Learning French by reading and writing is a good place for some students to start, however there comes a point where you must speak French in order to truly improve. French tutor Carol Beth L. shares her advice for students who are ready to take the plunge into spoken French…
Conversing in a foreign language is not easy. In some ways, it’s almost akin to public speaking. It puts you on the spot and tests your ability to think using a set of linguistic tools that are not as automatic as those of your native language. Many French students – especially beginners and lower-level students – are self-conscious about conversing in French because they know how imperfect they sound. But this makes it even more imperative to get out there and practice. Here are a few reasons to practice your French conversation:
1) Get over yourself and your imperfections.
As mentioned above, many French students – especially beginners – are understandably self-conscious. There is no better way to gain confidence with French than through real-life practice.
2) It’s not like the movies.
Life generally isn’t. In a movie, everything is scripted. (Well, almost always.) The same is true of your textbook and the written exercises you might also do. Starting from a script is great. It provides you with a baseline, including examples of common situations and ways to say things. To become truly proficient, however, you must eventually take the plunge and remove the book.
3) Solidify your ability to speak French.
You may have heard it said in the past that “your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.” Ghandi originally said this as part of a much more serious context.
Yet the basic idea can also be applied to learning a language – and when it comes to your thoughts, you can focus on which thoughts you wish to strengthen. You know and believe that your knowledge of French must be encouraged in order to become proficient. By translating your thoughts into action, you can train your brain to use the parts of it that contain your knowledge of French. By doing so, you are strengthening those parts of your brain and the connections between them.
4) Solidify your ability to think in French.
When it comes to conversation, thinking in French can be just as important as speaking in French. If you can think in French, your rate of speech will almost invariably be faster than those who can’t or don’t. It doesn’t usually happen immediately, but keep in mind that thinking in French doesn’t necessarily mean that you can say anything and everything. It does mean that the web of French vocabulary and grammatical tools you have at hand in your head has cohesively developed, and that you can proficiently navigate it.
5) Meet other francophiles and francophones.
You may make a few French-speaking friends with similar interests. If you can establish your relationship in French, you may also gain an advantage when it comes to practicing, maintaining, and improving your French. In addition, you will have strengthened your social network.
So, are you ready to go for it? Start searching for a conversation group or class in your area to get started! Check out these tips for learning French for ideas on how to find your group. It’s out there waiting for you!
Working with a private tutor is another wonderful way to practice speaking and improve your French. French tutors are available to work with you in-person or online via Skype. Find your French tutor today!
Carol Beth L. teaches French lessons in San Francisco, CA. She has her Masters in French language education from the Sorbonne University in Paris and has been teaching since 2009. Learn more about Carol Beth here!
Photo by saxman777