Are you learning French as effectively as you can? Have you tried the "little and often" approach?
This article will give you 5 ways to do it better, every day!
#1. Write it down in French
Take an everyday note making task and do it in French. This might be a ‘things to do’ list or a shopping list or a reminder to yourself. For example, you need to pick up some milk and bread on your way back from dropping your coat at the drycleaners. After that, you need to call your son John to remind him that he is coming to eat on Sunday and that you need him to bring the book he borrowed because you want to take it on holiday with you next week. Why not note it down in French? If you have a fairly basic level of French you might start with a bullet point list:
- Le Pressing - mon manteau
- Du lait, du pain
- Appeler John (ce dimanche, le livre)
You might need a quick check in the dictionary in order to build up your vocabulary. We like to use an online dictionary that gives words in context so that you can be sure to have the right word. If your level is more advanced you might try making whole sentences.
Using French vocabulary every day is a great way to make sure you can find your words when you have real French conversations!
#2. Keep your ear in
Listen to a little French every day. One of the biggest obstacles to real two-way French conversation for learners is not sufficiently understanding the other person. Imagine this scenario: You are on holiday in France and you have just asked a passer-by the directions to the cinema. So far so good. However, she gives the answer so quickly that you only catch the first part and you have to ask someone else as soon as you get around the next corner. How demoralising! Directions seemed so straight forward when you learned them in French class!
That stream of babble will soon break down into understandable language if you hear it often enough. The internet is a great place to listen to live streamed French radio and what's more there are so many stations that you can pick one that suits your interests.
Get into the habit of listening to the radio as you drive to work or do something around the house. That way you won't have to find the time!
#3. Think in French
Although you might still be a little way off dreaming in French, you can do this consciously. How so? We all have those internal monologues running, don't we? So choose a time of day when your thoughts tend to wonder uninterrupted and do it in French instead. See if you can manage it for 10 minutes and gradually make it longer as you gain the habit. Why is this helpful? Quite simply, if you can naturally put your thoughts into French when the pressure is off, you will be less likely to have to translate in your mind every thing you want to say when you are faced with real French conversation. This will make your conversation more fluid and spontaneous.
Photo credit: ’Pout’ by Dan Foy
#4. Pout at the mirror!
No, seriously! We all know we should brush our teeth every day, right? Chances are you will be standing in front of a mirror when you do. Take half a minute each time to work on a little pronunciation exercise to make your spoken French better understood. Listen to how French is pronounced and practise these sounds, making sure your mouth is making the right shapes. It really will make a difference to your French accent and the sounds will slip more easily into your spoken French if you do it regularly.
So keep a few tongue twisters next to the toothbrush!
#5. Bite-sized reads
Reading a whole novel in French can seem a bit daunting and it's easy to see why you might put it off. Look for shorter French texts that are more manageable and read some every day. Magazine and newspaper articles are packed with current issues that will keep you interested and teach you new vocabulary, one day at a time. You don't need to read the paper from cover to cover, but start with the headline article, which will be relevant to what's happening now. It will also give you current conversation material for the next time you get to speak French with someone else.
Don't think you have the time? Well you just read to the end of this article, didn't you?!