How to Learn a Second Language – Tips for Learning Effectively and Quickly

Want all the vocabulary of the lesson ?

So you’ve decided that you want to learn to speak another language. Félicitations! Congratulations! Deciding to take action is sometimes the hardest step.

Now what? You’re probably wondering how to learn a second language? It’s not always easy to know where to start and (spoiler alert) learning a second language is drastically different from learning your first.

It’s OK, we’re here to help. In this lesson, I’m giving you all my top tips for learning a second language. By the end, you will:

  1. Stop comparing yourself with a child and understand that “being slow” is 100% normal.
  2. Learn how to prioritize your second language to master fluency (i.e. quality) rather than obsessing about just “learning more.” (i.e. quantity)
  3. See what is specifically missing from your French knowledge and how to patch up the holes in your spoken French (and maybe other languages you’re learning too!)

Let’s begin!

1. How You Learn a Language

A) It took you 10+ years as a child to master your first language(s) - so stop thinking you’re a slow learner!

When you learn a native language (or two at once) from the moment you’re born, you’re not just learning a language 100% of the time. You learn how to think, to eat, to draw, to count, to walk, to write, to debate… everything all at once. As adults, we don’t even notice children are learning so much so fast.

In terms of learning a language, it’s not just your mom teaching you how to say “Mommy”, “fork” and “I love broccolis”! You learn to speak the language while also learning the culture and rules of language. Your family teaches you how to think and your first language helps you:

  • understand that there are complex ideas around you
  • express yourself using words

After all, a child’s brain is growing.

For example, French children learn:

That’s why it’s so important for parents to speak their native language to their children, so that their kids can learn to form and express complex thoughts through complex phrases. The Guardian recently published an article where they spoke on exactly this…

I’m quoting here: “Jim Cummins and Virginia Collier at the University of Toronto showed that it’s far more advantageous for immigrant children to hear an eloquent, grammatically correct, richly nuanced language at home than be exposed to low-level pidgin English. They can then transfer those language skills – the concepts, diction and sophisticated structures – to their new language.”

(Click here to read the original paper.)

It looks like a passive form of learning because the child is absorbing everything. They don’t use grammar books and dictionaries, because they have a teacher 24/7 in the form of family and friends! Their brain is formed WITH the communication as a whole: melody of the voice, body language, consequences… it’s a constant feedback loop.

What’s amazing is how fast they learn all this at the same time.

But it takes a child much more than 10 years to fully master its native language. You wouldn’t ask your little nephew or grandchild to write a cover letter for a job interview.

So breathe.

Want to read this lesson later ?

B) Learning a second language as a kid and as an adult are two COMPLETELY different things.

Now you’re probably saying to me “Yes, but what about my neighbour’s 10 year-old son who learned French in 2 years?”. Ok. Well.

No matter how “magical” it seems for children, to learn a foreign language is ALWAYS an active process. You need to learn vocabulary, grammar, conjugation, culture and customs to become fully fluent. You also need a structure: a teacher, a book, a course… No one just “absorbs” a language by hearing it. It’s a myth.

But there’s a MASSIVE difference between how children and adults learn (and live) in general that students tend to forget.

An American friend of mine moved to France with her two lovely young daughters. They go to school in France and picked up French in a couple of months. They have almost no accent and can pass for French. Her mother was sometimes a bit desperate at how her own French had not improved.

SO MANY adults feel that way. But remember: learning French was the children’s #1 daily activity. They were learning French in a French school 8 hours per day. These girls are very smart kids, ok. But come on. You have a job, responsibilities at home, projects and worries. Don’t compare your life with a child’s. That’s unfair to both of you.

C) The ONE thing you should borrow from children.

There’s ONE thing you should borrow from a child’s strategy to learn a new language fast: they don’t stop at mistakes. It they want “des bonbons” (sweets) in a shop during a holiday in France, they’ll make themselves understood by the French shopkeeper, no matter how many grammar, vocabulary and conjugation mistake they make.

As a friend of mine says: “No child ever gives up on learning to walk just because they fell a few times”. No adult goes around crawling in the street saying “Nope! Walking wasn’t for me. I gave up trying.”

Ok, maybe learning to ski or to skateboard is not for you anymore. But you have ZERO chance of breaking a bone while learning French.

So allez.

2. How to Learn a Second Language as an Adult

A) The ONE thing you should borrow from children.

