How to become a confident French speaker
Separated only by the English Channel, the French-Anglo relationship stretches back hundreds of years. Often allies, occasionally enemies, the two countries have a unique connection, with 17 million Brits heading to France each year to enjoy the best of the country’s vineyards, art, music, culture, gastronomy and perhaps even a little l’amour… In fact, learning how to speak French opens up a huge world of opportunity.
Aside from English, French is the only language that is spoken across all of the world’s continents, with over 200 million speakers worldwide. Learn French and you can improve your career prospects, read Marcel Proust in the original language, participate in an official language of international relations, meet new friends and take one step closer to your dream of owning a chateau! Learning French also makes it far easier to learn other languages, providing an excellent grounding for Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and other Romance languages.
Tips for mastering the French language
1. Make French culture your own
More than half of the world’s population speaks more than one language - but the English aren’t well known for being natural polyglots! However, the advantages of learning French far outweigh the challenge. As an English speaker, you’ll have a natural advantage, because 45% of English words actually derive from French, so things should come a little easier. To take advantage of this, immerse yourself in French culture. Watch French hit series on TV (we love Dix Pour Cent and Plan Cœur on Netflix), listen to French digital radio, and check out the latest podcasts online. You’ll find podcasts for beginner, intermediate and advanced learners to challenge yourself.
2. Be consistent
Consistency is also vital. Remember how you used to take one double period of French at school per week, go home and immediately forget everything you learned? We’re going to say what your French teacher said then - practice makes perfect. Luckily, this no longer means sitting in a classroom to practice verb conjugations by rote, but if you can devote just 15 minutes a day to learn new French words and practice your emerging language skills, you will supercharge your progression. Get into the habit of naming everything that you see in your daily life, and when you ask a question in English, test yourself mentally on the French equivalent.
3. Meet up and work with a native, or go to France!
It really helps to practice your emerging French language skills with a partner too. Why not look for French meetup groups that offer the chance for conversation practice? Or, you could find an enthusiastic French native who wants to better their English in return for French practice. One other excellent approach to motivating your language practice is to book a trip to France. Whether you opt for a family camping holiday at Eurocamp Brittany or stay at a Parisian AirBnB apartment for a luxury city break, the prospect of being able to speak with real locals will provide a fantastic learning incentive.
4. Find the best way to learn French and discover Babbel
There are plenty of different formal ways to learn how to speak French, ranging from traditional face-to-face lessons in a classroom environment through to modern self-directed language apps.
5. Language classes or summer schools
You could attend an evening class or a language summer school, or sign up to a college course for a recognised qualification. These methods can be very effective but depend entirely on the quality of the course itself and the proficiency of the teacher. These types of taught language course can be expensive too, especially if they involve a residential element as many summer schools will. Similarly, some students opt for individual tutors who practice French language skills with them either in person or via Skype, but again, quality, accuracy and availability are key things to think about here: your tutor may simply not be available on a flexible basis when you are ready to practice, even if they do have the right level of knowledge and experience. If you do opt for this route, make sure you do your research first.
6. Teach yourself
Some students might like learning at their own pace using CDs and French tuition books from the library or bookstore. These are helpful if you like to self-direct your learning, but the curriculum will be set and inflexible, and it is very difficult to establish your progression, check for any mistakes and to begin speaking French from the start. It can also be difficult to find a book or written course that really captures your imagination, and the course content will be set in stone (not ideal if you have suddenly discovered French cooking and want to brush up on your kitchen vocabulary for the perfect coq au vin, croissant and crème brûlée!).
7. Learning online with Babbel
There are also plenty of online sources that can help you to learn French. An internet search will reveal plenty of blogs, websites and online language learning programmes. However, again, it’s important to check these for accuracy, quality and results. For example, many language blogs and podcasts are created by enthusiastic fellow students who are keen to share their passion for French, but who may not have the right level of accuracy or fluency that you need for your desired proficiency level.
One option that is extremely popular amongst aspiring French speakers who want to progress rapidly is Babbel. The app has already helped over 5 million users across the world to become proficient in a new language - or several languages - and our teaching method has been developed from the best academic research and cherry-picked language coaching strategies. Even better, the language curriculum is tailored around your interests and needs and is delivered entirely from your phone, with the app available to engage with 24/7, wherever and whatever you are doing. You’ll find thematic lessons that build on your progression and the fact that you can learn about the topics that interest you means that your modules are always relevant. This is particularly important to students who are learning French for a specific purpose: perhaps to prepare for a holiday, or to find employment in a certain field of work. You’ll also find course lengths that suit your needs, from a brief one-month basic introduction or thematic refresher course, through to more comprehensive learning programmes of 12 months.
But, regardless of which approach you plan to take, now is certainly the time to forge ahead with your French love affair, whether your ambitions lie in ordering French cuisine confidently from a bistro, or whether you one day hope to work in France or a French-speaking country. Along the way, your new language skills will help you to find new friends, an exciting and diverse culture and your place in a rapidly globalising world where additional languages are your ticket to a more interesting, fulfilling life.