In today’s post, I want to share with you my 6 most important tips for Learning French!
When we’d finalised our move to Switzerland, one thing which I had looked forward to the most was learning French. There’s nothing more addictive and fulfilling than re-wiring your brain to a whole new language; with the goal that one day, your tongue can roll freely to actually say stuffs locals can understand!
I’d had a brief stint learning Korean during my university days; however it didn’t count as a serious learning pursuit…rather it was more of a fad; attempted while I was still head-over-heels with Korean dramas . Coupled with the lack of time and practice…Whatever Korean proficiency I had eventually suffered a quick death.
5 years later, I’m determined not to repeat the fate of my short-lived Korean. Moreover, now that I am fully immersed in a French-speaking environment + it’s a matter of daily survival, there is ZERO excuse for not learning French and mastering it!
I’m definitely no expert yet…But having now spent more than half a year as an aspiring francophone, here are 6 tips for learning French that I’ve come to stick by, and hope to share with you guys!
To set the context, here’s a little backstory about my current French progress:
I started learning French about 8 months ago back in Singapore where I took weekly French lessons at L’Alliance Francaise. I stopped after 4 months as we soon had to prepare for our move to Switzerland. After moving here to Lausanne, I’m taking intensive French classes for 3 hours per day, 5 days a week. I’m currently at A2 proficiency and aim to reach B2 level by end 2019.
Tip 1: Read ALOT
It doesn’t matter what it is, the key is to start reading! I basically read in French anything that I can land my eyes on: From bus-stop advertisements, leaflets, children e-books, to the weekly newsletter delivered from the local supermarket.
My most eccentric read thus far has got to be the Swiss Conferderation Guide! I got copies of it in French and English while visiting the Parliament House in Bern. Overall it was a good educational read, as I uncovered fresh insights on Swiss confederalism and its unique direct democracy. Definitely appealed to the political science student in me…whilst expanding my French vocabulary!
Whenever I come across any new word/ unfamiliar phrase, I would look up the online dictionary to decipher its meaning, note it down in my word-bank book, and revise the list 1-2 times a week. This was a habit cultivated from my primary school days, and is still serving me well up to this day 🙂
Tip 2: Watch Netflix!
If reading isn’t really your cup of tea…how about some binge-watching on Netflix? Watching movies is a great way to supplement language learning by absorbing some spoken French. Plusss, it might help with getting rid of some guilt from spending too much time slacking on the couch!
Netflix allows you to change both the language and subtitles of your movie. Although it can get abit annoying when the dubbing and subtitles doesn’t match…Sometimes, I’d watch Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt over lunch, by listening in French and reading English subtitles. The plot is rather lame at times, but I watch it because the language used is just right for my level. Other times I switch to watching Friends instead, because well… this classic can never go wrong!
Tip 3: Find a Language Buddy on Tandem
If you are looking for an language-exchange app, look no further. Tandem is a community-based messaging app where you can connect with international language learners to practice your target language. I have used this app for over a month, and found it exceptionally useful for learning French.
While you are able to scroll through profiles and chat with different people, I find it easier to stick to one person whom you have hit it off pretty well. Just so to avoid having to go through multiple times of self-introduction and shallow conversations.
My current Tandem buddy is a French girl Emma, and it has been quite a humbling experience to learn from someone more than a decade younger than you! Everyday, we share snippets of our daily life and take turns practising typing in French and English with each other.
My favourite tool within the app has got to be the “correct” function. It allows Emma and I to correct sentences/grammar errors that we have typed wrongly in French/English and to learn from our mistakes quickly. Here’s an example of how our conversation would look like:
Tip 4: Listen to French Podcasts
LISTENING and comprehending French is alot harder than READING and comprehending it. But that’s why listening skills is all the more important, because the more you attune your ears to how natives talk, the more your brain processes the correct pronunciations and mimics them as you speak.
Podcasts are a great way to add a little French listening practice into your day-to-day life. Personally, I listen to them while folding and ironing my laundry. It makes this somewhat tiresome chore feels a lot more productive!
There are two free podcasts websites which I highly recommend for learning French:
Coffee Break French: Each podcast is about 20 minutes long, featuring Mark (the teacher), who is teaching introductory French to Anna (the student). I like this podcast because Mark explains really patiently, and breaks down complicated French grammar rules in such simplistic manner! I often listen to it to revise what I’ve learnt in class.
Learn French by Podcast: A bilingual podcast, each session consists of 2 parts. You first listen to a dialogue entirely in French, and an English speaker subsequently explain the conversation content, grammar and vocab. They have some really interesting content on current affairs (e.g. Brexit, French education reforms in 2018), and this helps build up your conversational vocabulary quickly. The audio is also crisp and easy to follow, which is great for beginners.
Tip 5: Go for Language Meetups
Vince and I found a French language meetup hosted in central Lausanne, and we attended a session about a month ago. It was in a cafe-setting with about 10 participants, mostly expats of varying French proficiency.
Admittedly, I struggled and made a gazillion mistakes, and half the time I had to translate my sentences to English to make myself understood…but at least I survived that 2 hour session! While language meetups probably wouldn’t be the right place to learn the technical aspects of a language, I still find it a useful platform to build up one important thing: Confidence.
While learning Korean in the past, I fretted over making embarrassing mistakes and appearing like a fool so much, that fear crippled and stopped me from speaking at all. Within a language meet-up environment, you learn that even if it means speaking with error-laden sentences, or missing that one or two words…somehow or rather, others will understand what you’re saying! And this emboldens you to speak up even more.
Tip 6: Be Consistent!
This is the last and most important tip, but when it comes to learning French (or any language in particular), consistency matters. Without it, a lot of your effort will be in vain, and you’d feel like you’re constantly starting over. It’s crazy how much language my brain can absorb within a few lessons. Yet it’s even crazier just how fast I forget them by missing 2 days of practice!
Consistency is about having discipline to incorporate your target language into your daily routine until it feels like second nature. You’d learn much more effectively from a daily 15-20 minutes practice rather than say, cramming grammar exercises for 8 hours straight.
So start small: Choose daily, manageable goals, like writing a short journal entry, memorising one key-word or phrase for the day, or even talking to yourself for 5 minutes (Trust me, it helps with sentence formation!) And remember, even slow progress counts as forward momentum!
In this TedTalk by Lýdia Machová (she speaks 7 languages fluently!), she revealed 4 secrets of learning a new langauge. I found it highly inspiring, and encourage you to give it a watch.
In summary of the video: What is the secret behind all successful polyglots?
They simply found their own ways and methods to enjoy the learning process.
Learning French is most effective for me when I’m engaged in a good read. Others may learn differently, like cooking using recipes in foreign languages, or designing their own grammar flashcards. Regardless, what matters most is that you find joy in midst of all the learning. Afterall, there is no finish line to comes to mastering a language. And when you enjoy what you are learning…the whole process becomes a beautiful reward in itself.
I can’t count the number of times others told me they would like to learn X language someday…but never really got down to doing it. And I GET IT. Because I was that huge procrastinator once. And had it not been for my current circumstances, learning French would probably always remain as a far-away dream. But you won’t ever learn if you’d never start. Il vaut mieux faire que dire!
That’s all for my 6 tips for learning French! I hope this post will give you the motivation to take that first step towards your language learning journey 🙂
What are some tips you have when it comes to learning French or other new languages? Share with me in the comments below!