RE: French dishes
All I had was high school French (and that a while ago), but I managed to get along pretty well on our trip to France. One thing that did help a lot in deciphering menus was the Marling Master Menu guide (or something like that). It's a thin little book of food terms, categorized by course, with some handy explanation about what you might expect, etc.
The Dorling-Kindersley guides for France and regions of France were quite useful too, because there's usually a section that's a photographic spread with names and descriptions of common dishes to give you an idea of what you might see in each region.
That said, my favorite French dishes were just about anything involving duck. :) Definitely confit de canard, magret de canard (duck breast), I had some wonderful lamb chops, potatoes fried in duck fat, escargot (gotta try 'em at least once!), gelato at some place on rue Buci whose name escapes me...
Not sure what you already know about restaurant culture. It's sometimes a challenge to get the attention of the waitstaff, because they're super busy and often short-handed. Unlike the U.S., you have to ask to get your bill, they don't bring it automatically. Also resign yourself to a lengthier mealtime in a restaurant, it's almost impossible to dine quickly-- but that's really no hardship, and it's part of the enjoyable experience, IMO. Have fun! :)