It is said that, for every hour of classroom learning, the student should devote two to three hours of independent study.
If you are at college level, studying intensive subjects like physics, medicine or law, that recommendation slides up to five hours!
Does that mean that you must sit at a desk, French textbook in front of you, reading and writing and comparing your pronunciation to Edith Piaf's?
As a secondary school student, do you/did you always crack the books with eager anticipation? Or are/were you more of a reluctant reader, studying only enough to eke out a passing grade?
If you are of the latter type of learner – and there is no shame in it, you may feel that way about studying French, too!
Oh, but my friends: didn't you choose to learn French? Either in a language school or as your modern language selection at Key Stage 3?
Let Superprof clue you in to more fun and innovative ways to study the language of Molière, no matter if you are a beginner or can communicate in advanced French.
Find engaging French lessons on Superprof.
Practicing French While On the Go
The stereotype of the diligent student, hard at work at his desk, presents as the ideal of learning, whether the focus is French language learning or the sciences.
While we agree that a tranquil environment with few distractions is optimal for any type of learning including French vocabulary review, who has the time to sit for hours, learning new French words?
The French language is amazingly melodious and rhythmic, meaning that practice is made easy even if on your way to your French course, or just to market.
Verb conjugation: je suis, tu es, il est – and so on. For every footfall, a word: first step, speak the pronoun, second step the verb.
Do you like to go running? Think of the rapid-fire tenses you could skip through!
Are you having trouble with that guttural R?
Switch up conjugation for a series of words that contain that letter sound: arrière, regarder, de rien; rom-pata-plom even!
You are most likely aware that the English language is derived, at least 20%, from French.
You should already be familiar with some French expressions such as deja vu and Mardi Gras.
But what about other evocative phrases, such as longing for the mud or the spirit of the stairs?
For all of the French language's difficulties – some that don't present in English, such as grammatical gender, it is tongue full of whimsy and quirky turns of phrase that are sure to be le mot juste in certain situations.
Here is a perfect example of French language usage in English society:
The cadence-like phrase, honi soit qui mal y pense – shame to he who thinks badly of it, is the motto for our Most Noble Order of the Garter!
You can practise your French pronunciation by uttering such catchy word arrangements while, as an example, working out.
We dare you to find a situation in which to apply each of those phrases!
Exercise all Aspects of the Language
On any given day save for rainy ones, I would find my students in the courtyard, methodically copying words from their textbook into a notebook. Sean Boyce, on teaching Chinese students English.
It is quite common for learners of any foreign language to focus on the 'silent' aspects: reading and writing, while neglecting the oral aspects of the tongue they strive so hard to master.
The same holds true for those learning French.
You may wonder why anyone would devote unequal time to writing in French while consigning spoken French to the echo chambers of their mind.
Their reasons may include:
- shyness: true enough, some students simply cannot bear the anxiety of speaking in public
- fear – of making a mistake, of ridicule or outright laughter
- modesty: society teaches that humility is a virtue, so the apt French student might feel uncomfortable broadcasting his/her language capability
- lack of confidence
That last point sets up a vicious cycle: you must try and do in order to gain confidence and skills, but how can you if you lack the confidence to even start?
That is why the best French teachers recommend devoting equal portions of time to all four areas of language learning.
If you spend thirty minutes copying new words into your notebook or making flashcards – a very handy tool for beginner French, then you must spend equal time on French speaking and listening.
How can you converse in French if nobody around you speaks the language?
Speaking French Online
By no means are we discounting online language programmes such as Rosetta Stone or Babbel, some of which cost money and some that do not.
Indeed, these applications have merit, the main one being that they keep their content fresh and offer several different ways to apply language skills: playing games, flashcards and quizzes.
Where they lack is in speaking opportunities!
For example: Babbel and Duolingo focus exclusively on reading and listening, but are rather light in opportunities for French writing, and offer no chance at French conversation with a native speaker.
The best way to learn French is to apply your skills in real time, by discussing language and culture with a native French speaker.
Among the greatest benefits of dialogue with such a partner is that you are more likely to learn French slang phrases and how to use them.
Also, it is much easier to capture and emulate the natural rhythm of la langue française if you hear it – not as soundbites on a language programme but in the flow of conversation.
The question remains: how do you find any such people, especially if you live outside of a big city and/or far from any commercial centres that may hold such a chance?
Check out these French lessons online here.
Appearing in London in 1884, this Alliance is meant to promote French language and culture around the UK.
During World War II, that same London office served as world headquarters upon the Paris office's closure!
Today, there are eleven such offices, all around the UK, that teach the French language, and host cultural events year round.
Ireland has six additional branches, with Dublin's being the third largest in Europe!
If you were hoping for an immersion into French culture, you may well find it at your closest Alliance.
At the very least, you may find people who are up for an online chat via Skype!
Another great source for online chat with native speakers is wespeke. Rather than a learning site, it is a social networking platform that helps you connect with francophones for one to one conversation.
Besides sharpening your comprehension of the French language, you can store all of the language tips your new friend shares in the handy notebook, provided right on the webpage!
Conversation Exchange is a good language exchange site to check out. There, you would have the opportunity to teach people English while they help you learn to speak French.
With your new chat partners, you can work on pronunciation, word order, grammar and vocabulary.
For everything from greetings to commonly used French phrases, just imagine how your speaking skills will progress with regular interaction and encouragement from across the channel!
As you learn words and phrases from your new French friends, soon you too will gain fluency and confidence in speaking French!
Do you need help discerning the French accent? Perhaps television and music could help!
Other Avenues of French Immersion
Chatting in French class and finding free French lessons online fit nicely into the profile of the francophone, but what about listening comprehension?
Here, we may run into a spot of trouble.
French is spoken in Canada, Belgium, Switzerland... and each of these and other French speaking countries has their own twist to Metropolitan French, as the official language is called.
Presuming you want to learn how to speak French like a Parisian, watching French television could help you to understand language nuance, accent and tone.
Whereas language courses and online French opportunities are tailored to French learning speeds, television broadcasts and French podcasts are delivered in such a manner that would require an intermediate learner to keep up with the speakers' rapid diction.
To listen to such broadcasts means training your ear for the words you know, all while exposing you to the language's meter and timbre.
The best part is, you can catch a podcast anywhere, at any time, usually for free!
Taking French classes is only the first step to becoming fluent.
Learning French as a second language, your work outside the classroom will surely bear more fruit than the learning material between the covers of your textbook.
Why not discuss this article with your French teacher, see if s/he can give you more suggestions for studying French outside of class?
Learn more about the cost of French lessons.