Hello, hello, Busy Learners and welcome to Expatlang, the website dedicated to those of you who are learning French in order to settle in France or are interested in French culture.
Today’s topic is dedicated to those of you who want to know how to learn French from scratch. This topic is: how to practice French.
If you’re learning French from beginner to intermediate and are looking for the best ways to learn French fast, there is one simple truth you must take into account – Learning a language is one thing but using the language is something else. Let me explain.
There are five basic language skills when we learn a language
These five basic language skills are :
Listening and reading are what we call “passive” skills. They don’t make you use the language.
Writing, speaking and conversation are “active” skills. They make you use the language.
When we learn French, we often focus on reading and listening, or “passive skills”. Indeed, they’re the ones we can easily work on without anybody else.
However, many people feel frustrated when they’ve been learning for a long time but still can’t have a proper conversation with someone although they understand the language quite well.
This is due to a simple fact – these people generally neglect the “active skills” when learning French.
So here’s a rule of thumb if you want to get started with French – you become good at what you practice. If you want to become good at speaking you have to speak as often as you can. If you want to become good at writing, you have to write as much as you can and so on and so forth for each of the basic skills.
That’s why, if your final goal is to communicate with people, or in other words, if your final goal is to learn how to speak French, then you’ll have to train your active skills as soon as possible.
How to find the best practice opportunities?
I’ve come up with three tips to help you include practice into your French learning from day 1.
The most crucial aspect of your very first week of learning French from scratch is to define your goals. Here again you’ll see how important that is in order to find the best practice opportunities. Please my dedicated video if you want to discover my recommended plan for your very first week learning French.
Always base your decisions on your learning goals. What do you want to do with the language? – The language skills you should focus on always depend on your goals. Let’s compare two examples.
Example 1 – Sarah is a university PhD student. She studies French history and has to explore a wide variety of historical documents in French, both text and audio. Although she has to read in French, her thesis is completely written in English. Therefore, she’s decided to focus on her reading and listening skills and barely ever writes or speaks French.
Example 2 – Mark is American and has recently settled in Marseille on the French Riviera. He works from home for a company back in the US and, for the moment, only needs French when he goes shopping or to restaurants. Therefore, he’s decided to focus on his listening and conversational skills and doesn’t spend much time reading and writing.
The list of learning contexts is infinite. Each of your learning goals will require the use of different language skills. That’s why, it’s not necessary to practice all five skills at the same time if it’s not relevant for your project. For each of your goals, define the skills you believe will be relevant.
Tip n°2 –
Explore the practice opportunities you have at hand. If you live in a country where the French language isn’t spoken, it shouldn’t be too hard to find relevant practice opportunities. Otherwise, the Internet is your best friend. Here are a few examples of the things you could be doing if you can’t find native speakers near your house :
Conversation: find a private tutor or a native speaker to practice conversation with. Expatlang offers conversation practice.
Speaking: start a vlog or a YouTube channel in your target language about a topic you’re interested in or simply to show your learning progress week by week.
Reading and writing : enrol in an online course in French or write a diary of your daily life in French.
The list of practice opportunities is infinite.
Tip n°3 –
Plan a deadline for your first practice session.
Working towards a goal is important. Even if you realise on the go that you were a wee bit too ambitious at the beginning, plan a deadline for your first practice session.
For example: by the end of the month, I want to order food in my target language when I go to a restaurant.
By doing so, you’ll pay even more attention to the kind of resources you’ll be using and won’t get lost among the wide variety of knowledge you’ll probably be exposed to.
Now, here are a few more French tips for beginners.
Learning a language is a never-ending process. If later on you realise that a specific skill is actually necessary for you, it won’t be too late to start working on it. Most of the time, your own context will help you identify new needs that you’ll turn into new learning goals.
It’s not always easy to find the right practice context. Feel free to seek help from a professional. Language tutors and coaches can help you find the most appropriate strategy. You can contact us for a customized learning plan.
Although it’s important to focus on the language skills that meet your daily needs, pleasure will also play a major part on your learning journey. For example, if you don’t need to develop reading skills but really enjoy reading in your target language, don’t hold back! Read as much as you want.
We’ve just shared today a few tips before learning French and to explore practice opportunities. What about you? Have you found relevant practice opportunities to meet your learning goals? Leave us a comment down below telling us about your practice opportunities.
If you’re interested in learning French but aren’t a language specialist yourself, we would be thrilled and honoured to help you learn French. If you’ve enjoyed this content, you can also visit our YouTube channel for even more relevant content.
You now know what to do to explore new practice opportunities. I’ll be meeting you in the next article, and until then, salut à tous and good luck busy learners.