This content was originally published here.
Learning another language isn’t easy. I’ve been a fluent French speaker for a long time, but I’ve never forgotten how challenging it was to get here.
Along the way, I learned some lessons and discovered some strategies that helped me with everything from studying, to self-esteem (a crucial part of learning just about anything).
If you’re looking for some advice, here, in no particular order, are fifteen tips to help you learn French:
1. Find your learning style
Some people in the psychology and education fields believe that there are different learning styles, including visual, verbal, auditory, and physical (hands-on). On the other hand, others don’t believe this concept is accurate.
Whatever the truth may be, if you’re having trouble studying and retaining French, looking into learning styles could give you some insight and ideas for things like study strategies, practice exercises, and memorization techniques that would work for you. I know it’s helped me.
A lot of information about learning styles varies, at least slightly, but the overall concept and most of the categories are the same, regardless of the source you use. If you don’t know your learning style, this article lists seven of them and this one describes eight. Have a look to see if you can find which one best describes how you learn.
If you’re still not sure of your learning style after reading those articles, you can take a free learning style quiz.
Keep in mind that your learning style may also be a combination of a few of these.
2. Don’t forget about freebies
Whether you’re paying for school, a tutor, or an online course, learning another language can be pretty expensive, right? Well, not exactly.
It’s actually possible to learn a language completely for free.
Even if you use a paid course like the French Together course, or if you have to attend classes, you can still find so much material to supplement and improve your French skills.
If you’re wondering where to start, feel free to check out an article I posted a few months ago, which lists countless free resources for learning French.
And in general, remember that thanks to the internet, it’s easy to do a search for things like vocabulary lists, explanations of different grammar rules, and practice exercises – not to mention free French content of all kinds, including TV shows, podcasts, books, and more. Just type what you’re looking for into your search engine and get ready to get in on the free stuff!
3. Your community can help
We often hear about “community” in terms of people banding together and whatnot, but believe it or not, on a smaller scale, “community” can also equal “language learning resources”. For instance, your local library probably has lots of French learning materials, including audio recordings, workbooks, books on French history and culture, and subscriptions to French periodicals and French courses.
Not all libraries are the same, of course, but finding out what yours has on offer is a great idea.
And it doesn’t stop there. If you’re in school, check what resources are available through that library, as well as the foreign language department.
Another way to find out about local French language resources is to look around for message boards (whether online or IRL) and organizations and clubs dedicated to French and French learning. You may also be able to post your own ad if you’re looking for a local French speaker or fellow Francophiles.
4. Post lists in strategic places
Whether it’s for class, work, or something you want to reinforce on your own, if you’re learning French, you probably have at least one list of tricky vocabulary and phrases that you need to study and memorize.
If that list lives in a notebook or backpack, it’s not doing as much as it could. So, take it out and tack it up where you’ll see it often every day.
Maybe this is beside your bathroom mirror, or by your plate as you eat. You might even tape it up on the wall by your toilet.
Bonus tip: Instead of just using a list of vocabulary to memorize, try to add an example phrase beside each word. This will help you learn words in context, which will make them stick more easily in your mind. For instance, if you have to learn the word la vie, you could include Edith Piaf’s famous lyric, Je vois la vie en rose.
If you don’t already have phrases to go along with your vocabulary words, do an online search for a word and see what statements or videos come up. You could also use examples from the French Together course (or any other course you’re learning with).
5. Don’t be intimidated
Learning a language isn’t easy. When I used to feel overwhelmed, one of the things I did was remind myself that lots of people around the world speak another language. Some of them had access to excellent resources – say, the best courses money can buy, or the ability to study abroad and be immersed in the language.
But many of them had nothing more than the basics. Maybe it was a class at school. Maybe it was a learning system or other resources they found on their own. Maybe they learned with their children, or through watching shows and movies.
Whatever the reason, however they came by it, they managed to learn another language. So whatever you have or don’t have, whatever your background, if you want to learn French, you will. It will take time; that’s just what language learning is. But you will get there. It seems like a massive task, but it will happen.
6. Do your homework
Okay, I sound totally square, right? I promise I’m just trying to be helpful. I also hated homework when I was a student…and I hate having to help my son with his now that he’s in school.
But the thing is, while some assignments are mindless busywork, that’s not usually the case with homework for your French class. In this case, homework is actually a way to help you review and absorb what you’re learning, and also to keep you using French more frequently than you would otherwise.
