Learning French the fun way

Learning French can be difficult - almost as hard a learning English! But we all found that easy didn’t we? And English is an awful language to master compared to French.

People have different learning capacities / priorities / needs / expectations etc. But secretly don’t we English speakers all wish we could speak French with more confidence / ease?

The fact is we English speakers ourselves constantly make grammatical and other mistakes when we speak (let alone write) out native language. And I for one often can’t understand movies featuring American English and rapid fire / mumbled Glaswegian (and some other regional accents).

So we English ‘French wannabe speakers’ should not be so hard on ourselves.

I have my own stress-free / entertaining strategies for constantly improving my French (for free) that I’m happy to share later. I’m just wondering how others approach this?

PS Please excuse any of my spelling or grammatical erros……

I posted on a similar vein a short while back

And feeling very proud of myself that I’ve kept it up and I’ve not missed a day since! Others have also added other options that they find useful & fun

Interesting information. Even though I’m at level C1 I’ll follow up you link.

I’ll share with you in due course my own ‘strategy’ for maintaining my French at a high standard.

What I find most interesting is the lack of interest by others (on this forum and elsewhere) on (what I consider) this critically important subject…

Things you can do :

Read (novels to improve your vocab and syntax, the newspaper so you have the vocab to chat with neighbours about what’s going on, whatever else takes your fancy)

Listen to talk radio, watch films, documentaries, debates.

Write various types of communication (postcard,email, letter, article, story, poem)

Do those quick online grammar tests eg duolingo but do them regularly and be competitive with yourself.

Have conversations with people.

If you never read anything challenging your grasp of language will remain very alimentary (sic, I do not mean elementary, although it also applies!) and transactional and while you can exist in francophonia with that level of language, it is much more rewarding to be more proficient.

This is what I do with the other languages I speak, I hope it is of some use to some of you although you probably all do all this anyway :blush:


Watch the French news every day - the context is well known.

Capture all the vocabulary you learn into a personal dictionary of new words

Read as many grammar books as you can and capture the things you don’t know or understand into your own personal grammar book

Capture as many colloquialisms (idiotisms) as you hear and create a personal living list of them

Study all the above from time to time.

Find a native French speaker of the same age / interests and meet weekly. Chat about anything, points of difficulty with grammar etc. spend 45 mins in Englaish and 45 minutes in French. Correct / help each other.

Try reading ‘Readers Digest’ in French.

Download easy books in French to your Kindle (or other) eBook reader as well as an English / French e-dictionary so as to look up unfamiliar words as you read.

Write a daily diary in French, using MS Word, with the French Spell / grammar checker on.

Chat to your French neighbours more who just wish they could speak more English.

So many more ideas ……

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French girl/boyfriend, French lover :wink:

Must admit I never have a problem with being corrected by a native speaker but can’t abide it when a Brit (attempts!) to correct me :zipper_mouth_face:

I thought “oooh” and “ahhh” were much the same in both languages :wink:


Maybe, because for a lot of us French has been our first language at work & in the home for the last xxxx years & hardly ever use English. Must admit that when I have to use professional English at work (mostly translating for colleagues) I have some difficulties.


Good for you Warren
I should have been more specific…
The majority of Brit retirees I know struggle with learning French. Few would be able to deal successfully with a non English speaking official on matters of official business / statutory authorities unassisted without an interpreter.

Many British tradesmen I know speak at best ‘Pidgen’ French because they are too busy running a business, often serving only the English speaking community.

I don’t blame these people for their imperfect French. Many do not have the ‘ear’ or time or dedication. Rightly or wrongly some say the are too old to learn and never learned at school. Some are content living in an English speaking bubble. All of this I neither judge nor condemn.

My point is that French can always be learned to varying / continuing / advancing levels.

As for having my French corrected (by another Brit), if an English (or Greek or Chinese) teenager correctly spots an error in my French and have the time to debate the matter I am always eager to listen!


Wrongly bollocks …imo… :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

I am on a 41 day ‘streak’ with Duolingo. It’s frustratingly repetitive but the content does tend to sink in. I’m using Assimil too and Language Transfer (which I found very good for Greek previously) https://www.languagetransfer.org

I have a question. A user of Duolingo posted this on the blog

The verbs RENTRER, RETOURNER, and REVENIR though meaning “return” in some sense, actually differ in the DESTINATION RETURNED TO:

A. RENTRER - a return to one’s starting point

B.RETOURNER - a return to a place one has been during multiple layovers or stops, BUT NOT THE ACTUAL STARTING POINT.

C. REVENIR - a return to a place previously visited

I found Rentre troublesome on Duolingo which only allows answers relating to home. I’ve read elsewhere one can ‘rentre’ to one’s car, office etc. I would like to get this right.

just wait until you tackle French Recipes… “et faire revenir les champignons” :joy: :joy:

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Ah ! Those accursed robotic owls dressed up in their malignant finery, they haunt my dreams and pursue me relentlessly, shall I ever be free of their mocking hoots “Whoooo-hooo :owl::owl::owl:well-done-you-are working-hard-and-making-good-progress :owl::owl::owl::owl:whooo-hoooo!” :scream:



I’m not the French Academy, but my friends certainly use “rentrer” for going home. Just using “Je rentre” tends to be understood as going back to where you live, but if you add e.g. “au bureau” that also works. Remember that rentrer is a transitive and intransitive verb, so you can “rentre ma voiture dans le garage” too.