Beginner, intermediate and advanced students alike often tell me “I want to improve my spoken French by learning more vocabulary / grammar / conjugation.”

Great. Do that and you won’t be an adult human fluent in French. You’ll simply be Siri (or Google Translate) with a heart beat. 😉

When you learned a first language, you parents didn’t just teach you the words for “carrots”, “bread” and “fork”. Learning a language is not just about vocabulary or children would just become dictionaries. No, your parents and surroundings taught you what’s beyond words: the rules, the customs, the taboos, politeness.

Let’s take “carrots” as an example. When eating carrots, children learn:

  • The words to define what and how they’re eating: une carotte, une fourchette, une assiette, une bouchée (mostly used for children), aimer…
  • Traditional French games to make children eat
  • Spoken French structure : “J’aime pas” instead of “Je n’aime pas”
  • How to express your feelings politely: “J’aime pas” and not “C’est pas bon”.
  • French food : les carottes
  • Vichy, les carottes râpées, la soupe de carottes
  • Table manners : on ne met pas les coudes sur la table (no elbows on the table), on tient sa fourchette correctement, on mange toujours ensemble, comment dresser la table, etc.
  • Children and adult dynamics: Children behave well at the table, respect food and taste it. Adults can have conversations without children interfering.

>>> That’s the key of the lesson today on how to learn a second language.

You forgot about this part of language learning because:

  • You were taught all at once as a baby in a passive way.
  • You taught it to the children around you without even noticing.
  • It’s so deep in your brain that you forgot that all your references are specific to your culture (it can even be region/religion/generation specific, but I’ll stick to general rules).

You see it now?

Your mom, your cousin, your grandfather, your next door neighbour taught you how to address a stranger politely in your language and culture by:

  • showing you how
  • teaching you how
  • encouraging you (or making you!)
  • correcting you

So in the end, you learn that you should smile when you say hi, address an elder using words like “sir” and “m’am”, don’t use slang when you’re addressing your grandmother, etc.

You probably think that to speak a foreign language you simply the language and tadaaaaa, just like in a dubbed movie, you’re fluent.


Even if we ONLY look at words (putting body language, tone and traditions aside), languages evolve with the situation. Language have rules of communication IN THEM.

That’s why TV series like The Office has 2 versions: UK and US. Same topic, different cultural codes and jokes. Same with international TV games such as The Voice and Masterchef. They could just dub it! But no, the cultural subtleties are different.

Even if you used the exact script of a foreign movie and set it up in Paris to make it pass for French, it wouldn’t work.

In French, communication is an art form. We go from silence with strangers (by the way, NEVER give your first name too soon) to heated debates with friends. If you mix up the steps of communication building while being fluent in French, you’re pass for ignorant fool or a sociopath.

In English, you = one person OR several people. No matter whether you speak to your child, your best friend or your boss, it’s the same word.

In Spanish, there are SIX ways to use the English subject “you”! In fact, there’s one for each situation. Tú, Usted, Vos, Ustedes, Vosotros and Vosotras. If you speak Spanish too, you’ll even know that some are specific to Spain, others to Latin America!

Politeness in Japanese is integrated in the grammar with THREE levels of politeness: plain, simple and super polite.

You see, vocabulary is just the tip of the iceberg.

When learning a language, children learn all the communication rules of the language without thinking. You even forgot you taught them! But you have to learn them again in your second language.

And I won’t even talk about customs!

Fun fact about table customs though: in France, your mom would teach you to put your hands ON the table, never on your lap. 🙂

B) The 2 elements to focus on when learning a second language.

Let’s recap what we learned so far:

  • Learning a second language is an active process, so don’t compare yourself with a child learning to speak.
  • You’re an adult with responsibilities, so stop agonizing over 8 year-olds learning French as a second language quickly during a 6-month immersion in Paris.
  • Your culture is rooted so deep in your brain that your forgot it’s specific. You can’t just dub a movie in French to make it French. Language goes beyond words.

You won’t learn a language passively from your parents anymore, so you have be strategic when you learn a language on your own.

1) Understand how a language works and what your mom taught you without telling you about it.

A language (here, I’ll take French as an example) is made of 3 ingredients: vocabulary, communication habits and culture.
How to learn a second language: the 3 important ingredients.
Look at the proportions. You have to be strategic in your learning to cover the gaps in your knowledge.