Think about it: You have French class during the day. Then, you leave the world of school and…forget all about it. But because you have homework, a few hours later, you’re back in French mode!
7. If you don’t have homework, give yourself some
I’ve just discussed the benefits of reviewing French more than once a day, but if you don’t have a teacher or course giving you homework assignments, take on that role yourself! Make yourself review what you learned earlier when studying on your own, or find additional activities that can reinforce it. You can invest in a course or coursebook, or do an online search for worksheets and activities that cover what you’re working on.
8. Find a study time that works for you
You may feel like there’s a “right” time to study. For instance, people at my school used to stay at the library and work on hard assignments. For me, personally, that never worked. I preferred to head home, grab a snack, get a few other assignments out of the way, and focus on my French work later on in the evening. Neither schedule is the “best” or “right” one – it just depends on what works for you.
Find a time of day where you feel awake and alert (well, as much as possible) and where you actually have some free time that you’d like to fill.
For instance, you could study during your commute to or from work, listening to audio in your car or while walking. Or do written work while on public transport. If that isn’t a good time, how about while you’re waiting to pick someone or something up, or whenever you’re on the toilet (seriously)? Or if you regularly do housework, you could listen to audio or keep glancing at a list or book pages to quiz yourself. Or maybe the quiet time before you get ready to go to bed works for you, or a moment in the morning before everything starts up and gets busy.
These are just suggestions, of course; again, remember that there is no right or wrong moment to study or practice French – it just has to work for you.
9. There’s no shame in subtitles
Sometimes I feel like there’s this major goal for language-learners to watch a movie or show without subtitles. It’s true that when you’re able to do that, you do feel pretty good. But this mentality can also make it seem like subtitles are a crutch or a sign of weakness – and that’s a shame, because subtitles are actually really useful.
I’ve written before about how you can use subtitles to help you better understand French movies and shows.
This isn’t just about watching a French show or movie with English subtitles; the idea is to start there and then work your way to French subtitles, till one day you won’t need them at all. Along the way to that moment, you’ll probably discover that subtitles were a helpful learning tool, helping you better understand things like pronunciation and word order.
10. Use your French connections…or make a new one
If you know someone who is a native French speaker, ask if they’d mind if you speak only French when you’re together. Talking to a real native Francophone is an amazing way to train your ear, learn how people speak the language in their everyday lives, and test how well you can be understood. This may sound like some sort of test – but actually, if you’re dealing with a person you enjoy being around, it’s more like a game, where you learn a lot, even from your mistakes.
If you’re worried you might make some embarrassing mistakes, you’re right. I’ve made a number of still-notorious gaffes when talking to Francophone friends, and so has every other non-native French speaker I know. But the great thing is, my French friends and I were able to laugh about them together – and those have also made for mini-French lessons I’ll never forget.
If you don’t know any native French-speakers, don’t worry. You can easily talk to French people around the world thanks to conversation exchange sites, many of which are free.
11. Have fun putting pen to paper
If you need more practice writing French, or if you’re a visual or verbal learner, there are lots of ways to have fun with the written word.
Writing can be a really important part of learning and mastering French, but remember that it can also be something that really inspires you, which not only means you won’t be bored, but that you’ll be more likely to work hard and finish whatever you plan to set down to paper.
If you like to journal, why not try doing it in French? Or if you’ve got a big imagination, it could be really fun to try writing a short story in French. If that doesn’t spark your creativity, how about poetry or song lyrics?
You can check if you’ve made mistakes by looking up grammar or vocabulary issues you might have, or even ask a trusted French speaker you know.
For those extraverts out there, another writing option is to get a Francophone pen pal. You can do this via certain websites.
12. Find a French-language story you love
Learning a language means a lot of work and studying. Sometimes, it feels hard to stay motivated. That’s why you need a secret weapon: a French story you can get invested in!
This could be anything from a book or series of books in French, to a French TV show, movie, or even simply the varied content of your favorite French YouTuber.
The idea is that you’ll want to keep learning, because you’ll want to fully understand and follow what’s going on.
When I had gotten a decent grip on French, my first beloved French story was the book Le Petit Nicolas. The funny adventures of these French school kids utterly delighted me. Meanwhile, one of my best friends fell in love with the stories of a much more recent group of Francophone schoolkids, those in the comic book series Titeuf. Regardless of the medium, we both needed to keep up with vocabulary and grammar to follow the stories. And, of course, while reading, we learned a lot, as well.
