We’re not all natural linguists.
Learning any foreign language can be an uphill slog. We all learn differently and what works for one may not necessarily work for another. Take a look at our top 5 suggestions for learning French at every level!
1. Put yourself in their shoes – One of the biggest obstacles to communicating in French is confidence! We always worry that we are too slow, have a bad accent, can’t master the tenses or will simply make a fool of ourselves.
The best way to overcome this is to imagine the roles were reversed. If a foreign person was trying to speak to you in your native language, the last thing on your mind would be criticising or mocking!
Although you want to get it ‘right’, grammatical errors rarely form a total block to comprehension… remember the key is COMMUNICATION not PRECISION!
2. Know your learning style – Think about what you like to do, and perhaps more importantly, what you don’t! These are probably indicators of your learning style.
Do you like singing along to the radio (musical/auditory learning style)? Drawing (visual learning style)? DIY (kinaesthetic learning style)? Board games (logical learning style)? Are you more of an introvert (solitary learning style) or an extrovert (social learning style)?
Education has come on leaps and bounds over the past few years and you can now find a wealth of resources to match your needs and preferences. You can also adapt resources to better fit your personal style.
Why not turn those boring old conjugation tables into a colourful mind map, a rhythmic rap or a set of dominos? If you’re not enjoying how you’re learning and who you’re learning with, change it! Take a break, find a different group, a new teacher (without offending the old one of course). We don’t learn well if we’re stressed, uncomfortable or feeling pressured.
3. Learn through doing – Research has shown that our memories function better during task-based learning as opposed to isolated linguistic phenomena, so rather than sitting down to grapple with the passé composé, try setting yourself a mission that would incorporate it instead.
Love cooking? Read a cook book or try inventing a recipe. Fascinated by boats? Browse a boating mag or go through the process of trying to build/buy/sell/rent one! No need to understand every word of the materials you use. The more you see the same vocabulary, the more familiar it will become.
4. Little and often – learning a language is like going to the gym: it requires time, commitment and can leave you feeling exhausted if you don’t get it right.
Don’t pull a brain muscle by going too hard, too fast. Set realistic, achievable goals (such as 5 new words each day) and enjoy the feeling of satisfaction rather than the disappointment of ‘failing’. At the end of the day, go through what you did (past tense) and then your plans for tomorrow (future tense).
You can even have fun imagining the conversations in French. You’re going to the beach? Think of all the possible scenarios, renting a sun bed, apologising for kicking sand in someone’s face, asking if dogs are allowed…
5. Listen & read simultaneously – With the explosion of streaming sites such as Netflix, a whole universe of French cinema and TV is now at your fingertips.
Rapid fire French can be made more accessible by adding French subtitles, giving you double the chance of understanding. Another top tip is to use videos with exact transcripts (we’re sure you’ve noticed that subtitles don’t always match what the actors are saying!).
If the text directly links to what you’re hearing, you can identify unexpected sounds, making it easier to recognise them the next time round in unscripted conversation.