2) You’re an adult, so aim to speak like an adult (not a toddler or a dictionary).

We saw that children don’t learn a first language the way you are learning a second language as an adult because they are learning to think and speak and use their mouth to form words at the same time.

By now, you are a fully functional adult who can express complex thoughts in your native language and appreciate the context of a situation while adding the appropriate amount of cleverness and humor to a conversation.

So, aim to do the same in your second language ! Stop focusing on superficial vocabulary learning. No one cares if you don’t know the word “pineapple” in French or don’t have a perfect pronunciation of “on” and “euh”. Work on the 20% that will make wonders 80% of the time!

It’s all the things your mom taught you as a kid, transferred to the second language, as seen above.

C) Now matter how “slow” you are, a second language is good for your brain and your income.

First, no matter whether you’re a beginner in French or already at a C2 level, learning a second language is good for your brain.

The same post from the Guardian I mentioned above says “the Canadian psychologist Ellen Bialystok, analysed the medical records of patients diagnosed with dementia and discovered that onset symptoms were diagnosed between three and four years later in people who spoke 2 or more languages”.

Of course, learning French won’t prevent the disease itself and has the same effect as other intellectual activities… but knowing that learning a second is good for your intellectual fitness, overall health and wellness can be a fun reason to keep up the great work!

Also, on average, people fluent in 2 or more languages in America earn $3,000 more per annum than their monolingual counterparts. So, feel free to see Comme une Française as an investment! Just sayin’…

3. Some Specific Differences Between English and French

I’ll give you more details by email very soon (if you’re reading this from YouTube or Facebook, be sure to join my mailing list or you’ll miss out), but I want to show you a glimpse of the aha moment in French.

A) French conversation is highly codified.

We start with silence. To us, silence is respect, not arrogance. This is the biggest misconception of French culture, feeding into the “French people are so rude” cliché.

So, for example:

  1. Start a conversation in a queue like you’d do at home and your French queue neighbour will freak out.
  2. Smile too much to a French stranger and they’ll think you’re trying to trick them.
  3. Introduce yourself with your first name, city and nationality and French people won’t know what to say because this is way TMI for a first encounter.

Yes. Even “being nice” is a different. Some “friendly” habits you have are rude and inappropriate in France.

I’m not saying it’s “bad” in itself, it’s just different.

French children know that, because they were raised this way.

You can’t learn this from books. We are taught these rules as children, so this is also what is expected from adults. (That’s just one reason why really knowing how to learn a second language is so difficult!)

It’s the same way in English. As a child, you may have been taught that presenting yourself, smiling a lot and engaging in chit chat with your neighbour is the polite thing to do.

Remember what I said about being a fully functioning adult in a second language? You have to learn those conversation rules to become one. Otherwise, you’ll always be the nice-and-cute but clumsy-and-a-bit-boring outsider. It’s ok for a 2-days-in-Paris tourist, but not for you if you’ve been watching this lesson up to now.

B) Spoken French is very different from written French.

Beyond the conversation rules, spoken French is VERY different from written/ textbook French. That’s how I hear shocking stories from advanced students with a decade of French lessons under their belt who don’t understand real spoken French.

Real spoken French is fast with special grammar and vocabulary. And I’m not even mentioning teenage French VS Président Emmanuel Macron’s French.

Youth French is full of special slang, communication codes and tones of voice that make the language difficult to understand to an untrained ear, on purpose.

Président Emmanuel Macron is famous for using difficult, sometimes a bit outdated French words on purpose, such as the super famous “poudre de Perlimpinpin” (magic powder) and “croquignolesque” (weird, a bit fun). He wants his French to shine, like old-fashioned political language. Considering he’s only 40, it makes his vocabulary even more disconnected from everyday life.

You can read more about his unusual French here.

So if you’re planning on actually using the French you learn in a conversation, switch the spoken French fast or you’ll end up in the limbo of “I can read Victor Hugo but can’t understand a French person from the 21st century”.

Spoken French and written French being different is why we don’t artificially slow down our audio dialogues at Comme une Française. It doesn’t make any sense in French, and it is not the best way to learn a language. We provide articulate readings instead.

C) Being boring in French is a cultural sin.

Conversation is an art form. If you can’t be creative, you’ll bore French people to death. I’ve known that for 30 years.