You don’t have to stick with the same story. As my French skills improved, I discovered the world of Arsène Lupin, gentleman thief. The books and short stories about his adventures often include complicated descriptions and vocabulary, but I was so invested in them that I didn’t care. I kept a French-English dictionary handy and learned a lot along the way.
If you don’t already know of a French story that would captivate you, check out our list of different types of resources in French – all or most of which are completely free, to boot. You can also do a general web search for something like “French stories about ___” or “French movie about ___”, etc.
13. Listen to French music
Listening to French songs includes some of the benefits of having a favorite French-language story: you’ll become familiar with the lyrics, and if you don’t understand something, you’ll feel motivated to look it up.
Songs are also a great way to learn vocabulary and grammar in context, set to a catchy tune that will help you remember them better.
14. Mix it up
It’s natural to have one way of learning French that you prefer. For instance, I’m a visual learner so studying vocabulary lists and doing written grammar exercises was important for me. But I had to keep in mind that I also needed to learn how to say and understand those things when I heard them.
That’s why you may want to use something like the French Together course, where you get a good mix of visual and listening practice (even our free lessons include audio). Then, to reinforce vocabulary or concepts you’re finding really difficult, use additional ways to practice and review that are targeted specifically to your learning style. This might be listening to audio clips for auditory learners, writing or saying practice sentences aloud for physical learners, or simply using a traditional vocabulary list for us verbal or visual learners.
But always have a way to learn that also exposes you to all aspects of a language.
15. Be kind to yourself
Here’s a sure thing: You’re going to make mistakes. You’re just learning, after all. Here’s another sure thing: If you keep judging and criticizing yourself, if you tell yourself you’ll never be able to speak or understand French, you won’t.
Try to savor the small victories, and see the setbacks as a learning experience. Believe me, even the most awkward mistakes can often lead to lessons you’ll never have trouble remembering!
I hope these tips are helpful as you continue on your French learning journey. Do you have any advice that’s helped you with your French learning? Feel free to share in the comments!
Been thinking about learning Spanish? Here we present you some reasons why an online Spanish course may be the option that best suits you.
Istanbul taxi drivers to be obliged to speak English
Istanbul’s taxi drivers must learn English and will undergo a host of changes as part of efforts and a project spearheaded by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.
The new project will usher in certain standards such as an age limit for drivers and the knowledge of the English language, if approved by the Transportation Coordination Center (UKOME).
Taxi driver standards will be determined and a comprehensive examination process will be carried out with a transportation academy to be established.
The project also foresees a model where drivers will work in three shifts and will be required to wear uniforms.
But the most significant novelty of this model is the option to pay for the ride by Istanbulkart, an electronic pass used for mass transit in Istanbul, the country’s largest city by population.
Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu has frequently complained about the lack of taxis in the city, with a meager 17,000 catering to a population of more than 15 million people.
His announcement of adding 6,000 new taxis to the city’s fleet incurred the wrath of taxi drivers who complain of a decline in business amid COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking at the introductory meeting held by the municipality officials, the taxi driver’s chamber representatives noted the high costs, long working hours and unmonitored alternatives like “pirate taxis” who were mushrooming across the city.
But some taxi drivers harshly reacted to the introduction of 6,000 new license plates before the problems of the sector were resolved.
There are 17,395 licensed taxis operating and the new taxi plates have not been on sale since the 1960’s with the exception of complementary decisions in Istanbul.
A plate for a yellow taxi is priced around 1.9 million Turkish Liras (nearly $280,000).
Taxis are widely preferred by tourists or locals tired of overcrowded mass transit.
Istanbul’s notorious taxi drivers have been at the center of a string of complaints in the past years, from harassing tourists to overcharging passengers.
Language learning app Duolingo is debuting what it says is the world’s first bilingual true crime podcast designed for people learning Spanish. El Gran Robo Argentino (The Great Argentine Heist) tells the story of the 2006 robbery of a Banco Rio bank in Buenos Aires, where five men stole a fortune worth $20 million.
It’s quite the riveting drama; without giving too much away, the robbers became folk heroes in Argentina, and the heist was the subject of a movie — El Robo del Siglo— in Argentina earlier this year. For more, read Josh Dean’s great retelling of the tale in GQ (but obviously, spoiler alerts).
