How to Make Small Talk in French
Making small talk in French is just the same as in English. Touch on familiar topics like jobs, sports, children — just say it in French! Small talk describes the brief conversations that you have with people you don’t know well. Small talk is where friendships are made. If you know how to make small talk in French you’ll be able to “break the ice” and get to know some of the people you meet during your trip.
Small talk generally consists of greetings and introductions and descriptions of personal information and interests. If you are able to hold your own in each of these areas, you’ll be able to handle most small talk situations.
Greetings and introductions
Although the French are often more formal than we are in America, you don’t need to wait around to be introduced to someone. Take the initiative to walk up to someone and say hello (salut or bonjour).
Introductions don’t have to be complicated or stuffy. The following phrases are all you need to get a conversation started.
Je m’appelle . . . (My name is . . .)
Comment vous appelez-vous? (What’s your name? [Formal])
Je vous présente Fabienne, ma femme. (Let me introduce you my wife, Fabienne).
Greetings and introductions are usually accompanied by a Comment allez-vous? (How are you? [Formal]) There are many possible responses, but the most common would be to say I’m doing well (Ça va bien) or I’m so-so (Je vais comme-ci, comme-ça.).
After the necessary introductions, small talk is really just a question of asking the other person questions about themselves and sharing information about yourself. The following phrases will come in handy when you’re chitchatting with someone new.
Je suis de . . . (I am from . . .)
D’où venez-vous? (Where are you from? [Formal])
Quel est votre métier? (What is your profession? [Formal])
Quel âge avez-vous? (How old are you? [Formal])
Où habitez-vous? (Where do you live? [Formal])
Je suis étudiant/étudiante. (I’m a student. [M/F])
Combien d’enfants avez-vous? (How many children do you have?)
J’ai trois enfants. (I have three children.)
Many friendships are forged on the bond of common interests. You can use the following phrases to compare interests when making small talk.
Qu’est-ce que tu aimes faire pour t’amuser? (What do you like to do for fun? [Informal])
À quoi joues-tu? (What do you play? [Informal])
Je joue au golf. (I play golf.)
Je joue au football. (I play soccer.)
Je joue au football américain. (I play football.)
Je joue au tennis. (I play tennis.)
Je suis un grand supporter de sport. (I’m a big sports fan.)
That’s it. By mastering these simple sentence structures, you’ll soon be able to make small talk with everyone you meet.