Our team had different levels of French upon arrival eg. ‘A’ Level, forgotten G.C.S.E and none at all. As one of our team members said recently “my school French gave me the illusion that I had the basics in the language!
So here are some of the ways that our team and many others learnt the language. Please also bear in mind it is an ongoing journey – there are always new cultural references and idioms that you will discover years after arriving.
The most up-to-date, current way to learn French would be via social media accounts from French speakers teaching the language in French.
This is by far a much better way to learn French. It has been the case for many years that people were taught a foreign language in their language eg. the explanation would be in English. However, more often than not, more and more Instagram accounts and YouTubers use the full immersion method and teach you French in French.
The student is able to decipher what is going on through actions or how things are being explained and in the process are learning much more than what they had set out to learn.
Do have a browse using Facebook, Instagram and YouTube to find an account you enjoy and like to follow and practice everyday. You will find how French is really spoken from these types of accounts.
Learn The Alphabet
Really learn how the letters are pronounced and also look at the letters that are seen and not pronounced in French – this will go a long way to help with your pronunciation and understanding of what you should be saying when you look at a word in French. Try to also practice liaising your words together. Many English speakers say “but I said that!” but when French is spoken very staccato a native speaker is not hearing what you think you are saying. For example, ‘je suis allé (e)’ if you don’t push the ‘s’ onto the ‘a’ (as is the case when the next word is a vowel) then even if you have said this correctly, it may not be understood.
Find an interesting podcast, a book or an author you would like to hear in French. Listen to it freely eg. don’t focus too much at first in trying to understand. Listen to how the words are pronounced and have it on in the background. This will train your ear to listen to French and the manner in which it is spoken.
Much like the podcast start listening to French Radio – there are many different ones to choose from as in most countries eg. cultural, pop, current affairs, etc. You don’t have to be in France to do this – you can easily listen to French radio all day long via your laptop, phone or television. Not only will you start to understand more and more you will also familiarise yourself with the culture and current affairs.
Again you now don’t need to be in the country to watch French television especially with the popularity of VPN’s and, of course, Netflix. Netflix is awash with foreign language films and programmes. Try watching with French subtitles so you can see the written word against the spoken word and also watch with English subtitles (if this is your maternal language). This is a great way to learn French and is also enjoyable.
Engage In Conversation As Much As Possible
Once you have arrived in France, try to engage in conversation as much as possible. What would you have said to a shop owner in you home country? Comment on the weather, cakes, what’s this?, how do you say that? Anything! What type of things would you say in your native tongue? Write them down when you come back home and then try to say those things the next time you’re out. Don’t just order your bread and leave. Try and push yourself a little bit further each time you visit.
Language Sharing Group
You many be able to find one of these in your local village or area whereby native French speakers will talk to you and hold conversations and then the language will switch to English. This is of mutual benefit. Another great way to learn French is finding a language share – there are websites for this but there are also Facebook Groups. You can post to say you are looking to speak French in exchange for your mother tongue a few times a week. As it is on the phone, it is also a very good and challenging way to learn. You can set subjects each week to discuss and you will also gain some greater insight into cultural references.
Don’t Speak English
You may feel relieved if someone speaks back to you in English and whilst this is very nice, it will not make you fluent anytime soon. Try to never speak English. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. You can always say I don’t know the word but it looks like this etc. Yes, you may make a fool of yourself sometimes but we all have! And it is a great way to improve your French.
Make Phone Calls
Now so many people say “oh my French isn’t good enough to use the phone”.
There’s something about making a phone call which makes people retreat and in doing so they miss out on a great opportunity to progress. Nobody enjoys this in the beginning but that doesn’t get you off the hook – excuse the very good pun! The more you make them, the easier it will become or certainly the apprehension of making them will diminish. To make it easier, you can prepare what you are going to say and prepare what you think they may respond with. There are only so many responses you are going to hear if you are making, for example, a dentist appointment. Soon you will be making these phone calls without any preparation and after that you will be walking around doing other things when you make them. You should then congratulate yourself on your progress!
Don’t Hang Up On Cold Callers
These people speak very fast – much like they would in your home country because they don’t want you to figure out, quickly, that it’s a cold call trying to sell you something. So try to have a free lesson and keep them on the phone. You can ask them to slow down, repeat what they’re saying and ask questions. They are naturally obliging because they want the sale. They have no idea they are in a free 5 minute french lesson!
And finally, if all else fails there is always the fun way of learning via the app Duolingo which continues to be very popular. You can set goals and compete against fellow French learners.
We hope you enjoyed this article on some of the ways we believe you can learn French. Allez hop !