The Duolingo podcast will be a serialized season of the Duolingo Spanish Podcast, which is geared toward Spanish learners and has 39 million unique downloads, the company said. The six-episode season includes interviews with real people who were part of the heist, including journalists, investigators, and even one of the bank robbers. The episodes will be narrated by podcast host and journalist Martina Castro.
Duolingo launched its Spanish podcast in 2017. El Gran Robo Argentino marks its ninth season, and its first presented in a serialized format. In addition to its Spanish-for-English-speakers podcast, Duolingo has a French podcast for English speakers and an English podcast for Spanish speakers.
For the Spanish podcast episodes, native speakers tell stories in easy-to-understand Spanish alongside English narration by Castro. The bilingual structure, which alternates between Spanish and English, lets English speakers follow along with the story without getting lost. Duolingo works with each storyteller, coaching them on speaking more slowly than they normally might, and the vocabulary in every episode is mapped out so it meets the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) — the international standard for measuring language proficiency — for a speaker of intermediate-level Spanish.
El Gran Robo Argentina launches today, wherever you get your podcasts.
Suits is in my opinion one of the greatest TV shows ever!
The show is about business and legal matters. If you want to sound more natural in your speaking, you definitely will like this activity.
Suits is a legal drama show set in a New York City Law firm that hires only the best students from Harvard.
Mike is a brilliant guy with a genius photographic memory, whose dream is to become a lawyer. Once by accident he meets Harvey, one of Manhattan’s top corporate lawyers.
Impressed by Mike’s assets, Harvey hires him, even though he knows Mike doesn’t have a Law degree.
The association of Mike’s mind and Harvey’s expertise and talent makes an unconventional but great team. Together, they will win lots of cases.
But Mike’s secret is a threat to himself, to Harvey, and the firm.
The main focus of the show is on Harvey (Gabriel Macht) and Mike ( Patrick J. Adams) brilliantly closing their cases. Still, the show also features Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman), 😍😍😍 one of my favorites!! Rachel Zane (Meghan Markle), Donna Paulsen (Sarah Rafferty), and Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres) as memorable characters.
The show is available on Prime Video, and Netflix, Suits is worth every second of your time either to learn or to have fun!
Let’s see what we can learn with them!
How to learn English and Legal vocabulary with Suits
First of all, I’d like to make it clear that there are many methods to learn English, watching movies or TV shows. As in this case, the activity is aimed at upper-intermediate and advanced students, which is the best for those.
Just remember: there is “fun time” and there is “work time“. This method is suited for “work time”. So, let’s press the WORK button and get started.
You must be aware that it is important to watch the same episode more than once. I suggest that you study one episode per week. To have time to go through it more deeply.
Mike Ross makes a living taking the Law School Admission Test for other students. He needs $25,000 to pay for his grandmother’s healthcare, so he agrees to deliver drugs as a favor for Trevor, his best friend. While he was trying to hide from the police, he meets Harvey Specter, a successful corporate attorney, who got interested in his knowledge of Law and his ability to learn things fast, although he didn’t go to Harvard or any other Law School.
As a team they will fight and win cases while keeping Mike’s greatest secret.
This activity is intended for English students who follow Suits and intent to improve their level of understanding. Mind that the vocabulary used in the show is basically about business and Law, so it is an excellent tool for those who work in the field and those who like to learn new vocabulary and different subjects. Also, Suits is a great show, no matter what, right?!
What should I do to learn English and Legal vocabulary with Suits? You can simply watch the show, but here you find great tools to help you out in this task and learn faster.
There are 12 worksheets from all the first season episodes with key answers.
Download the worksheets from season 1
I have to say, what I’m going to say next is not sexy, it’s not new age, and it’s not a magic pill that you take and boom you can hear French alright.
Nothing like that.
But it’s easy. And if you do it you will see results. And much quicker than if you just listen to French music and watch French movies.
The solution is this: force your ears to hear French by specifically listening for the sounds.
Taking each sound, one by one, and truly listening to it.
And then training your ears to recognise those sounds by comparing with other sounds you know. Training is the right word here, because when you do it right, it’s almost like a workout.
In fact, I have a few exercices, that I use with my students often, and those exercices do just that: train their ears.
They listen to some sounds and they need to find the right one. After a few times, generally a couple of sessions, they are able to hear French much better.
