Use your past experience to learn French

We learn better in informal situations


If you want to know how to learn French easily, then here’s an important tip – learning conditions are equally important compared with the learning techniques we use. But learners don’t always pay attention to their learning conditions.

As adult learners, we generally have to find the right balance between our daily life and French learning time. However, it’s not necessary to change your life drastically to find time to learn French

We learn in a wide variety of contexts

Learning French can’t be reduced to sitting down with a pen and a notebook to work on a text or a recording with a teacher or to repeat sentences from a video to learn French pronunciation. In fact, we can learn in a wide variety of contexts. 

Sometimes, a mere exposure to novelty can already be seen as learning. Therefore, finding new ways to let French enter your daily life will be key to become successful and learn French quickly

These contexts are not as formal as that of a classroom. That’s why we call them informal learning situations


Learn everywhere

Any place and situation is suitable for learning as long as it is related to your target language. 

If you’re learning French, go to French restaurants, watch French movies or TV-shows, listen to French music, read biographies of French artists and news articles about France – if you’re a beginner, you can read the latter in your language. 

Go to exhibitions related to the French culture. If there’s an Alliance Française in your area, attend their cultural events, if there is a French community in your town, try to get in touch with them… The list of possibilities is endless. 

Turn everything into learning opportunities

For example, in a French restaurant, have fun trying to remember the names of the dishes or information on wine labels (if some of them are in French).

Then use online tools to learn how to pronounce them properly. This will become an alternative way to learn how to pronounce French

Finally, by looking up the meaning of these words, you’ll create yourself a list of important vocabulary. Chances are that some of the words you’ll discover will come up shortly in your favourite podcasts, videos and articles. Or, once you visit France, these words will probably come in handy to have a basic conversation with the waiter. 

Learning can be active or passive

The simple act of paying curious attention to a word or phenomenon is often enough to carve it in your memory for the long run. 

Even if you are not aware of it, it’s highly probable that this informal learning will pop out of your memory right on time when you need it. 

So go out, explore and be curious. And remember, you’re out of school and you don’t (necessarily) have to take an exam to test yourself. Make sure you make learning an enjoyable activity before anything else. 

However, bear in mind that although we can remember a lot from passive learning, active learning is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY if you want to learn fluent French

Understanding French is one thing, using French is something else. Therefore you should always try to find the right balance between passive learning and more active learning sessions during which you take notes and try to put what you’ve learnt into practice.


Diversify the people you practice with

From whom can you hear native French conversations? Logically, your teachers and tutors.

Next come native French speakers with whom you could learn colloquial French. 

Finally, there are also specialists. Think, for example of university teachers in your country that specialize in French literature or cinema, or a think-tank specializing in French economy and business. 

Talking to all these people could also be a great way to learn French and about the French language or the French culture outside of the context of a classroom.

By discussing the language you are learning, but not necessarily grammatical aspects or vocabulary, you will give your memory opportunities to create new connections and boost your learning experience.

The secret to language learning is diversity

Just like for a diet, the secret to learning French is variety and diversity. Create a pleasant and enjoyable environment for yourself, and surround yourself with people who will respect your needs and help you better identify and use your strengths. 

The diversity of contexts in which you’ll be exposed to native French conversations or French culture will generate informal learning contexts and ultimately give you more tools to become fluent in French

And you?

Which of the informal learning situations I’ve introduced in this article are you most interested in? Share your opinion in the comments. 

Discover Expatlang’s podcast

Finally, if you want to discover French culture, Expatlang is also a podcast. With Expatlang’s podcast – Understand Native French, you’ll hear native French conversations and will highly improve your French listening skills.

If you want to find out more about how to work on Expatlang’s podcast, click below.

Learn with Expatlang's podcasts