How did you learn French?
If you haven’t yet or are still at it, what are your top tips for people arriving in France who need to get off to a flying start?
How did you learn French?
We listened to Michel Thomas CD’s over and over. Then my wife got a job as Nanny to 3 French under 3’s…their language skills were just about our level and grew with them. I got a job in a Chateau/ hotel as the English speaking receptionist in a bilingual setting and learnt more and more French. Especially as I have to translate all our proforma and brochures. Getting it wrong is highly amusing to some of the French guests, and they like to practise your English on you. Watch the French TV, the radio can be a bit daunting at the start. Best of all, make lots of French friends especially ones who speak no English.
Join a local association that has no English members, then volunteer to be secretary as my wife did! Whereas I went for music lessons at the Conservatoire in Limoges, all in French. Amazing how quick you learn when there is no option! (But I did record each lesson and go over the music and the language at my leisure, very often as part of our weekly French lessons).
Jump in I say . . . . but never start a conversation with "Parlez-vous Anglais", because the answer is almost always "Non"!
Get stuck in. I hid behind my bilingual husband for the first year I was over here and made relatively slow progress on the French front. When I finally had no choice but to start speaking French for work it came very quickly. People are far more forgiving of your errors than you might think, and are generally pleased that you’re making an effort even if you’re not grammatically perfect. I agree that immersion is a massive help too. When I first trained as an estate agent I spent hours each day cooped up in a car with my French business partner whose English was poor. That’s when I made the leap from merely being able to ‘speak French’ to really being able to express myself (take the mickey, get angry etc) and when I stopped having to consider what I said first and started speaking spontaneously and thinking in French.
I studied French for 7 years at school, but what really helped me learn was an exchange trip to France when I was 13. I stayed with a French family for two weeks. They spoke no English and it was sink or swim, or what we now call “immersion”. It certainly worked for me and I would recommend it as the fastest way to learn. These days you can do it on your own, whatever your age or with a partner or even the whole family. There are companies that will select someone with similar interests to you eg if you want to learn French to work in a particular field, let’s say civil engineering, they will find a host family where someone works in a similar area.
I would also recommend trying to think in French, so when you’re sitting in the bath for example, thinking what a lovely day it is and what you’re going to do, think it in French. You’re wandering around looking for keys…think “où sont mes clefs”…
If you are looking for any sort of course or tutor don’t forget to look on my website www.facilitutors.com, if you can’t find what you’re looking for, I have a free search service. I’ve found tutors for three SFN members so far.
I taught French and Spanish at home, so this is a tip I used.
When you listen to someone speak French you may hear a phrase that you haven’t used yourself. Try and remember it and use it either in the same conversation or the next time you speak French - You will be amazed how it sticks in your head.
Stealing phrases and words from someone else is really effective - we used to do it in class a lot for the students to pick out useful key phrases andI I found it very effective.
Also, listen to the radio and TV in French as much as you can - you will be amazed that odd words and phrases are repeated very often - especially on the radio (for example the weather every half hour) - you will start to absorb a little bit here and there - Of course, use as much of what you pick up in conversation too.
Having French friends is also invaluable - not just from the friendship point of view, but there’s nothing like a five hour luncheon at their home to force you to try and understand and join in!
The BBC have some excellent learning programmes, so it’s worth taking a look.
The Centre Socio - Culturel in most reasonably sized towns seem to offer French lessons for beginners as well.
Hope that helps!
I went to the local university and learned at the SUEE. I took classes and learned to read, write, speak, civilizations, history and everything. Best classes i’ve ever taken. They are offered at all public universities in France.