How to better understand the spoken French

I am hoping that someone on here can help me in my quandry, I am plodding through learning the language and it is a real desire to do so,.I can hold a simple conversation but,and here is the thing, I just don't understand when they reply to me, and when I say I don't understand them I mean not a word, it is like they are speaking a different language to the one I am learning..I know most of you will say that I must put myself out there amongst the French but this is not possible as Monday to Friday I work from home and I am tied to a computer....I listen to French radio and watch French TV when I can but it is not making any difference, it is as if my brain tells me that I am not going to understand so don't bother, I attend a Franglais meeting one evening a week but I have the same problem there - anyone who has experienced this problem and has overcome it please do tell your secrets.

yes I have tried them all, but I think Pascal is right when he says it is the local twang that I need to learn, at one point I though I had been learning a totally different language to the one spoken here abouts. might help.

Hello Pascal,

Thank you so much for your good input on this very difficult matter, it is very much appreciated, I must be getting better because yesterday I went out and bought a new freezer (all in french) arranged delivery and collection of the old one without any mistakes, I was understood and I understood too, so on the right road at last, thanks again

Hi, Hello, Bonjour,

Understanding another language may be easier if you learn to stress the right part of the word and you know what to listen for.
In French the stress is almost always on the ending, in English it is almost never so.
In fast speech you almost only hear the stressed part(s) of the word so the same word can sound quite differently in both languages.
Take for instance GENerally (En) and généraleMENT (fr).

A typical sentence would sound more or less like that:
GEN___lly I go t_ __ MArk__ _n SAt__day
(generally I go to the market on Saturday)

And the same sentence in French with almost the same words would be:
Gé__r_l'MENT j'_ais __ marCHE l' sam'DI
(généralement je vais au marché le samedi)

And if you try to speak one language with the stress of the other it does not really work does it?

A tricky part of learning French is our terrible grammar, of course, but to make it worse, we use a totally different one when we speak :
Formal French : comment vas tu ? Comment allez vous ?
Spoken French : ca va ? tu vas bien ? vous allez bien ? est ce que ca va ? whatever...
Formal French : a quoi penses tu ? qu'en penses tu ?
Spoken French : a quoi tu penses ? tu penses à quoi ? qu'est ce que tu en penses ? qu'est c't'en penses ?
Formal French : qu'est ce que c'est ? est ce possible ? cela n'est pas possible
Spoken French : c'est quoi ? est ce que c'est possible ? ça n'est pas possible, c'est pas possible

Consequently, you should
a) learn spoken French with the natives as they are as many French languages as they are French speakers.
b) try to speak the language in a way which is not too colloquial; try to avoid ugly construct like: mais qu'est ce que c'est donc que ce que je vois la? ugh!

I am not sure that there are schoolbooks to learn spoken French but you can try comics or movies or maybe San-Antonio:

Be also aware of our tendency to drop some letters to avoid opening our mouths when we speak like in bien, plus, puisque, parce que, voila etc. We also drop a word or two for good measure if we can:
Formal : Et bien voila, il n'y en a plus parce que je l'ai perdu.
Spoken : Bin v'la, y'en a pus pas'que j'l'ai perdu.
Formal : Puisqu'on te dit qu'il n'y en a plus
Spoken : Pisqu'on t'dit qu'y'en a pus

Did I mention the accent, the slang ?
Paris : Euuuh, bin arrrrétes-euuuh ! Bin enfin-euh, qu'est c'qui t'arrives-euuuh?
Marseille : Eh bin té cong hé tu arretes-hé? Bin alors-hé, mais qu'est ce qui t'arrives-euh don hé hein bon té peuchére cong ?

Don't worry, in the end you'll manage and it's both a lovely language and one that is really fun to mess up with.

Good luck, bonne chance

No problem, any time :)

Thanks Catherine for all your help

Try watching French TV with French subtitles.

Honest, it was all double dutch to me at first. I'd been living and working in the middle east learning to read and write arabic (for my work) and had worked for Elf Petroleum (as it used to be called) so had typed a lot of french and heard a lot of french but had never spoken nor really understood what was being said. And when I came here I was on my own for 2 years (hubby was in Sarajevo) so had no choice but to get out there and make an effort. I used the publicity stuff for shopping to learn more vocabulary as it had pictures (always a big help) and the radio to listen and then just started slowly building up the vocab by chatting with the workmen that I'd found to work on the house. Unfortunately i then learned a lot of words and phrases that are usually only spoken by workmen. I didn't know!!! I have stopped saying 'Putain' when I can't find something in the supermarket now though. The main thing, is to believe in yourself. Do not think of it as difficult as this makes it difficult. Vicious circle. Think of it is as a childrens game - play fench scrabble with friends, simple card games, make it simple and fun!

Thank you Catherine, can I just ask, when you were first learning French did you understand the spoken French, I have been learning French (on my own for 4 years) in ernest but probably bits here and there for 15 years, it feels like it is never going to happen.

Not really a professional but I do have 5 TEFL qualifications (all different) used to run Personnel dept's and training plus have a hubby that had a mild stroke (who I'm happy to say is back out working again - relief!). And I didn't speak french when I came here either so understand. Keep up the franglais group meetings - I think they are really worth it even if you feel you are learning nothing. You'll be suprised what you remember later. And a good site on the web is it's free, has tutorials, written, audio and spoken plus uses real people who you exchange with to help you. The idea is that you register that you are english speaking wanting to learn french (various levels to learn from) and then you will find french speakers who want to learn english connecting with you offering to mark your work and to help in return for you marking their work. Bon courage :)

that is a really good idea, you are really good at this, are you a professional?

That's normal that we forget what we don't use. If you can find a way of using a new word in say, 6 sentences that mean something to you, you will remember it easier because you will have related that word to something in your life.

Thank you Catherine, I have heard this before about listening while going to sleep, I will give it a try. it is a case of relaxing and opening your mind.. the other problem I have (and it must be to do with age) I have a real problem remembering, I can sometimes look up what a word means then a little while later it is gone, oh woe is me

Don't forget that we learn easier when relaxed which is why it can be really useful to listen to tapes through headphones while going to sleep. Any negativity (belief you cannot do something will always come true) can be avoided and it is amazing what goes into your brain without any effort whatsoever. You will most likely not be aware of what you are learning but it will be there, filed away for future use and in time you will understand them. Try not to think of the other language as a foreign language but just different vocabulary you have yet to learn.

Yes it is practice, my reading of French is even worse I am afraid

Roz, i want you to correct (?!!) me, OF cOURSE... We live in Tarn, near Albi. It doesn't matter, we can "correspondre" ! Do you want me to write in french ?

Bien sûr, j'ai bien compris que votre problème est la discussion, l' "accent". Mais de mon côté, je me dis qu'avec un peu plus de vocabulaire, de pratique concernant les tournures de phrases, je comprendrais mieux mes amis anglais !

Hello Christine, thank you for your reply, your written English is good, just one mistake (the word sens is sense) hope you don't mind me pointing that out, it all helps. I am presuming you are French, where in France are you? maybe we could meet and help each other, we are in Pays de la loire, St Aignan Sur Roe

Hello Roz, it's exactly my problem ! But in the other sens (?). I'd really like to learn english and know a few words. But when english people talk with me, i don't understand... Then, learn together... (apprenons ensemble)...