Whether you're learning French because of your job, partner or your love for France, there are many tips that will help you get fluent without taking classes. Here are eight of the best:
1. French films and TV series
As French cinema plays such an important cultural role in France, it shouldn’t be difficult for you to find something that takes your fancy or suits your own personal interests. Films are a great way of listening to how French speakers pronounce their words and articulate sentences, without the added pressure of actually having to converse with a native speaker. If you already have some familiarity with the language, then try watching with French subtitles. This way you can read what you hear and increase your chances of retaining new vocabulary.
French cinema is very varied and a great language-learning tool. Photo: AFP
If the idea of committing to a full length film or series is too daunting or you simply don’t have time, YouTube videos are perfect. Short video clips talking about your interests are just as effective in developing comprehension and vocabulary skills. The search bar on YouTube is endless so there is certainly something for everyone. If you like cooking then find a French YouTuber who gives tutorials on a recipe you would like to try. Travel, music, make-up, yoga, fashion, gaming, history, politics, comedy – it’s all there.
3. News Articles
To practice reading comprehension skills and to learn new vocabulary, try reading French journalism. Not only will this help to develop your language competency, but it will help you to gain a new perspective on what's going on in France. Start off with shorter articles via online newspapers like Le Monde, 20 minutes or Courrier International.
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4. Language exchange
A good way to put your grammar, vocabulary and comprehension skills into practice (in an authentic way) is to practice with a native or fluent French speaker. Many French people are very keen to learn English too, so a language exchange could be an ideal way to benefit both partners. The good thing about doing an organised exchange is that you don’t need to worry about the other person becoming impatient when you make mistakes as they are in exactly the same position. Searching online and via social media is the easiest way to find a language exchange partner.
5. Talk to yourself
It might sound strange but speaking aloud can really help your general fluency as when we talk to ourselves we are not worried about making mistakes and sounding stupid.
6. Write a journal
Try keeping a diary or journal and write it in French. You could do a daily, weekly or even monthly journal entry about anything that you may have floating around in your head. This can be focused around what you have been doing in life or how you have been feeling. There really are no limits as the intention is that only you will read it.
7. Keep a vocabulary book
It may sound obvious but a good way to expand your linguistic repertoire is to note down new vocabulary as soon as you read or hear it. Keep a small notebook in your bag and write down any new vocabulary. Return to your vocabulary book at the end of each week to make sure you have memorised the new words and phrases.
8. Grammar book
French grammar is not easy – even French children have to learn how to conjugate from a young age at school. So obtaining a French grammar book is advised. A good book to start with is Bescherelle: la conjugation pour tous. It includes everything you need to know about French tenses and verbs with a clear and comprehensive guide to conjugations. If you don’t find grammar to be the most interesting part of learning French (and who does?) designate grammar practice to those times when you are feeling most energised and determined in your French development. Prioritise your time wisely.
Alexandra Jones is based in Paris where she works as a language teacher.