How to become fluent in French?
Salut les amis,
Today I’m going to share with you my little secrets to improve your oral fluency quickly and durably.
As a French teacher, for years I have been able to note the good habits that make you progress quickly in French. And as you know, speaking is even more difficult.
Indeed, the areas of the brain that are solicited for speaking are different from those that are used for writing or for understanding. To speak, there are all sorts of mechanisms that come into play. I will explain which ones are and also how to train yourself to be comfortable when you are speaking or having a conversation with a native French.
When you start an immersion program, whether it’s an online course or a home-study course with one of our teachers, we establish a pedagogical progression according to our students’ expectations.
Also, when we talk about goals and desires about French, they always tell me: “I would like to be able to think in French”, “I would like to be understood easily” or “When I have a conversation in French, I would like to speak more spontaneously, without thinking too much”.
So here are the little secrets and tricks I share with them, which have proven to be effective! Are you ready? Let’s go!
“I would like to be able to think in French”.
If you want to be able to stop translating every word when you speak in French, then you need to incorporate some French into your daily life. In other words: be consistent.
It’s important to soak up and multiply the media to get your ears and eyes used to French. But above all – very important – you must repeat (out loud) the words you hear or read. During our immersion stays, we practice the multisensory approach. It is fantastic for significant results and in the long term, I strongly recommend it. This approach consists of multiplying the supports to incorporate the practice of French in your daily life and that all your senses work (almost) naturally.
- Read a book in French. If your level is beginner or intermediate then I recommend the LFF collection which combines books and audio. You can read while listening and also while repeating. If your level is advanced then an original version will be even more interesting to help you expand your vocabulary.
- Watch a serie or a movie with French subtitles. Or without subtitles! If you are a beginner, try watching short films. They will be easier to understand than long movies. When you feel ready, then you can watch TV shows that are much more complex because the pace is fast and the dialogue is freer than in a movie.
- If you like actuality then you can listen, read and repeat with News in Slow French. I love to recommend this website to my students because it helps them improve their listening skills while keeping up with what’s going on in the world. This weekly podcast offers resources for students of all levels. Native French speakers talk about current events at a slower but still natural pace, which makes it easier to receive. And it is also possible to listen to these recordings at a normal speed. To complete the practice, this application provides a list of difficult words and also grammar lessons and expressions.
- Listen to podcasts on the way to work or school. Podcasts are becoming more and more fashionable, they are everywhere. It’s convenient because you can listen while driving, cooking, or in your spare time. The site Radio en ligne has made a selection of podcasts in French by theme. I recommend it for more advanced levels because they are real podcasts made by French people for French people. It’s really interesting because you can select the theme you like and learn more about French culture or what’s happening in France and in the world.
Regular practice of French in your daily life will bring you great results.
“I would like to be understood easily”
- Make lists for yourself! To do this, I advise you to write down (regularly) in a notebook, one or more lists of sentences that you have heard or read. These sentences must be useful for your life. Remember, it is necessary to be consistent and consistency means doing things naturally. If the phrases are useful to you, they will make more sense and you will remember more naturally. For example, if you are passionate about cooking, then you have to watch videos in French with recipes for your favorite dishes. You will not fail to note the useful phrases in your notebook. Every day, you will add to your lists. The goal is to regularly reread what you have written to memorize the vocabulary and grammatical structures.
- Warm-up! Speaking in a foreign language is real training. To become a champion in French, you need to build up your muscles. Use the lists you have created and repeat a few sentences of your choice out loud every day. You will already memorize the structure and vocabulary. But also, your ear will get used to hearing you speak in French. And finally, your mouth will train itself to pronounce more and more naturally the groups of words forming a whole. Little by little you will acquire fluency in French.
- Listen to songs in French. Platforms like Deezer or Spotify help you build a playlist of French songs. This way, you can listen to them and even sing along. You work on articulation and rhythm. The French platform Deezer also offers the possibility to read the lyrics of the songs while you listen to them.
For beginners, FrenchLearner.com has put together a useful list of songs to learn the French alphabet, days of the week, colors, and more.
- Practice pronunciation with the Paroli app. This app is based on an artificial intelligence system that instantly evaluates the user’s performance. You repeat, it rates you and you can repeat again to improve your accent and pronunciation. It is adapted to all levels and allows you to work on your pronunciation in French on topics related to daily life, the job market, or the workplace.
- Join a conversation group. Many platforms offer free or paid access to join French conversation groups. This allows you to meet new people, to have the opportunity to practice your French more often, which then helps you to improve and maintain your level. Talking often with other people also allows you to correct your accent, to gain fluency, but also to learn new words or grammar and expressions. For shy people, it helps you overcome your fear of speaking or making mistakes helping you gaining confidence.
“I would like to speak more spontaneously”
When you follow the above tips, you will feel a progression in your language skills. More and more you will gain spontaneity. You will then have to put your fluency to the test in a natural conversation with a native speaker. To succeed, I will share with you my latest secrets… yes, you will know everything!
- Find your own rhythm. Don’t try to go too fast when you speak, or you’ll stammer and get stuck in your discussion. Also, if you take your time, it will allow you to better think about what you want to say and also to concentrate on your pronunciation.
- If you get stuck, that’s okay. Use other words. But above all, always try to say it in French. Keep your head in French. The more you think in French, the more the words will come into your mind.
- Finally, to sound as Frenchy as possible, use words to connect your speech. The French use many “words” or rather “sounds” that punctuate their speech. These words don’t necessarily make sense but they give a rhythm when they speak.
If you still can’t find your words, then involve the other person. For example: “but what if … you know … the thing we were talking about last time”, or “do you know what I’m talking about?” also: “do you know what I mean?
Here is a list of the ones I personally use:
“Euh” (when looking for a word or information).
“Hein?” (when you didn’t understand … the familiar alternative to “Excuse me?”)
“Alors” (synonymous with “so”, “therefore”)
“Tu sais” (synonymous with “you understand”)
“Tu vois” (alternative to “you know”)
“Enfin bref” (to summarize)
“Genre” (colloquial synonym for “like”)
In conclusion, if I could say only one thing: have fun! Speaking a foreign language and achieving a satisfactory level of confidence and fluency will happen mainly because you enjoy practicing it.