But it was fun to see it in a post by Pamela Druckerman who wrote “Bringing Up Bébé” in The New York Times: “Even among friends, being dull is almost criminal.”

Arguing strongly can be a cultural sin in the United States. It’s supposed to be followed by violence and a destruction of friendship. In France, it’s a basic requirement. This is one of the biggest cultural misunderstandings!

This is what I see from students with no cultural skills: you can hold a conversation, but only in a 1-1 context with a French speaker. You can’t understand a dialogue (beyond the words) between several French people on TV, in a movie or in real life. Conversation always has subtleties that you have to read between the lines.

Don’t take a native as a conversation practice partner. They want to have a lively exchange with you. As mentioned above: be a fully functional adult in your second language.

Want to save this for later ?


In conclusion, knowing how to learn a second language fast and fluently goes so far beyond knowing the best tools or books. I want you to understand that you MUST:

  1. Stop comparing yourself with a child and being desperate at how slow you think you are at learning a second language.
  2. Learn how to prioritize your second language learning in order to focus on how to speak like an adult rather than obsessing about just “learning more.”
  3. Keep an eye out for what is specifically missing from your French and take the right steps to fill the gaps in your spoken French.

Et toi ?

What difference between French and your native culture have you noticed recently?
Let me know in the comments below.

Bonne journée,

Join the conversation!

  • The reading emphasizes the importance of speaking multiple languages for better performance in various contexts and beyond the use of tools or books. It suggests that children have a higher capacity to learn languages faster than adults, as they learn them for the sake of learning rather than for the sake of it. Over time, they become better at these languages. The author concludes that knowing another language is crucial for overall health and well-being, as it increases work opportunities and improves a person’s salary. Overall, speaking multiple languages is beneficial for overall well-being.

  • Very interesting reading because it helps us to understand and reflect that it is very helpful to speak more than one language because they allow you to perform better in different contexts. At the same time it tells us that knowing how to learn more than one language goes beyond tools or books. But we cannot compare ourselves as if we were children, since it tells us that children have more capacity to learn different languages faster than us adults because they do not learn them for the sake of learning, but as time goes by, they become better and better at them.
    To conclude it is important to emphasize that it is very important to know another language because it is good for our health in general and our well-being since a person who speaks more than two languages has more possibilities of work and his salary will be in the best way possible.

  • This article guides us on how to learn a second language in an immediate and dynamic way, it goes far beyond knowing the superior tools or books, it guides us that we should not compare ourselves to an infant and despair at how slow you think you are in learning a language. second language, learn to prioritize learning your second language to focus on how to dialogue like an adult instead of obsessing about only; Learn more; be attentive to what your french is especially lacking and take the appropriate measures to fill in the gaps in your spoken french.
    your children learn to form and express complex thoughts through complex sentences the guardian recently published an article discussing exactly this, showing that it is far more advantageous for immigrant children to hear eloquent, grammatically correct and richly nuanced language than to be exposed to low level pidgin English. So they can transfer those language skills the concepts, the diction and the sophisticated structures to their new language and quot It seems like a passive way of learning because the child absorbs everything they do not use grammar books or dictionaries, because they have a teacher 24 hours a day in the form of family and friends who make it easier for them to understand a

  • At the moment of learning to speak a second language we are learning about its culture and its rules. In addition, in this process you need to learn its grammatical vocabulary, conjugation to make it a fluent language. It is a myth to say that a language is absorbed only by listening to it. For this to happen, a structure such as a teacher, books or courses that help in language learning is needed.

    It is important to know that learning a second language is good for the brain and income, as it helps in health, well-being and in turn makes work fun.
    It is clear that children and adults do not learn to speak a second language in the same way. For this reason, we should not compare ourselves to children or be desperate because of how slow the learning process seems, but we should be attentive to learning this new language and when there is a gap, take the necessary measures to fill it.

  • Thanks for a very helpful as well as encouraging article! Would you mind if I share an app where people can find and hire a native tutor, as well as, video tutorials and posts related to language learning? Check this out:

  • Bonjour Géraldine. Thank you for such a comprehensive guide to learning a second language and for explaining so clearly the importance of culture and the awareness of conversational rules. However, could you expand on why you say “Don’t take a native as a conversation practice partner.” I have spoken to linguistic partners for a number of years and credit these exchanges with building confidence, not to mention now having them as friends in France, whom I have met when visiting the country.

