There’s no doubt that French is one of the most beautiful and romantic languages on the planet. But if you’re already in the process of taking French lessons, you also know just how difficult it is to learn to speak French.
Perhaps you are the most diligent scholar, you spend hours learning verb tenses and vocabulary, but every time you try and engage in a real life conversation all you can say is merci or bonjour.
So, if despite your efforts, the French language is frustrating you, then this article will provide you with a few tips to help take your French lessons to another level of enjoyment.
Practical Daily Tips to Improve Your French Language
If you are serious about looking for French tips, remember that actually visualising the written word is a powerful way to memorise vocabulary, grammar, and key phrases.
Here are two fun ideas to help you to put that into action.
Flashcards are a brilliant tool for learning any new language. Not only does copying the information help you to remember it, but they are actually a better memory tool than grammar textbooks or vocabulary lists.
Also, you will not be memorising things in a particular order, so your brain won’t be using associations from a previous lesson or remembering where things are on a page. This way, you’ll really take in what you learn.
Vocabulary flashcards should ideally have the French language with its masculine or feminine article, as well as the plural form on the one side, and the translation on the other side.
When you learn to speak French, remember to change things up.
Try not to memorise the cards only one way, rather mix them up and go through them in as many different orders as you can. Do this because making it too easy for yourself won’t help you in the long run!
When it comes to using grammar flashcards, either simply condense a grammar rule and write it out on one side with the description on the other. Alternatively, you could write a question on one side of the card and the answer on the other.
Comprehension flashcards are a little more time-consuming to make, but this method is one of the best French tips out there.
Write a simple French language phrase or quote from an author, and add the translation on the other side of the card.
A fantastic way to implement this style of learning is to mix all these cards up and to then leave piles or boxes of them all over the house, office or car. You can memorise them at a traffic light, during ad breaks while watching TV or even while stirring some bouillabaisse.
Cards are a fantastic way to ensure that you are getting the repetition needed to help you learn French and make your weekly French lessons easier. Actually, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you will learn to speak French using these tips.
A fantastic and easy way to learn French vocabulary is to take the most common objects around you, write the French language word on the sticky note and attach it to the actual object around your office or home.
Every time you walk through your door, you will see "la porte". Every time you sit on your sofa you will see the words "le canapé", and so on.
This is a brilliant way to memorise the French words for the ordinary objects around you.
Other French tips for sticky notes include playing little games with yourself. Place notes around your house that challenge your knowledge of grammar rules. These won’t feel like French lessons but you will be learning a great deal. For example, what’s the plural of maison? Write the answer on the back!
Another exercise you could do to study vocabulary and grammar is to build your own silly narrative based on the objects in the room by writing a question on the note about the object.
For instance, you could write, Qui met la table? (Who is setting the table?) and then try to answer yourself correctly!
Using the vocabulary that you are already familiar with is an excellent way to improve your French language.
Learn French Using a Language Diary
A variation on the above French tips is to keep a diary. This is not dissimilar to the simple French language essays you are probably required to write during your French lessons.
Committing to this diary-writing exercise every day will really help you to learn French because every time you get stuck for a word or a phrase you will want to look it up.
This method will entail constant revision without feeling like an overwhelming block of study time.
Diary entries could be shopping lists, thoughts, feelings or news, just get writing and watch your French improve.
If you are still in the beginner-phase of trying to learn to speak French, keep your sentences simple:
- La plage est grande.
- J’aime ma maison.
- Je suis fatigué/Je suis fatiguée.
As you learn to speak French more confidently you can progress to more complicated phrases, paragraphs, and even little stories.
The main thing is to use these French tips to perfect your language by applying what you learn in a context away from the structured French lessons. And as you improve, you will be inspired to keep trying.
If you have not enrolled in French lessons as yet, consider a private tutor, especially if you are self-conscious about learning a new language in a group setting.
In South Africa, a platform like Superprof hosts dozens of French language tutors and if there is not one near you, you could do your lessons online with a tutor from anywhere in the world. All you need is an internet connection and a webcam!
Learn French Like a Native
Immersing yourself in a new language is still the best way to learn it.
If you have a holiday coming up, why not plan to go to France? Alternatively, depending on your life circumstances, consider taking a gap year to become an au pair in Paris, or enrol in something creative like a French cooking course.
Improve Your Written French
The best way to improve your written French language would be to read more French.
This will help you to understand words in context as well as increase your vocabulary. A French newspaper, magazine or blog on topics that interest you are all good places to start.
Improve Your Comprehension by Listening
One of the most difficult parts about trying to learn to speak French is, without doubt, mastering the pronunciation. The best way to accomplish this is to truly soak in the nuances of pronunciation by listening to French being spoken by French-speaking people!
Watching a French film is brilliant listening practise. It also exposes you to the wonderful culture behind the language. These days on Netflix you could switch between English and French subtitles to really make the most of this learning modality.
Listening to French music is another way to train your ear towards the complexities of French pronunciation. Bear in mind with music though, that the grammar might be a lot more casual than what you are being taught in your French lessons.
For more advanced students, audiobooks and podcasts are a fantastic way to perfect the phonetics of French, as well as improve grammar and vocabulary.
Learn to Speak French through Conversation
If you take all the French tips available to you, actively learning through conversation is still the most effective and enjoyable way to learn to speak French.
A popular method to do this is to find a language exchange partner, who will teach you their language in exchange for learning how to speak English.
You could meet up for casual conversations or even on Skype. Chacun à son gout !
In this way, you will be teaching a native French-speaking person English and they will be teaching you French. It really is a win-win situation and an exchange of money never need take place.
Apart from your pronunciation and vocabulary, through your language buddy, you will also develop an understanding of French idioms and improve your accent.
Perhaps you realise that this is an effective way to learn French, but don’t feel the inclination to have to teach English in return. If this is the case, consider a private tutor who will also have many more French tips and have you speaking fluently in no time.
If you are serious about signing up to learn to speak French, a private tutor will boost your confidence by adapting the course content to your level and ability.
On Superprof, there are many French-speaking language tutors. A further benefit is that many tutors on this platform offer their introductory session for free, so if you feel they don’t suit you, you could simply try someone else.
It won’t be long until you are on the road to speaking French, which will open you up to a whole new world.
Bonne chance !