There are always more ways to practice French in your daily life. Tutor Darcy C. shares how to study French as you go about your usual activities…
Learning any language is just plain easier when you’re surrounded by native speakers, and learning French is no different. Yet for those of us who cannot move to France at the moment, there are other ways to bring France to us by making French part of our daily lives. Even if you don’t have much time to spare between lessons, check out these tips to incorporate the language into your life more frequently and regularly—you might be surprised at how simple this task can be!
For the Reader
If you are working on vocabulary, grammar, and reading, see if you can find a French translation of one of your favorite children’s books. You know you’ll enjoy the story, and you won’t need to reach for your dictionary as often; since you know what happens, you can guess the meanings of some words, and silly translations such as “Poudlard” for “Hogwarts” make this exercise even more enjoyable!
Most people find the biggest language-learning challenge to be understanding fast French speakers. To acclimate your ears, give a French podcast a shot. If you’re a newer speaker and balk at the quick pace, simply try counting how many words you can identify in a period of time—if you can increase the number day by day, you’ll know you’re improving. Plus, exposure to the language will help you become accustomed to the sounds and cadences, even if you can’t understand the words perfectly yet.
An easy way to transform movie night into practice time is to watch French films with English subtitles. You can also apply the “old favorite” method here, to focus on the language more than finding out what happens. An English movie with French dubs can also work, though some find it challenging to understand the French when the actors’ lip movements are not corresponding.
Make your movie night more exciting with a foreign film, and you’ll probably find a great new French movie while your ears get some practice.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
The easiest tip of all is to change the language settings on your computer and phone to French. Doing so adds no extra time to your busy day, but regularly reminds you of the language all day long. There’s even a setting for Google Chrome that translates just some parts of websites, so you can ease your way into reading French translations!
If you would prefer to spend a minute or two reading a regular daily reminder, you can sign up for email subscriptions to learn a new phrase each day. Even better, visit practice websites like Duolingo.com, where you can spend a few minutes or a few hours practicing new vocabulary.
It’s Okay to Be Low Tech
If you know anyone abroad, or someone who can put you in touch, see if you can arrange a phone call trade with a French speaker learning English: during the phone call, you both will speak French for ten or fifteen minutes, then switch to English. That way, you both get practice, plus you can learn a lot about life in France (or another Francophone country).
I use FaceTime Audio to keep in touch with a French phone-pal, and we never run out of things to talk about—differences in culture, colloquial phrases and jokes, politics, food, you name it!
Find What Works for YOU!
What’s most important is to find what works for you. In order to make practice a regular part of your life, it’s crucial that you choose an activity that you have time for and will realistically enjoy. Whether it’s some light reading, listening to a podcast or movie, a weekly phone date, practicing online, or even just that French calendrier on your computer, you’ll be keeping the language-learning part of your brain active. What better way to improve and get the most out of your lessons?
Work with a French tutor online via Skype for more personal attention and help studying French. Find your French tutor now!
Darcy C. teaches in-person French, English, clarinet and dance lessons in Chicago, IL. She earned her B.A. in communication (theatre) from Northwestern University, and she has been teaching private lessons for 8 years. Learn more about Darcy here!
Photo by Jens Schott Knudsen