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I too was in the central park and I also faced a situation which demanded knowledge of French like the user Aerovistae (Is the word order in this sentence correct?).

This time, however, I was approached by a non-French speaking beggar who wanted me to write something for his cardboard.

So here is what I wrote for him:

Je suis XXX. J'ai une famille avec cinq enfants mais je n'ai maison et nouritture. J'ai besoin de votre aide, s'il vous plait.

How could I have written a better paragraph (perhaps in terms of politeness) so that it could have given him the maximum benefit? Also, what do you think of what I wrote, is it correct?

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2 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

This is pretty close to what a French speaker would have written, but there are still a few mistakes. Remember that I am only commenting "how" you should have written, not "what", which is irrelevant here.

Je suis is seldom used in French to give your name, unless the person you are talking to is supposed to know this name. Je m'appelle is more common.

J'ai une famille avec cinq enfants is correct, yet a bit awkward. Je suis père d'une famille de cinq enfants would be better in my opinion.

mais je n'ai maison et nouritture is incorrect. mais je n'ai ni maison, ni nourriture would be correct. Take note that maison refers to a house (quite expensive), logement would be a more generic wording (but perhaps a little too formal). Abri (shelter) works as well.

Finally, I believe ending the message by Merci. would be regarded as more polite.

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Thanks, very helpful. But one might understand more polite forms of expression by this exercise, if one knows what would be the best way to ask for favours. –  Abhimanyu Arora Aug 23 '13 at 11:08
    
The best way is not necessarily the most polite. If the country's culture has strong christian roots, one could try Dieu vous le rendra ("God will give it back", that is, he will reward the donor). It might be effective, depending on both sides' beliefs. But it's only an example. –  Aeronth Aug 23 '13 at 11:54
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Another possibility. I don't know if there is a best way to ask:

Je m'appelle xxx. Je suis père d’une famille de cinq enfants. Je n’ai pas les ressources pour les loger et les nourrir. Pourriez-vous me venir en aide ? Merci pour votre générosité.

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