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Rick Steves' French Phrase Book and Dictionary Paperback – November 11, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 73 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Series: Rick Steves
  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Avalon Travel Publishing; 6th edition (November 11, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1598801864
  • ISBN-13: 978-1598801866
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 4 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #307,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I don't give negative reviews on items I've purchased very often, but here goes.

When we bought this book, along with one for Italian, we thought they were great and very user friendly. This was before we actually arrived in France and Italy and really had to use them. When you're in actual situations where you need to find words and phrases fast, this book doesn't cut it, at all. The simplest of words I tried to find in the dictionary weren't there so I quickly went searching through the various sections trying desperately to find necessary words for the simplest of things like directions, traveling, etc. Amazingly, even though these phrases are the most important to use, the ones we needed, the words actually being used at the train and subway stations, weren't to be found. It was a waste.

I finally started using Google translator to put in the phrases I needed, and wrote them down. These worked much better than this book and we were able to do much more. Plus, I didn't have to spend time trying to find the right section, and the right spot where a certain phrase might, or might not, be found.

The book might be useful before you leave, to start to learn pronunciation, etc., but you could probably borrow a book from the library and learn the same thing. Save your money and go to the library, then use Google translator for phrases you'll really need for subways, trains, restaurants, etc.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bonjour! This book is filled with French survival phrases and has pronunciation guides which
are easy to understand. The book is divided into sections beginning with "French Basics",
"Counting", "Money", and "Time", and many more. Each of the various sections are necessary
and important in order to understand and learn the French culture abroad. We used many of
Rick Steves' helpful hints while traveling. The book also contains a French/English and English/French
dictionary, although it is not all-inclusive. I highly recommend this book for a bon voyage.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I liked this phrasebook because it was well organized and easy to use. My only complaint is that the phrases are not always accurate. When testing my French phrases on my French-speaking colleagues, they found my pronunciation to be very good (from the phonetic pronunciation guide) but my word choice odd.
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The author's organization of the material is by major topics such as Traveling, Eating, Sleeping, Money, etc. I found this very hard to use 'in the field' since I couldn't quickly guess where he put things I needed.

For example, I wanted to check the pronunciation of a letter in the French alphabet and I needed it pretty quickly since someone was waiting on me to come up with it. I couldn't find it in the book although I knew I had it seen it there when I reviewed it the night before. I gave up and muddled through. That night, I found the French alphabet pronunciation list in the "Sleeping" section of the book. IMHO, something as basic as the alphabet should have been in a section in the front or back cover or in the tear out 'cheat sheet' for quick and easy reference. At least, it should get its own section that is clearly identified in the Table of Contents rather than being listed in small print under the "Sleeping" topic.

To me, that's the perfect example of how this book was virtually useless in the field.

There were no good maps of France (in general) or Paris (in particular) or any other city. (I'm guessing many people complained about this issue and that's why the newest version (2010) alludes to a map in the title.) The only maps were crude, gross, hand-drawn outlines of the world, France, America, etc. that were useless for virtually any real-world application.

There was NO information on verb conjugation rules so, if you know something about the language, this book won't help you extend your knowledge and construct complete, proper sentences.
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As with many/most/all of the RS books, the enthusiasm for the topic within is contagious. RS focuses on the essentials and the fun, combined in a way to make one actually want to learn french. The book is well-written and well-organized for finding what you need for any particular situation, But, a word of warning, don't wait until your plane ride to France to begin studying this tool. As with any language learning, it will take a bit of time to read through this reference, then practice using what you learned before you are required to. That said, have fun doing it!
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I think the usefulness of this phrase book depends on how many people speak English in your travel destination. My experience in southern France was that most people spoke English very well and that I didn't need this French phrase book as much as I have needed other language guides in areas where English isn't spoken as much. However, all that being said, I think this is a helpful phrase book. In addition to having a lot of phrases (including a helpful menu decoder), it has a quick guide in the front with some common expressions, so you can just open to the first page if you need some very basic words. Since most people spoke English where I was touring, I found that some of the guides to local customs were more useful than the phrases themselves. There was a section on how much to tip in a restaurant, for example, which was extremely helpful. I also found the medical section to be very exhaustive, with French words for all kind of ailments. Prior to the trip, that section seemed almost comical in its thoroughness, but while I was there, I was relieved to have the dictionary so that I could point to the word for "blisters" while communicating with a pharmacist. And although most people in southern France were very friendly and very willing to speak English, a lot of people appreciated a basic effort to speak the language (even if it meant pointing to words and looking pretty pathetic, as I certainly did on multiple occasions).

The only reason I am giving it four stars instead of five is that I think the quick guide at the front (with the basic expressions) could have had a few more expressions and been a laminated tear-out guide to keep in your pocket.
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