If you have always wanted to learn how to speak French did you know that it is much more achievable than you probably think. Perhaps you have already signed up for French lessons for beginners, but you simply find the theory a bit boring. Of course, you may want extra French lessons if you are battling to grasp certain grammatical concepts or struggling with pronunciation.

Whatever your reason, if you are feeling unmotivated in your French classes, and battling to get through grammar exercises, there are actually a few surprising methods that could actually help your French lessons along in really fun and creative ways.

The Best Ways to Learn How to Speak French

Of course, classroom instruction is extremely important and a necessary part of all learning. In fact, the benefits of learning French in a group are numerous, and doing this should certainly make up part, if not all, of your French learning journey.

However, when it comes to learning a new language, constantly finding ways to put theory into practice is of equal importance – and this is the kind of learning that happens outside of the classroom or even group contexts.

If you find ways to constantly put some of these fun ideas into practice as a habit, your French classes will actually be less boring, less difficult and you are guaranteed to learn more and enjoy them at the same time.

Flashcards and Sticky Notes for Vocabulary

Regardless of our age, the use of flashcards and sticky notes is a tried and tested method for learning a new language and can be extremely helpful for practising how to translate English to French. If you are on a journey towards French fluency, when it comes to increasing your vocabulary, or your English to French translation ability, flashcards and sticky notes are an easy and vital tool!

One way to do it, is to write the French word on one side of a card and the English on the other side. Read them, speak out the English to French translation and vice versa, shuffle them and mix them up. This is one of the best ways to improve your vocabulary which is foundational to learning any new language.

Another tip is to write the French words on sticky notes and put them all over the house on everyday objects, like a table, chair, door etcetera. Soon, the French word will be become so naturally ingrained in your mind that you won’t even realise that you are actually learning how to speak French! This is one where the whole household can get involved to make it even more fun and competitive!

Of course even French for beginners requires more than just vocabulary!

If you really want to feel more comfortable in your French classes, try making flashcards for grammar rules too. One way to do this is to simplify the rule by just writing down a verb with a tense on one side of the card, for instance, while writing the conjugation on the flip side. You could do this with a great many of the grammar rules. If necessary, ask your regular French teacher to help you set that up.

Another fantastic and fun idea would be to actually cut out French phrases from magazines and books and to stick them around the house. Read them out aloud, because not only is this a good way to practice your French pronunciation, but it will obviously also hone your English to French translation capability.

These fun and unusual ways will definitely help you learn how to speak French without feeling like it’s a chore.

Keep a Diary in French

pink journal and coloured pencils
Keeping a diary in French is a challenging, but fun, method of improving your French. | Source: Unsplash

If you are learning beginner-level French, the idea of keeping a diary in the French language might sound really far-fetched, but it need not be overly ambitious and will definitely be a fun and challenging method of improving your French.

Your first step would be to buy a special notebook, then remember to make sure that you have your dictionary handy for the time you set aside for this exercise. Some of the topics you could practice writing could include:

  • Write your daily to-do list in French instead of English
  • Record the day’s highlights in French
  • Makes notes about the latest book, series or movie you are enjoying
  • Write some comments on current world events
  • Write your shopping lists in French
  • Write down your feelings for a loved one in French

If you are learning French for beginners, there is no need to try and be Marcel Proust! Start with bullet points or even just short, simple sentences. Some examples of these could be:

  • Je suis allé au magasin.
  • Il a plu toute la journée aujourd'hui.

Eventually, you will be using your dictionary less and less, and as you become more advanced you will be able to write more complicated sentences.

There is no doubt, as you use these fun and creative ways to become more confident with your English to French translation, you will probably inspire your fellow students in your French classes to do the same.

Language Immersion: Podcasts and Language Partners

If you are really serious about learning how to speak French, then a total language immersion is something you should definitely consider. Of course being able to take an extended holiday in France, or find a job as an au pair for a French-speaking family are some of the ways that learning French for beginners takes on a life of its own. But not everyone is able to do that.

