"Yeah, right!" You say.
Yes, a basic and sufficient knowledge to improve your first visit to France, or to impress your friends, or to really know what they are saying on those French restaurants' menus.
You know more than you think. Give me 30 minutes of your time, and you will see a definite opening in your understanding of a foreign language. Even if you don't pronounce the words well, the fact that they are in your head will make a difference.
First, let's start with some words in French you already know, because they are used in the English language:
soufflé, avant garde, cuisine, RSVP, et voila, adieu, venue, allure, chic, sommelier, éclair, garçon, miel, baguette, délice, légumes, à la carte, haricot, fromage, ramequin, bon voyage, banquet, armoire, travail, bureau, chaise, commode, chandelier, à la mode, croissant, bon appétit, table, compétition, force, café, chauffeur, cul-de-sac, machine, police, couture, chanteuse, concierge, dressage, role, décor, routine.
That's already 50 words! Did you know them all? Did you know they were French?
Move on to words that are almost the same in both tongues, first in French then in English, or alone if obvious:
suffisant/sufficient; wagon; sirène/siren; ocean; canot/canoe; fruit; chocolat/chocolate; cratère/crater; eclipse; orbite/orbit; lac/lake; halo; focus; support; tube; cercle/circle; miroir/mirror; pole; traffic; parc/park; ballet; monument; baie/bay; forêt/forrest; temperature; menopause; carnivore; acide/acid; collection; structure; veine/vein; pétale/petal; vipère/viper; lion; leopard; face; bouquet; helix; pupille/pupil; rhubarbe/rhubarb; endive; vital; lime; vanille/vanilla; sardine; sole; rivet; pot; thé/tea; metro; salut/salute; cinema; film; photo; train; service; art; bar; stop; attaché.
Here are 60 more words! How many were familiar to you?
See? In less than two minutes you already rediscovered more than a hundred (yes, 110 to be exact) words in French!
These are only short incomplete lists that I am using as simple examples. English is based on German and French is rooted in Latin, so the two very dissimilar languages need to be learn, but some intuitive way can show you how to use what you already know in everyday form.
The 10 most useful words or expressions you'll need to know:
oui, non, bonjour, merci, au revoir, s'il-vous-plait, je ne sais pas, je ne comprends pas, d'accord, jamais. Translation: yes, no, hello, thank you, good bye, please, I don't know, I don't understand, ok, never.
Finally, 10 sentences you may have to use when in Paris for the first time: (note that you can add s'il-vous-plait/please, to almost all of the following sentences)
1/Bonjour, je cherche le métro s'il vous plait
2/Je voudrais une baguette et un gateau au chocolat
3/Je suis perdu, pouvez vous m'aider?
4/Ou ce trouve la Tour Eiffel?
5/Savez vous a quelle heure ferme la banque?
6/Je suis américain et je ne parle pas bien le français
7/Où sont les toilettes?
8/J'ai perdu mon passeport
9/J'ai besoin d'acheter des euros
10/Ou se trouve l'ambassade américaine?
I am not translating them, as I think you could try to guess them.
By the way, the meaning of RSVP, as I am quite frequently asked is: Répondez S'il Vous Plait, which translates to Please Reply (so you never have to say RSVP and add please!)
Now, was it 30 minutes since you started reading this?
If you have questions, use the comments box here, or ask me on twitter: @sid131313