15 May 10 Fun, but Practical Strategies for learning French
If you are like me, you took French for a few years in high school and perhaps one more in college. I retained lots of vocabulary, but zero ability to use it. Three year old French babies watching American Sesame Street come out of pre-school more bi-lingual than I fear I ever will become but it’s not my fault…I blame my ancestors for this. My maternal grandmother was of French decent whose family emigrated to the US from Canada and can trace their roots to France. When they left the Montreal area they left the language behind. Quel dommage…Hindsight is 20/20!
Some of us are visual learners, some auditory, some tactile but if you are like me, you need multi-sensory stimulation to imprint anything into your brain, never mind a foreign language. Taking a multi-sensory approach, here are the strategies I have been using to learn how to be able to communicate on my annual trips to Paris.
- If you have never taken a formal language class in school, do it. Many junior colleges have great Intro to French classes that can get you familiar with the vocabulary and pronunciation which builds a good foundation for the language.
- If you already have a base for French, then the next step is to learn the “mechanical” part of the language and sentence structure. I suggest using Rosetta Stone for this. Begin with level I and work your way up. It can be very rewarding as you get to check off each step as an accomplishment. It also has a speaking for pronunciation component that can be useful.
- Invaluable to me, has been having a fluent speaker come over for a meal or conversation who will truly push back on me if I try to use English for a response. If you have a friend like this, it’s perfect. Otherwise, it’s worth hiring a tutor for a couple of sessions to work specifically with you on becoming fluent in asking for things and communicating well in restaurants, shops, hotels and transportation. My good friend, Jeff helped me with a cramming session before the big trip and I used everything he quizzed me on. All it cost me was some fruit, cheese and wine! Thanks Jeff the tutor!
- To enhance class or the Rosetta, use children’s French books with illustrations. This helps imprint the language with whole word learning.
- Play French music, new and old classics in the car, during dinner and while exercising. It’s amazing how tuning your ear into the language helps train your ear to listen to the language better.
- Watch French movies without the subtitles then with them to immerse yourself in the flow of the language.
- Supplement the Rosetta with free app’s nd podcasts that are geared towards giving you daily short lessons on the go on your cell or iPods. Apple Itunes freebies include, Free French Tutor, French Word of the Day, and French Verb Conjugation.
- Join French Facebook pages which will give you daily blasts of the language with a context that hopefully you will follow allowing you to pick up new vocabulary and local phrases. I follow the US Embassy in Paris on FB and find it really fun to read the current events they post in French to test my reading comprehension and then I read the page translated into English to see how accurate I was.
- I follow French twitter accounts so that when I am checking on my posts, I get a quick chance to read some French each day.
- When you are first learning the language make up games for yourself during the course of your day. When learning numbers only allow yourself to count in French. Count the stairs as you go up, count the fries on your plate, etc…Do the same with colors and objects. As you walk past someone with a purple shirt say violet chemise to yourself. When grocery shopping try to come up with the French equivalent word or you can’t put it in your cart! This also works as a good diet plan – working towards that skinny French girl mystique!
Remember that you retain more when you love what you are doing so always make it fun. Take a break when you get frustrated and reward yourself when you do well and before you know it, you will be on your way to becoming fluent!