Fortunately, there are many other ways to learn how to speak French by immersing yourself in the language that don’t require a major life change. Here are some ideas that could help you to achieve that:

  • Sharpen your listening skills by finding a live stream of a French radio station or listen to a French podcast regularly.
  • Find a native French-speaking partner with whom to improve your conversational skills. If you are teaching them English while they are teaching you French, there is no need to feel embarrassed by your poor pronunciation, because you are in the same boat! It’s actually a brilliant way to mutually benefit from English to French translation and find the humour in it.
  • Take up beginner French lessons with a private tutor. One of the best ways to do this is to find one near to you, who will come to your house. On a platform like Superprof, you could actually search for a tutor by location or even sign up for online lessons via Zoom, Google Meet or Skype. All you would need to do this is a webcam and reliable internet connection.
  • Download a French movie, watch French YouTube videos on subjects that interest you, or find some easy French books. If you have taken up French lessons for beginners, even as an adult, find some French children’s books to read.

All of these ideas will not only help you to learn how to speak French, but they will certainly also help you to absorb more, and participate more, in your French classes.

Learn How to Speak French by Watching French Movies

When you are learning a language, one can easily feel trapped by the confines of a textbook and end up relying solely on memorisation or ‘parrot-fashion’ learning to improve vocabulary and comprehension. This is something you should really try and avoid. For instance, you might be able to answer complicated grammar questions in your French classes, or explain an indefinite pronoun or irregular verb, but none of this will help you to learn how to speak French and make sense of conversations with native-speaking French people.

people in cinema
Watching French movies can help with language immersion. | Source: Unsplash

One of the ways to truly put your French classes to the test is to watch French movies and series.

Why Watching French Films Makes Learning French Fun

When it comes to vocabulary, there are two types and this is true for every language, not only when learning how to speak French. The vocabulary that you have as a native and the one that you have as a second language are different. Here are the differences:

  • Active vocabulary: this is the vocabulary that you use on a daily basis and that comes naturally to you when you are speaking. This is probably because it is your first language.
  • Passive vocabulary: this is vocabulary that you may understand and comprehend in a theoretical way, or with the aid of a dictionary or flashcard, but it is not the vocabulary you would use in everyday conversation.

When it comes to learning French for beginners there is even a third variation when it comes to vocabulary! This is when you are constantly trying to translate English to French in your head. This is a very natural stage when it comes to learning French for beginners, but as you advance with your French classes you will want your English to French translation to almost become as automated as knowing how to brush your teeth!

When you are able to translate English to French like this, without missing a beat, that is when you will know that you can converse comfortably by accessing words and expressions without first having to do mental translations in your head.

The best way to activate your passive vocabulary in any language is to simply speak as much as you possibly can!

Finding a native-speaking French buddy with whom you can practise your conversational skills, will bring the vocabulary that you learnt in your French classes, as well as the words you learnt using fun ways like flashcards, sticky notes or listening to podcasts, to life!

The key is not just to keep learning, but to keep practising at the same time too!

The more you do this, the more intuitive the use of your vocabulary will become. Before long, your brain will eliminate the step that is needed to translate English to French, and you will begin to associate emotions, things, and concepts with French words and not English words.

So keep immersing yourself in the French language with all the tips above, but above all with a commitment to practising in conversation. As you do this your comprehension and vocabulary will improve and you can advance from your French lessons for beginners to more advanced French classes.

When you speak, you will have the satisfaction of drawing from a greater well of vocabulary and phrases to really make the conversation even more comfortable and enjoyable!

Another excellent way to do all of this is to turn the audio to French when watching your favourite films or series. This is especially helpful when you are actually familiar with the plots or characters because this will help you by providing the familiar context that is needed to help you understand some of the vocabulary.

tea service at Café de Flore in Paris
Knowing enough to place an order in French at a café in France is an accomplishment. | Source: Unsplash

In the beginning, as you try to hone your English to French translation, you could also make use of subtitles when watching a French film. A good idea would be to watch the same movie, or episode of a series, once with the subtitles and once without them.

Eventually, you should wean yourself off them and just immerse, immerse, immerse!

All of these fun and unusual ways to learn French will boost your confidence for when you are ready to start having French conversations whether that is with your French native friends, fellow students, or out and about at restaurants and shops in France itself!

Remember that the French that you hear on television, in the movies, or spoken by your French buddy, will be more grammatically correct than hearing a song, but don’t let this put you off completely. Listening to French music can certainly tune your ear and help immensely to improve your pronunciation.

Recommended Films for Those Studying French for Beginners

You could, of course, watch South African or British television programmes that have been dubbed into French to improve your understanding of French phonetics. However, if the lip-syncing has been done poorly, it might even prove unhelpful and even detrimental to your progress.

