Despite a 25-year gap between my trip and my four years of high-school French, I managed to communicate pretty well. That said, I’m far from fluent, and there were lots of signs and menus I couldn’t read and questions I couldn’t properly ask.
But luckily I had the godsend that is Google Translate (Android|iOS). This free app made it a cinch to convert English words and phrases — either spoken or typed — into French, while the camera mode magically translated printed French text (the aforementioned signs and menus) into English.
For a variety of reasons, the success rate of the latter was on the lower side, with occasionally hilarious results. (One translated placard of a famous painting revealed the subject to be the “King of Poo.”)
Google Translate can perform on-the-fly translations when you’re online, but it can also work offline if you download translation databases. To save time (and data) while traveling, download languages in advance. Tap the Settings icon, then Offline translation. Tap the plus sign in the upper-left corner, then
choose the language you want to download.