And then, when I speak, they understand the words they know. They can recognise the words. Sometimes even more or less spell them! With the sounds that they hear.
Those couple of sessions we spend on this – are generally the beginning of good progress.
Because then my student really appreciate listening to French, they like it. And that’s obviously a very good thing when you’re learning French.
Plus, and it might be the case for you, my students started learning French because it SOUNDS beautiful. So those exercices really are important when you want to progress fast, and still appreciate French.
¿Quieres aprender español? ¡Muy bien! But what’s the best way to go about it?
Take a Global Approach: Focus on the 4 Skills Equally
Ever had a teacher who grills you on grammar but never gives you a chance to practice speaking Spanish? I’ve known a few of them in my time and I don’t just mean my time as a student!
In the past, learning a language was very much so a grammar-focused affair. It was all about hitting the books, learning the rules, and conjugating verbs. The problem with this type of approach is, you don’t develop the 4 skills across the board.
What are the 4 skills?
We can group them into 2 categories: receptive skills (passive skills which you need to receive and understand language e.g. reading or listening) and productive skills (active skills which you need to produce language e.g. writing or speaking).
Naturally, we tend to favor certain skills over others. But usually, the most difficult for students are speaking and listening. So, a grammar-centric approach creates a problem since it heavily favors writing over the other skills, in particular, listening and speaking.
It’s also why a lot of long-time learners just don’t feel comfortable when it comes to speaking. They’ve never had a chance to practice.
So, when you learn any language, try to dedicate equal time to practicing the 4 skills: reading, listening, writing and speaking. With that in mind, let’s look at the best ways to learn Spanish!
Immersion has to be one of the best ways to learn Spanish (or any language for that matter). If you have the opportunity to live or study in a Spanish speaking country, go for it! Choose a town or country where you’re not likely to have a lot of opportunities to speak in your first language and to really make the most of it, be sure to befriend a few locals (foreigners are fine, too) who you can speak Spanish with. This is key! I know, it’s uncomfortable but it’s worth the effort. You’ll make some amazing friendships and your Spanish will be much better for it too.
If moving abroad is unrealistic, travel is another good way to immerse yourself. However, the same applies, whenever possible, make sure you are speaking Spanish. Yes, you might feel a bit silly. Yes, you will make some mistakes and there will be misunderstandings. I will sheepishly admit I once referred to my backpack (mochila) as black pudding (morcilla) but I can laugh about it and I will never forget the difference now.
As a last resort, I often jokingly tell my students they should date someone who speaks English. I say jokingly, but it’s seriously good advice. I have my Venezuelan ex to thank in part for how good my Spanish is these days.
Make it Relevant
Your attitude towards learning Spanish makes a big difference in how quickly you pick it up. You’re obviously pretty enthusiastic since you’re reading this, so let’s talk about another way to motivate and make learning easier – keeping things relevant. It actually makes remembering new vocabulary and expressions easier too. If you’re not interested in cars and you can’t drive, why bother wasting time learning the vocabulary for different car parts? I’m not saying skip all the grammar, I’m just saying focus on topics that are likely to be useful in the future. Read about topics that interest you, listen to podcasts that are relevant to your work or dedicate time to learning expressions that are necessary for day to day interaction.
Keep it light
It doesn’t all have to be textbooks, grammar, and doom and gloom. Find ways to make learning Spanish fun. Listen to music in Spanish. Watch TV or movies in Spanish. Cook a Paella from a recipe written in Spanish. You should allocate some time to practicing your Spanish every day but that doesn’t mean you have to study every day. You want to enjoy the process after all. Between the Internet and smartphones, we have all the resources we need at our fingertips – language learning apps, games, music, videos, news, articles, the possibilities are endless. Find something fun that works for you and motivates you.
Practice. Every. Day. The key to making progress with languages is dedication. Spanish is no different. Really want to make progress? Then you need to be disciplined. Taking classes is a good way to give some structure to learning a language but equally, you can’t expect to magically learn Spanish just from sitting in a classroom and absorbing what your teacher says. You also need to spend a little time every day practicing. That could be speaking to yourself in Spanish while you wash the dishes, listening to some music in Spanish on the bus ride home, or practicing vocabulary with a flashcard app but you need to do something. Be consistent and you’ll be amazed at how much you advance in your studies.
