Last Updated on 22nd April 2020 by Sophie Nadeau
With extra time on our hands and (maybe) a desire to pick up a new skill or two for when we can all travel once more, here’s a quick guide on how to keep up with your second language when you’re not travelling (or living in the country of the said language!) After all, if you’re wondering what’s the best way to learn French? then there are actually many methods and techniques at your disposal which you may well not have considered before.
Know that every person learns differently
When it comes to learning any new language, including French, it’s important to be kind to yourself and always remember that everyone learns differently. What may have worked for your family member or friend may well not work for you and that’s totally okay!
As such, the best way to learn French is firstly to discover what kind of learner you are. It’s believed that the main types of learning style are auditory, visual, and kinesthetic, and while most people benefit from a combination of all three, knowing exactly what suits you best is going to help you progress in the language learning process much faster!
Find a friend to practice with
If you’re like me and live alone, then finding a friend to practice your second language with is indeed easier said than done! However, it’s totally possible to find fluent speakers of pretty much any spoken language on Earth thanks to the power of the internet and various social media platforms.
Of course, you can always keep in touch with the friends you met when travelling or living in another country who spoke your chosen language to learn. Alternatively, you can take 1 on 1 lessons from experienced teachers who can guide you through every step of the language learning process. A great place to start in finding a teacher is italki.
The power of daily practice
If there’s one thing that will help you keep up your language learning and aid you in better learning the French language, it’s the power of daily practice! Even just dedicating ten minutes a day to practicing will mean that, over the course of a year, you’ll have practiced for over 90 hours! They say every new skill requires 10,000 hours to truly learn, and so if you dedicate an hour a day to learning French for months or years… Just imagine where you could end up!
Practice little and often!
And while we’re on the subject of the frequency of practicing, make it little but often. Since our brains slowly lose productivity (and, therefore, our ability to memorise and truly learn) and our brain function starts to dwindle after around half an hour of intense work, be sure to not try and cram all the knowledge, new vocabulary, and grammar into as little time as possible.
Instead, make use of tools like flashcards (yes, your teacher probably drummed the use of flashcards into your head during school exams… But they’re a tried and tested method, and more importantly, they actually work)! If you need help with timings, then, just like working from home, the Pomodoro Technique (and associated timer) is a great place to start when it comes to dividing up your time.
Listen to music in the language
I have a dedicated Spotify playlist for French music I enjoy listening to, and suggest that you set up one for yourself too. As time goes on, and your language skills progress, you’ll soon find yourself singing along to lyrics and looking up words you may not have heard of before.
This also goes back to the repetition and flashcard point… Repetition and practicing little and often always helps and the same goes for when you’re learning another language with its music. Particularly popular French songs you may well already be familiar with include ‘La Mer’ by Charles Trenet, who was born in the South West city of Narbonne, and ‘Quelq’un m’a dit’ by Carla Bruni.
Watch plenty of movies and TV series in the language
Hello, Netflix! With the arrival of movie streaming services, it’s easier than ever before to find films in the language you’re learning, including French. With the advent of the internet (which fortunately allows me to do this blogging job thing), it’s never a struggle to find plenty of great content, and thus an easy way to immerse yourself in the language you’re learning.
When it comes to French films and series worth watching, there’s obviously no shortage of content to consume. Some of the eternally classic French films include Amelie, which is by and large set in the Parisian district of Montmartre, and the black and white Hôtel du Nord. A more modern film which I very much enjoyed is Les Intouchables.
When it comes to TV series and YouTube channels, there is also no shortage. For those interested in history and culture, ‘C’est Une Autre Histoire’ is an absolute must watch on YouTube. Otherwise, Plan Coeur (the Hookup Plan) and La Beucherie (Family Business) are both set in Paris and are Netflix original series I think you’ll love.
Read blogs and the news
Depending on your level of proficiency, reading blogs (in your favourite subject; after all, there are blogs available from everything from gardening to travel) is a great way to learn a more informal level of French, not to mention a great way to source material that actually interests you, and therefore means that you’ll actually try and follow what’s going on!
Of course, reading the News in French daily, as opposed to in your mother tongue, is another quick switch which will have you practicing your second language more than ever before. More than anything, don’t be tempted to use google translate (unless you’re *really* stuck on a word)!
When it comes to French, my top recommendation for the news in 20 minutes. This website has plenty of ‘quick read’ articles (hence its name) and it means that each article you read can be consumed in just a short space of time. Check out 20 Minutes here.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes!
My number one mistake in my French language learning journey has undoubtedly been my lack of confidence. I’ve been scared to sound silly or make mistakes, and, in the past, this hasn’t been helped by having boyfriends who have criticised my language speaking abilities! Don’t make the same mistake I did (haha!) and, instead, speak with confidence. After all, it’s only through mistakes that we truly learn how to improve!
Switch your appliances into French
With the advent of everything ‘smart’ appliance, it’s not just your phone that can be switched into another language. Though your social media accounts and mobile phone are great places to start (and you should switch them into French ASAP), perhaps you could also look at switching your TV, fridge, Alexa, and the like into French too! My parents even have their oven in French!
You may already know more French vocabulary than you think!
Last but not least, to end on a somewhat positive note… You may actually know more French vocabulary than you previously thought. You see, there are actually a wide array of French words and phrases already used in English. As well as the likes of café, femme fatale, and faux pas, other words and phrases include en route, entrepreneur, and reservoir.