurant

fête (f) – party or festival

formule (f) – fixed main course plus starter or dessert

fromagerie (f) – cheese shop

galets (m) – large smooth stones covering Châteauneuf du Pape vineyards

gardian (m) – Camargue horseman

gare (f) – train station

gare maritime (m) – ferry terminal

gare routière (m) – bus station

garrigue (f) – ground cover of aromatic scrub; see also maquis

gitan (m) – Roma, gypsy

golfe (m) – gulf

grotte (f) – cave

halles (f pl) – covered market; central food market

hôtel de ville (m) – town hall

hôtel particulier (m) – private mansion

jardin (botanique) (m) – (botanic) garden

mairie (f) – town hall

manade (f) – bull farm

maquis (m) – aromatic Provençal scrub; name given to the French Resistance movement; see also garrigue

marché (m) – market

mas (m) – Provençal farmhouse

menu (m) – meal at a fixed price with two or more courses

mistral (m) – incessant north wind

monastère (m) – monastery

Monégasque – native of Monaco

moulin à huile (m) – oil mill

musée (m) – museum

navette (f) – shuttle bus, train or boat

office du tourisme, office de tourisme (m) – tourist office (run by a unit of local government)

ONF – Office National des Forêts; National Forests Office

parc national (m) – national park

parc naturel régional (m) – regional nature park

pétanque (f) – a Provençal game, similar to lawn bowls

pic (m) – mountain peak

place (f) – square

plage (f) – beach

plan (m) – city map

plat du jour (m) – dish of the day

pont (m) – bridge

porte (f) – gate or door; old-town entrance

préfecture (f) – main town of a département

presqu’île (f) – peninsula

prieuré (m) – priory

quai (m) – quay or railway platform

quartier (m) – quarter or district

rade (f) – gulf or harbour

région (m) – administrative region

rond-point (m) – roundabout

salin (m) – salt marsh

santon (m) – traditional Provençal figurine

savon (f) – soap

savonnerie (f) – soap factory

sentier (m) – trail, footpath

sentier littoral (m) – coastal path

SNCF – Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français; state-owned railway company

SNCM – Société Nationale Maritime Corse-Méditerranée; state-owned ferry company linking Corsica and mainland France

stade (m) – stadium

tabac (m) – tobacconist (also sells newspapers, bus tickets etc)

taureau (m) – bull

TGV – Train à Grande Vitesse; high-speed train

théâtre antique (m) – Roman theatre

vendange (f) – grape harvest

vieille ville (f) – old town

vieux port (m) – old port

vigneron (m) – winegrower

VTT (m) – vélo tout terrain; mountain bike