When it comes to French movies and series worth recommending, you could try watching The Lazy Company, a French comedy about some American soldiers who go through a series of funny incidents in the aftermath of the D-Day battle.

Another good one is Demain Tout Commence, where a young man who hails from Marseille unexpectedly finds out that he is a father.  When learning French, films are definitely helpful so ask for recommendations from your French-speaking friends.

Finally, when it comes to film recommendations, you could also watch The Midwife with Catherine Deneuve, directed by Martin Provost. It’s a great movie where a midwife finds her world turned upside down when the maternity home she worked in closes and her late father’s mistress contacts her out of the blue.

Learn French as a Family

When it comes to learning French for beginners, there are many ways to make the process fun, enjoyable and of course, educational! But, like learning anything new in life, it is almost always more fun with a partner, or as part of a team. And what better team to have than roping in the entire family to enrol in beginner French classes?

You may have some interesting reasons for learning French as a family.

Perhaps you have a trip to Europe planned and one of your stops is France? Or perhaps you are visiting a North African country together where French is widely spoken. It could even be that, as a family, you are going to immigrate from South Africa to France. Whatever your reason, if you have a French destination, like a holiday in Mauritius for instance, in your future, taking up French for beginners as a family will definitely make the whole experience easier and more enjoyable.

Finding Your French Tutor in South Africa

Finding a French tutor that could meet your goals is very possible in South Africa. If you are intending to learning in a group, or as a family, getting everyone together at the same time during the day could prove to be really tricky. If this is the case, this is where using a tutoring platform that offers so many tutoring options could really help you.

If you have decided to enrol in French lessons as a family, your first step would be to decide whether you would like a tutor to come to your home in the evenings when you are all home, or whether as a family you will set aside time for online lessons. The really marvellous thing about tutors on platforms like Superprof is that both of those options are possible!

woman putting pink laptop into backpack
Take French lessons on the go, with an online tutor. | Source: Unsplash

If you think face-to-face tutoring, in your living room, for example, is the best way to approach your French classes, simply search for a tutor by location and the site will deliver a list of tutors near to you. If there isn’t one near you, or if you have decided that online lessons are more convenient for learning as a family, then the world is literally your oyster! You could find an online French tutor anywhere.

Decide on Your Goals for Learning How to Speak French

Before you embark on a search for the right tutor, especially if you are going to learn how to speak French in a group, decide upfront what you would like to achieve. Here are a few questions that could guide you through that process and make sure that you don’t waste your time, or a tutor’s time by matching everyone with the wrong teacher!

  • Are you wanting to learn French to enjoy a holiday in a French-speaking country?
  • Are you immigrating to a French-speaking country where you will need to join the marketplace and attend schools?
  • Is learning another language simply a fun and bonding activity to enjoy as a family?
  • Do you simply need to learn conversational French?
  • Is an in-depth knowledge of French grammar important to you?
  • Do you need to be able to translate English into French?

Once you have established the answers to these questions and others, you will have a better idea of the kind of French tutor you need.

How Qualified Does Your French Tutor Need to Be?

When it comes to finding the right tutor to learn how to speak French, there are so many options depending on your objectives, and of course, your level of ability.

Perhaps you are way beyond the need to master English to French translation, but you are studying the French language at university level and need help with understanding the works of Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, or Simone de Beauvoir for instance. If this is the case, you are looking for someone who is highly qualified to teach university-level French.

If on the other hand, you are simply needing to learn conversational French for a holiday, an advanced university student who has completed a basic language teaching course would be able to help you. Actually, if you are looking to learn French, the choice of tutors on a platform like Superprof is so wide-ranging that it is a great place to start your search.

Remember that besides the qualification, it is always helpful to connect with your tutor’s personality and style of teaching. One of the great advantages to finding a tutor on the Superprof website is that many of them actually offer their first lesson as an introductory trial. This means at no charge! This a fantastic opportunity to be able to discuss your goals, find out more about their qualifications, background, and teaching style, as well as getting an idea of whether you could connect with them or not.

As you can see learning French is accessible, but how fun you decide to make it, is totally up to you!

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Niki is a content writer from Cape Town, South Africa, who is passionate about words, strategic communication and using words to help create and maintain brand personas. Niki has a PR and marketing background, but her happiest place is when she is bringing a story to life on a page.