A new year has just begun and you are full of very good intentions for 2024. If improving or learning French is part of these good resolutions, bravo!
Some might feel discouraged or disempowered after a few days, weeks or months of giving French a try. That is absolutely normal! I felt just the same when I started learning English, German, and Italian. There will inevitably be moments where you will think that the challenge is too big and the goal unattainable.
But don't worry, my dear francophiles, because I am here to boost your motivation! Don't give up! No, no, no!
Here are 5 Great Tips to Help You Kick-Start 2024 in French
1. Listen To Your Heart
One of many great advantages of living in a French speaking country is to be surrounded by native and non-native French speakers. I strongly encourage that you start eavesdropping as many conversations as you can to get used to the various sounds of French. It's OK if you only understand a few words at first. You will get better and better with time.
- (Subtly!) Listen to the conversations you hear on the bus, the train, at a café, a restaurant or in a boutique.
- Tune in to a French radio channel while cooking, driving or during your lunch break.
- Join a class at your local gym and pay attention to the trainer's instructions. That's basically how I learned the body parts and action verbs in German when I was living in Munich! Best way to train your body and mind!
- Do you know the dialogues of Star Wars or Friends by heart? Why not watching them in French with French subtitles for a change? Great way to learn some colloquial expressions to integrate in your everyday conversations.
2. Read It & Eat!
Take a closer look at your surrounding French speaking world while enjoying un café au lait et un pain au chocolat!
- While on the bus or walking to your next appointment, try to make sense of the advertisements and public signs around you.
- At a café or restaurant, choose to read la carte in French. As most menus are written both in French and English, make sure to check that you understood them correctly. If the menu isn't already bilingual, ask for two menus (one French, one English) and take an extra 5 minutes of your time to improve your foodie vocabulary in French.
- Stop throwing away the flyers, publicity, and local newspapers you receive for free in your mailbox every week and use them as reading exercise.
3. Speak Out, Don't Freak Out!
Play a more active part in your learning process: practice speaking as much as you can. Get out there and speak!
- Interact with people using what little French you can remember on the spot, even if that means only bonjour, merci, oui, non. The more you will practice, the more confident you will become.
- Practice whenever and wherever you can: café, restaurant, bakery, supermarket, bus, train, etc.
- Avoid switching to English as much as possible. Sooner or later, you will be faced with a situation where the locals won’t understand a word of English and you will be very grateful for the previous times you broke the ice in French.
4. Patience Is A Virtue
When I was living in Munich, it took me about a year before I started feeling comfortable when speaking German. Don’t expect to understand everything at once and be patient. Your ear is slowly getting used to the French sounds. If you grasp a few words here and there, it is already very good.
The beauty of learning a new language lies in the fact that there is always something new to learn!
5. The Brightest Tool In The Shed
When it comes to learning a language, technology is one of your best allies. Here are a few simple techie tools I recommend all my clients to use:
- Google Translate / Reverso: use these to quickly find the translation of a word. Not always 100% accurate, but they'll do the trick when you are in a rush.
- Larousse: the French Oxford Dictionary! If you don’t know how to pronounce a word, click on the speaker icon to hear its pronunciation. Try hurluberlu (such a funny word to pronounce!).
- Linguée: a great French-English dictionnary which translates expressions and sentences as opposed to word only.
- IT Vocabulary in French: change the language settings of your phone, tablet or laptop to French and learn without too much hassle.
- Duolingo: great free French/English app to improve your grammar, vocabulary, and expressions. Practice everyday for 15 minutes in the morning or in the evening.
- Zoom: Private lessons on Zoom is a great alternative for busy professionals. Online learning offers more flexibility as well as the use of interesting interactive tools. You will make great progress at a much faster pace than in traditional group lessons. Don't hesitate to get in touch for more details!
Developing a new skill takes time and patience. I hope you now have more tools to boost your motivation to start speaking French now!
As a native Québécoise, born to a Franco-Belgian family, now living in Nyon with her two children, Isabelle is no stranger to the expat reality! Trained as a professional opera singer, her passion for arts and languages led her to become an ambassador of the French language & francophone culture, i.e. a French Teacher!
She founded Prêt à Parler in January 2015. Since then she's been hard at work helping native and non-native English-speaking expats make French part of their everyday life! Prêt à Parler's mission is based on what Isabelle does best: helping busy professionals and parents improve their language skills by providing a high quality, eco-friendly, fun, no-nonsense approach to learning French online!