“Faire revenir” is specifically used for cooking.

I have a lot of sympathy with this feeling, Michael, and quite enjoyed Duolingo, particularly the scope it gave me to poke fun at the owls, and my efforts to disrupt their imperturbable equanimity in dealing with jibes and narky comments, asking them in French if they were descended from the Sphinx etc. They never rose to my bait, but I gained a sympathetic following until they undermined the groups…

However, their emphasis on grammatical exactitude worked against my wish to engage in conversational French, and I picked up from my earnestness in trying to ‘get it right’ that I was getting to be a bore and - after four years in that mode - just stopped trying to speak ‘proper French’ and just give in to talking my normal nonsense, making it up from bits and bobs pinned together with tack, and saw frowns disappear and glazed eyes unglaze. Bingo!

One day, in a friendly threesome where I always tried to insert a rehearsed sentence, one of the speakers whom I had noticed as liking to control the direction of a conversation, changed the subject, and - without any forethought at all - I burst out “Il a changé le sujet !” With a gust of genuine laughter, one of the party said “Maintenant vous parlez français !” and I’ve never looked back. Now I don’t try to get it right, it rights itself, and I sense that people don’t find it a bit of a chore to speak to me, or me to them, it just happens, mistakes and all. And I think it’s OK all round, comfortable, closer, meaning-full if not perfect.

I do read to widen my vocabulary and sentence construction, freed from the shackles of GCE French in the 1950s. When did the French start asking questions like 'As-tu été jamais capturé en vidéo sans le savoir? ". I was astounded to come across such constructions, I thought they were impossibly un-French for nearly 65 years! Perhaps they are, but do the French know? :smiley:


I enjoyed your account Peter (am I sounding like Nicholas Parsons). I’m just a beginner of course and trying to get a firm grasp of the fundamentals but I take note of your experience. I am particularly irritated by poor grammar in English and keep trying to improve though I can understand the need to engage with fluidity and variety. When I studied French at school, I believed it to be a subject of little or no use to me. It was taught by a bad tempered teacher, attempting and failing to hold our attention with stiff and boring material. I dropped the subject, but I’m grateful that I still remember some basics. Travelling abroad had hardly entered my thoughts at the time. When we were looking for a secondary school for our son in the early noughties it was another world. One school had a ‘French’ tuck shop, and all sorts of French paraphenalia. I believe generally the approach to teaching languages had moved on. By that time my son was quite well travelled!
I still believe Spanish is a better introduction to foreign languages for children. It’s like starting a run downhill but I am pleasantly surprised how much I am enjoying French.

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Good point re Spanish. It should be compulsory in all British schools. The perfect introduction to languages for It’s regularity and phonetic pronunciation.

I learnt French at school over many years and continually study it . By contrast I taught myself Spanish. I have worked professionally in Spanish with ease but would be hesitant to do so in French which I otherwise consider I speak fluently, but too often grammatically incorrectly.

As for building French vocabulary, find cheap easy to read French books, highlight those words you need to look up, create your own list of those word on MS Word and take that list with you everywhere.

Whenever you’re stuck in. queue or waiting room test yourself and use the waiting time usefully…


I like Duolingo, it’s part of my daily routine and I am on a 529 day streak. I don’t think that it is a teaching method but consider it to be a useful revision tool. I’ve got used to its ways and although I will still sometimes give the American answer to ensure that I get it correct Duolingo has become far more tolerant of British English. The problem of which verb to chose is far too subtle for Duolingo. The exercises often test your knowledge of a particular verb and substituting another will end in tears. If Duolingo uses the French verb early in the exercise you know what is expected, if you are asked to translate from English before you have seen the ‘preferred’ verb it becomes a lottery.
Duolingo can be too pedantic, I had never in my life referred to the place I catch a train as a train station before I realised that Duolingo refused to accept that I, along with many other people, thought that station would suffice.

I have been doing Duolingo since January and have made good progress but I do find it frustrating at times. I did A level French and then a French business course when I was younger so did have a fairly good grasp of the language. I was taught to translate it as one would normally say it but Duolingo doesn’t work like that so I end up getting it wrong. ‘Chez moi’ started off as ‘at my place’ and then became ‘home’ later on. ‘Les voleurs’ breaking into a house was ‘robbers’ which is completely wrong as they should be ‘thieves’ or even more accurately ‘burglars’ so I struggle with it at times.

Spanish and German both put in place a general spelling and grammar reform over a century ago, which neither English nor French did.
When I was a tiny child we all had compulsory Latin and French from 7 or 8, even the very stupid got on with it.