    • Bonjour Bob,

      Good question! You’re on the right path to improving your French.
      I mean “make a clear difference between a practice partner who will patiently wait for you to speak slowly, make mistakes and struggle to understand…
      and a native who didn’t ask for it”.
      You’re lucky to have linguistic partners and it’s a GREAT way to learn (Congrats! Well done you!) and I’m sure this was based on a mutual agreement that they’d help you improve your French.
      Some people (not you, obviously) assume any French native is available to help them practice and get offended when they don’t.
      Just like if I was a complete beginner in English and was asking for directions to someone running to get their train in a station in New York at rush hour.
      We have to be respectful of people’s time and availability. That’s all. 🙂

  • I completely connect with what you say about the vocab, grammar, conjugation etc being useless if you cannot speak in everyday situations. I am a DELF B2 student, have 3 of your courses and continually try to get better and better at knowing the language and speaking to people. Here is my problem, if French people do not want to have conversations with strangers who am I meant to speak to. Just yesterday in a technical store (garden machinery) I knew the word but was pronouncing it wrongly. I waited until the transaction was complete so as not to interrupt the salesman’s calculations, then asked him how to pronounce the word. He looked at me like I had grown a new head.

    Can I say here that I have lived in France for 13 years and dont have any French friends. No-one speaks to us except un dit bonjour en passant. I also dont hang out with the Brits as there are’nt many where I am so I am trying to live a French life.

    Finally, thank you for making me understand that my conversation is too personal. I go to a podalogue each month and have had lively conversations about politics, economics, climate change etc. However, after two years of treatments I have drifted into personal matters for want of something to talk about for half an hour i am in the chair and felt her withdrawing. Now I know why.

    Thank you for this lesson.

    • Bonjour Denise,
      Thank you for your comment.
      Ahaha, great chicken and egg question! We, as French people, have the same problem. 🙂
      You already have a GREAT understanding of French culture so if I may, here’s my tip: if you want to build a conversation/relationship with someone, go on! Take it step by step.
      Like the fox in the Little Prince. “Apprivoise” the French. 🙂

      As you live in France, I’d recommend you join “une association” : bookclub, gardening club, hiking, danse… Or give English lessons! There are a great way to meet “equal” people willing to speak.
      Sharing a passion is ALWAYS a great start.

      I’m glad you solved the mystery about your podologue’s situation. Indeed, maybe she wants to keep the conversation professional.
      So keep talking! You seem to be having lovely chats!

    • I teach ESL (English as a Second Language) in Europe. Exactly what I tell my students. They want to speak English like they speak French. I tell them not to worry about perfection. Speak. I correct them, and explain, but I insist that they speak and get comfortable in basic conversation. After they feel comfortable, they feel free and not judged about mistakes. It goes for me in French as well. I have to learn like a child and deal with admin. in French. It’s a challenge, but a nice challenge.

  • I really upset the cashier in the supermarket by counting out loud the small change then handing the total amount required to her. She was telling the next person how I had insulted her honesty. I now know to present the coins in my palm or on the counter and allow the cashier to count it for me. I was insinuating she would cheat or steal from me. In my defence I was using it as an opportunity to improve my counting skills and getting used to the coins. Desole.

    • Bonjour Denise,
      Even though you think you were wrong, I think it was rude of the cashier to be so disrespectful.
      I wouldn’t recommend using busy situations as speaking practices (because everybody’s in a hurry) BUT I’m not a fan of rude French people. 🙂
      Keep up the great work!

  • Géraldine,
    I agree with everyone: this lesson was energizing and very helpful. I really do understand what you mean about “speaking as an adult” even when not fluent. I’d never really thought about it that way, but it makes sense and, of course, makes speaking more interesting and enjoyable. I am fascinated by cultural differences and have read five or six books on the these differences in France. It’s very helpful. I am also reading up on French history. Very useful as well as interesting. You are my biggest resource on popular culture. Thanks for that! Whenever I have made a cultural reference or used a colloquial phrase, I get a surprised, amused, and enthusiastic response. It’s fun!

  • Bonjour Geraldine, thank you for this lesson and even though I have heard a lot of this advice in some of your earlier resources bringing it all together in one spot is very helpful and re-enforces the message that the subjunctive and/or the conditional in French is not just what we should be focusing our energies on – yay!

