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Today, we’ll cover together some common situations that might prevent you from feeling confident when you try to speak French… situations that leave you feeling a little stupid.
I’ll also show you some tips on how to avoid them – so you never feel stupid when speaking French again!
Learning goals: This is what you’ll be able to do after watching this lesson
→ What to say when you forgot the word for something in French
→ What to say when you (still) don’t understand what a French person said (and repeated!)
→ What to say when you don’t know how to pronounce a word in French
Bonjour c’est Géraldine, Bienvenue sur Comme une Française. C’est parti !
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0) 3 mental blocks getting in the ways of your French – and how you can overcome them.
Let’s do a quick recap on the content I sent my email subscribers last week.
Mental Block 1: “People will think I’m stupid because I make lots of mistakes in French”
→ Short answer: You’re wrong. No one thinks you’re stupid because your French isn’t perfect. That’s a simple fact.
Mental Block 2: “I need to expand my vocabulary before I try to speak French”
→ Short answer: No way. In a face-to-face conversation, you can easily make up for the few words you’re missing by using what’s around you. Or by using some handy scripts 🙂
Mental Block 3: “I don’t want to bore French people or waste their time because I speak slowly and don’t understand everything they say.”
→ Short answer: French people know they speak fast. And they know how difficult foreign languages can be. They will slow down for you, and you won’t bore anyone. No one will hate you ;).
I understand how difficult it can be, and how embarrassed you can sometimes feel in these situations. I’ve been there myself on occasion when I try to speak English.
And it’s not easy to go past these mental blocks!
You might think: “I get that… But… What can I do about it?”
I’m glad you asked. Here are my top three tips for overcoming those moments when you feel a little stupid or embarrassed when speaking French.
1) You forgot the vocabulary
Sometimes, you just forget a word. When buying something at the bakery, for instance!
You want to order a pain au chocolat, but you freeze because you forgot the word.
This happens! To all of us, even those of use who speak French everyday.
Don’t panic. Here’s what to say instead:
Je voudrais un (= I’d like one…) – and then read the tag !
J’en voudrais un comme ça, s’il vous plait. (= I’d like one of these, please) – and then point to the pain au chocolat !
In a more general way, pick one of these sentences to rehearse, they’ll come in handy at any time:
- Excusez-moi, j’ai oublié le mot pour… (= Forgive me, I forgot the word for…)
- Ça parait fou mais je ne me souviens plus du mot en français ! (= It might sounds crazy but I forgot the word for that in French!)
- Comment on dit [a chair] en français ? (= What’s [a chair] in French?) (By the way, it’s une chaise = a chair)
2) Not understanding fast spoken French
Let’s say you’re having a conversation with a French person, and they start speaking like they normally do. That’s going to test your fast spoken French comprehension!
You already start to panic because you know what’s going to happen: At some point, you won’t understand. You ask them to repeat what they said. You still don’t understand.
So what do you do NOW?
Here are some sentences you can use:
- Excusez-moi, je n’ai toujours pas compris. (= Excuse me, I still don’t understand)
- Vous pouvez me l’écrire ? (= Could you write it down?)
- Non… Toujours pas. Ça veut dire quoi ? (= …Nope, I still don’t get it. What does it mean? )
- Qu’est-ce que ça veut dire [fauteuil] ? (= What does [fauteuil] mean? )
(By the way, un fauteuil = a seat, an armchair)
I have a rule of thumb. NEVER let an important piece of information pass you by: directions, health-related information, appointments…
Don’t be shy. Be efficient! French people would rather repeat what they said (again) than continue talking without you understanding.
3) You have NO idea how to pronounce a French word
Lots of French words have a tricky pronunciation. French people know it!
The worst word might be un oiseau (= a bird): it’s a simple, common word, yet no single letter sounds as it should. (It’s pronounced [wah-zo] by the way)
And you’re going to get puzzled by pronunciation at all levels, from beginner-level words to advanced French language. From un oiseau, to un jambon = a ham [janbon, with two nasal vowels] to un coquelicot (= a poppy [kokleekoh]).
And that’s without even considering funny pronunciation mistakes! For instance:
Le cul (= the ass / bottom [kü]) / Le cou (= the neck [koo])
Le canard (= the duck [kannarr]) / Le connard (= someone who’s an asshole [konnar])…
So you might be wary about trying to pronounce a French word you read but never heard aloud before. And sometimes, you have no choice!
Luckily, here are some sentences you can use:
- Show them the word + Comment ça se prononce, ça ? (= How do you pronounce that?)
- Comment vous dites ? [Longtemps] ? (= How do you pronounce it? “Lontan” ?)
- Comment vous prononcez ce mot, là ? (= How do you pronounce that word, there?)
- Il y a trop de lettres muettes dans ce mot ! (= This word has too many silent letters!)
- J’ai toujours du mal avec ce son-là. (= I always struggle with this sound.)
And of course, the most effective “trick” of all is… to listen to a lot of natural French conversation, practice, make mistakes, and improve!
Et toi ?
Share in the comments below one situation that makes you completely lose your confidence when you speak French.
Let me know your recommendations for overcoming your French mind blocks in the comments below, too!
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Allez, salut 🙂