All set to start learning Spanish? Wondering how long it’ll take you to dominate Spanish? Read our blog post about it here.
Vikram Seth’s 1500-page-plus book, A Suitable Boy, has been adapted into a 6-part series for BBC by Mira Nair. Written by Andrew Davies, the series is set in 1950s India and revolves around Lata Mehra (Tanya Maniktala), whose mother attempts to find her a suitor. It will release on Netflix India on October 23. Nair talks about why she called the series ‘The Crown in Brown’ and the three major difficulties she faced while helming the show:
Anupama Chopra: There’s been considerable debate about the series, which you described as ‘The Crown in Brown’. Did you have to struggle between keeping it authentic and also keeping it accessible for Western viewers?
Mira Nair: Of course. For me, that was the most important thing. There were some struggles. Firstly, there was the struggle of finance. I don’t know what the budget of The Crown is, but I know what we had and it was a fraction of that. So ‘The Crown in Brown’ was a way of saying that if we were to make something like this, we had to make it with the same sweep and magnificence as this other series, but with a fraction of that budget and without letting anyone see that struggle. Because of that struggle, the series had to be distilled to six episodes. The distillation, which I did, which was very careful work to bring politics back into the the story. They’re fully there in the novel, but weren’t so much there in the first drafts for when the show was eight-hours long. It had a much more Pride And Prejudice vibe – who will Lata marry? But for me, Lata was the new India. As she found her way, the country also found its way in its first democratic election.
So to bring back that interwoven quality of the political and the personal was the first thing I wanted and everyone blessed that. It took a long time to do that correctly. The second thing for authenticity, and that was a bit of a battle, was language. I wanted to return to Urdu, to Hindustani, to Awadhi – to what the characters would have actually spoken. Maan is clear that he’s an Anglicised cat who doesn’t really know Urdu. He can speak Hindustani like we do. His class and training are clear. But Saeeda is obviously someone who’s steeped in the refinements of Urdu and Ghazals. They were concerned that she spoke only in Urdu and that she would be distanced from the main Western audience. So then I had to come up with an idea of how she might have learned English, which was quite realistic – as a sort of concubine in the Maharaja’s palaces, she would have a governess. We created a little situation so I could retain that mix. Bringing the language back was a big thing. I just could not make the film in which they would go to the village and say: Oh father, I have come. I just couldn’t bear that. Fortunately, Vikram supported me.
The third thing I had to do was preserve my notion of music. Music is the beautiful glue that links all these universes – Maan’s and Saeeda’s and Lata with her suitors. Anoushka Shankar’s sitar was, for me, the embodiment of young Lata. That sense of something coming from an old place, but still being modern, spunky, very much about discovering who you are. They would look at the rough cuts and ask about these musical interludes. Why wouldn’t they? She starts to sing and then we go off into other vistas. And I would say, ‘This is what she does. And the music is not just music. It’s comments on the drama in her heart and in his heart and on the action in general.’
To preserve my sensibility, which is actually much more desi than they would want, was very important to me. So I had to walk that tightrope. And then they came around because I said I would make all of them look good, that I’d make Andrew look good because he would be more on the pulse of the time. But they had a ratio you couldn’t go beyond. I think we achieved a truth because of it, but if we had more time and more money, there would be longer interludes. People in India are used to a lugubrious pace and there’s such richness in our characters that you want to be with them longer, but I think it’s better leave you wanting more.
Many people on Twitter have asked me what resources I’ve been using to learn French recently.
Others have also shared their own resources and apps they use to learn a language. I marvel at the huge amount of resources we have available – mostly free and readily available to learn a language.
I have written my reasons for learning French in previous blog posts Apprendre le Francais and Learning French but I thought I’d share the specific resources that I have used consistently to get my skills up to speed.
Now, I have to warn you that I did not start from scratch. I did French many years ago at high school so I had a basic level of French however, in the last 6-8 months, through my own personal learning and development plan that I created for myself, I have increased my skills from the foundations to a certain level where I was assessed at the Alliance Francaise as being B1 or intermediate. However, I have a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG way to go. That’s okay, this is going to be a forever thing – learning language and culture is something that you have to live, feel and be part of your life.
So let’s talk resources.
I decided to split the resources into those that have been CRITICAL for me versus those simply provided additional interest material.