    The most effective method of learning I have had since moving to France is a combination of formats such as your courses, videos, etc. and using a tutor, supplemented with watching French TV, reading French papers, magazines, and joining French activity groups – such as randonneurs and a ‘club de lecture’. Your advice that French cultural norms are a huge part of the language really helps me have the confidence to continue to dive into some of these things, take risks in plunging into conversations, and work on the part where I want to be an equal with my French friends in discussions as opposed to someone who was on the periphery of a conversation because I need help with the language. I’m not there yet, but I am working on all of this and yes, feel after five years I should be much further ahead – so perhaps I’ll slowdown a bit with my expectations – just a bit!

    Thanks for all your efforts, I really enjoy your style and commitment and my big favourite is “Everyday French Conversations” – really helpful in getting that everyday feel for the everyday conversation. I suspect I am going to have to watch them over and over again before they really sink in, but hey that’s part of the longer ‘learning window’ I’m about to allow myself. Now if only I could be fluent tomorrow. 🙂

    • Bonjour Eileen,
      Fantastic news! I’m SUPER PROUD of you. 🙂 Well done.
      Don’t despair about how fast/slow you are. There are no rules! Celebrate your improvements.

      Tip #1 to participate into a conversation with friends, my advice would be: ask questions. It will help them give you some context on the topic. It will help you understand what’s going on and get patterns about what your friends like to talk about. (–> Maybe do some research on the topic afterwards! 😉 )

      Tip #2 to get more involved in conversations: get up to date on everyday news. You can read 20 minutes (it’s free!) or any other short local publication.
      Honestly, most of the time, just like everywhere else, people don’t discuss 15th century literature. They talk about “what happened yesterday”.

  • Thank you Géraldine for this very provocative video. I’m a big fan, and especially like your Everyday French Conversations product, which has been very valuable to me and reinforces your point about the difference between spoken and written French. But I had a number of questions/reactions to other parts of this video that I wanted to share.

    First, your point about culture being so much more important to speaking a second language than vocabulary and grammar, and your admonition to “Stop focusing on superficial vocabulary learning.” Can you explain this more? What do you consider “superficial”? Also, regarding the bleu, blanc et rouge cylinders, one can be an expert in French culture but if you don’t have a solid grounding in grammar and a B1/B2 level of vocabulary, how can you have an adult conversation?? Maybe what you are saying is that if you are already at say B1/B2, you are better off spending your next increment of time studying culture rather than vocab/grammar to achieve fluency?

    Second, the point about French language being highly codified. That was quite a “teaser” and something that sounded like foreshadowing of a future course offering. I hope so – sounds very interesting. I’m sure there are certain “friendly” habits may be found rude but after 30+ years of international business travel + living in Europe I have found that despite different social mores there was always a base level of common decency everyone appreciated. My approach was always to observe and follow the example of the locals. Want to hear more from you on this!

    Finally, I agree conversation is an art form; however, if you can’t be creative in conversation you will not only bore French people to death, you’ll bore everyone to death!

    • Bonjour Mike,
      Great questions.

      1) Superficial vocabulary: non-everyday vocabulary. For example: the names of animals (Unless you’re a vet or a zoologist), complicated conjugations (the subjunctive at an A2/B1 level), literary French (the “passé simple”, 18th century French from books) etc. Stuff that will get you great grades in high-school but useless in real everyday life. It depends on your situation and level.

      2) Cylinders: I 100% agree. Expand on the cylinders based on your level. A1/A2: focus on vocabulary. B1/B2: start to include culture. I see too many students at C1/C2 level with little to no knowledge of popular culture and sometimes 0 knowledge of communication rules. This is why my Comme une Française courses have a mix of the 3 in various proportions.

      3) French is codified. You got me! Yes, it is a teaser for a little more coming soon. But this is a BIG topic and I couldn’t cover it all in 1 lesson. So you’ll see the next part of this lesson coming soon. Still free. 😉

      4) You seem to be doing GREAT. Congratulations on how you read cultures!

      5) Ahahah, yes. But the French are maybe less forgetful than others!

  • For me, this may be the best video of yours that I have seen.(Quite honestly, I wanted to pick up the telephone and call you to say “Great job!” as soon as I finished watching) Your perspective on language learning has opened my mind. I actually feel re-energized and even more interested in driving myself to a greater understanding of French, especially spoken French. I don’t have a clear path mapped out to the level of comprehension that I want to achieve, but I know that I will find it more easily if I stop
    comparing myself to a child, and stop comparing French to English.
    I’m very glad to have discovered your teachings. Please keep them coming.