Practice Makes Perfect Books
These are CRITICAL. I have bought three books and making my way through them all. Drills, exercises and feedback is important to me and I love how they provide all that and more. I have the full Grammar, Reading & Comprehension and Conversations book. In 7 months, I have nearly completed the entire grammar book and exercises. This has been such a HUGE help in being about to learn about sentence structure, grammar rules and then complete various exercises to cement learning. This is a no-brainer for me. Must have.
Francais Avec Pierre
Pierre and his wife Naomi have this excellent YouTube channel that I’m working my way through slowly. His videos are in French only and I watch them twice or three times. First time, with English subtitles (so I understand the gist of what he’s saying0; then with French subtitles so my ear can get used to the sentence structure (there’s a lot of silent letters in French). Then one more time just to confirm. I have a note pad near me to take notes of any good sayings. I LOVE his videos and his excellent way of explaining just shows he’s a good teacher. He also has a formal course and a HUGE community which may help (although I have not completed his course as I just follow his videos only).
Coffee Break French
OMG How I LOVE this podcast.
The team who creates this podcast is based in Scotland so they have the sexiest accents ever. (I’d listen to this accent any day). Then when they speak French on top of that, my ear just loves them for it.
I listen to a podcast every day on my morning walk and it has been instrumental in getting me up to speed with the grammar but also listening to the language. I am currently on Season 3 Episode 36 dealing with subjunctive and idioms. This podcast has a full course available on its website (paid) and the audio podcasts support that cause. I think Coffee Break French is one of the best podcasts for French language learning because it’s been around for many years and there are many seasons.
Daily French Pod
This is another podcast that I love and listen to daily. A guy by the name of Louis shares one paragraph of daily news in French and then explains the words. These are less than 5-6 minutes and provide me with a hit of the French language in my ear as well as being able to describe current affairs in French.
Les Francais Avec Les Machins
This is an Instagram account that shares images with French words and sayings. It’s a daily dose of French that pops up in my Instagram account. I make it a rule to use one of their sayings into my French daily journal writing just to have it ‘stick’ in my head – but I’m not perfect, I do forget them many times because they’re not ‘literal’
Some other Instagram accounts I follow:
I love this French American couple who share how French is spoken “in the street”. I watch their shows as they’re a lot of fun and informative too. They seem like a nice couple and I usually catch up with their shows on lazy Sunday mornings.
Comme Une Francaise
Here’s another one that I love to catch up on. Geraldine from Comme Une Francaise also shares her language tips and techniques. I love also that she wears bright red lipstick.
Bonjour De France
An excellent website with all sorts of different articles and videos depending on your DELF level of French. Other websites are Bonjour de France and TV5 Monde which have excellent French language learning resources.
Here’s another video channel I watch and I’m slowly going through so my ear can listen out for the language. It’s all about people interviewing each other on French streets (they have other languages too).
This is a website I use to check the daily paragraphs I write in my journal and get some feedback. It provides me with spelling and grammatical checks. However I’m always a bit awry with apps and editors like this because they don’t always provide in the format I want. For example, it’s ‘too literal’ or it translates directly without the idioms. So you have to be mindful about this because then the teacher knows when you’ve been looking things up on Google Translate or Bon Patron or <insert your online tool here> because it’s too literal. Say that out on the street and you’re likely to be stared at or laughed at.
This is another one I refer to but not consistently as I find his pace slightly faster than I’m used to but nevertheless it does help with my aural skills.
Paul Taylor, he’s a Brit who lives in France but grew up in France and knows how to speak French like a Parisien. I watch this channel for laughs mainly – not to learn language.
On an aside, I’m also currently doing a 10 week course at the Alliance Francaise.
I was placed in B1.1 but then decided to downgrade myself to A2.6 and if I continue with it, I may then do A2.5 (so probably the first time someone is going BACKWARDS). However, as I’m in no rush, I figure it would just give me plenty of time to practice speaking although their conversational classes are also good but expensive.
I’m also exploring Conversation Exchange which is an online site where you partner up with someone who wants to learn your language and you theirs. I’ve got a few matches already but always a bit dubious of such sites. I’m specifically looking for French business people who I can help with in English in return for practicing/butchering their French language.
I think the best thing would be:
(1) Travelling to France and living there (unlikely in the foreseeable future because of COVID and well, my husband doesn’t share my love of the French or France. He’s more interested in Germany and the German language).
(2) Making new friends who happen to be French.
Are you learning French? What are the resources you use?