    Bonne journée,


  • This lesson seems like it is saying something valuable but, having read it twice, I don’t understand how to actually go about accomplishing #2 (fluency, or adult speech).

    • Bonjour Stephen,
      Thank you for your message.
      In this lesson, I wanted to set students on the right path when learning a second language.
      I’ll show you more on how to get there specifically in French later. 🙂

  • Salut Géraldine.This is a fabulous lesson and I think it is going to change the way I try to learn french. I visit France for 2 or 3 months every year and I sometimes find conversation difficult because I always want to be ‘perfect’ I have done your free 10 week course and I am now doing the vocab and pronunciation course, which has been super helpful.

    Being Australian, we tend to be fairly relaxed and easygoing about cultural rules and manners, unlike the French who have very well established customs when it comes to politeness, to the point where it seems a bit reserved. I am now seeing that this reservedness is more about respect.

    In Oz we don’t very often say hello or good morning when we pass strangers in the street, and yet it is almost a given to say ‘bonjour’ or ‘bonsoir’ in France, except when it is crowded. And yet, I have sometimes been in a small village in France, taking photos perhaps, and a local stranger will approach me and start up a conversation. This I find charming, and sometimes surprising, and is perhaps more of a reminder about how alike we all are really !

    Just finally, I love your accent…..super!

    • Bonjour Rob,
      Awwww… Your message warms my heart! Glad to help.
      Fantastic. You’ll see big improvements each time you visit. Especially as you stay for 2-3 months.
      That’s enough time to re-familiarize yourself with spoken French, absorb new words and use them.
      Keep up the great work, you’re on the right path, Rob.

  • Hier j’ai vu un nouvelles présentateur avec ses mains sur la table. C’était bizarre. Mais en ce moment, je peux comprendre pourquoi. C’est typique en France. Merveilleux !

  • This is a very helpful lesson and I agree with most of what you said. But I have a different perspective on French friendship, based on my experience living part-time in Provence for the last ten years.

    When my wife and I first started living there, she was modestly conversational in French while I could barely speak the language. Today, we are both fully conversational, though we still make grammatical errors (tant pis.) But even in our first year in France, we began making French friends and today have a wide circle of them, some of whom are among our closest friends on Earth. My wife and I have avoided the English-speaking community, preferring instead to immerse ourselves in this wonderful new country.

    We’ve never run into the formal rules of friendship that you describe. Even our elderly neighbors in the town we lived in one year, both very conservative (FN supporters), insisted we call them not only by their first names but by their nicknames (Yoyo for Yolande, for example) and that we exchange bises upon greeting one another. Perhaps there are regional differences in France and Provence is less formal? What you describe reminds me of when I lived in the French-speaking part of Switzerland–talk about a country with rules!

    Last, I agree with you that the French are much better at disagreeing / debating an issue without letting it become personal and damaging a friendship. It is something I admire about French society. Having said that, I rarely see it in action. Most conversations, and I’ve been in hundreds of long ones, are friendly and convivial, even when it’s only the français speaking. But maybe I just have boring friends. 🙂

    • Hi Keith,
      First, congrats on forming so many friendships in France.
      Second, I’m impressed by your decision of avoiding the English speaking communities. Well done you!
      I agree with what you say about both differences. Smaller villages in the South might make situations like this easier. 🙂 About arguing: maybe they don’t when you’re around OR they just don’t argue. Both are absolutely fine!

      Good job Keith.

    • I agree with Keith’s experiences. I am just starting to learn though my wife is a fluent French speaker. Nearly every French person I’ve interacted with for more than just a few minutes will ask me my name and then give me theirs. Yes, I do find the French more reserve at times especially in Paris where we live, but I am finding many that are not at all. The conversations I have with french people are more lively, deeper and more meaningful where in the U.S. we tend to stay on the nicety level way to long. I love French culture by the way.

  • Get My Weekly Lessons

    In Your Inbox

    Join the 30,000+ French learners who get my premium spoken French lessons for free every week!

    Share this post!


    Download this lesson as a PDF!

    Please enter your name and email address to get the lesson as a free PDF!