In the many years that I’ve been teaching French, I discovered a problem that all my students seem to face. It’s my students’ biggest struggle:
Understanding fast spoken French.
If you’re a French learner, you’ve probably said these sentences out of frustration at some point (even if only in your head):
“Please, can you speak more slowly?”
“Why do Parisians always talk so fast?!”
“Wait, what did you say? Why did everyone laugh? I didn’t get it. I guess I should smile anyway, to try and fit in…”
You see, before you start really understanding fast spoken French, you need:
- oral comprehension (to catch the words);
- vocabulary (to understand the words);
- cultural references (to catch the meaning of the words and phrases).
If you’re stuck at #1, you’ll get nowhere.
If you’re stuck at #2, you’ll just nod and smile.
If you’re stuck at #3, you’ll never laugh at jokes or have meaningful conversations in French.
This is a hard problem! And it’s completely normal to struggle with it as a French learner.
How are you supposed to know the use of an expression like “En voiture, Simone !” for instance? (It’s been popularised by the TV show Intervilles in the 60’s, but it’s now a fun way to say “Let’s go.”)
To improve your French oral comprehension, for instance, you need:
- Help: resources to help you improve your oral comprehension AND knowledge of French culture at the same time.
- Method: so you can improve slowly and gradually to improve within your comfort zone.
- Practice: so you can test yourself and identify your mistakes to fix them quickly.
PS: This is something we talked about last week in my email newsletter. Click here to sign up to my email list to make sure you never miss these tips!
And finally, you need time.
As long as you dedicate some time in your daily or weekly routine to learn (with the right help and method) and then practice what you’ve learned, it will no longer feel like you’re translating everything French people say, word by word.
But of course, here’s the real problem, the question all my students ask:
WHERE DO YOU FIND TIME?
This is a difficult one to get in your busy life, I know.
Let me help you with this!
Learning goals: This is what you’ll be able to do after watching this lesson
- Make time to study French
- Have ideas to improve your French in 10 minutes or less
- What to do to improve your French if you have more time
Bonjour c’est Géraldine.
Bienvenue sur Comme une Française. C’est parti !
Want all the vocabulary of the lesson ?
Want to read this lesson later ?
1) Where can you find the time to improve your French?
We all like to say “I don’t have the time.” As in “I wish I could change, learn, get better at something, but…”
And of course, we all know it deep down: it’s only an excuse.
Here are some activities you can cut back to get back control of your own time:
- Scrolling on social media, like watching cats GIFs that your aunt’s friend shared 5 minutes ago
- Correcting strangers on the Internet
- Watching ads on TV – or shows you don’t even like!
- Checking your emails 10 times a day
- Watching YouTube videos you don’t care about, and won’t learn anything from (or even remember) (yes, it might even be some Comme une Française’s videos!)
After all: you don’t need to improve your French. But you need to decide what your priorities are!
If you really enjoy watching long YouTube videos, if it’s something that you prioritized doing instead of doing something else – then go for it! As long as you don’t hurt anyone, there’s no wrong way to be happy.
But in the same way, if you want to speak French fluently, and understand what French people tell you in a conversation, then you need to take back control of your priorities – and I promise you, you’ll find the time.
Every small step helps, if it’s part of a routine.
Luckily there are resources and ideas you can try to make it productive – even in 10 minutes or less.
For instance, I like to recommend Earworms for oral comprehension.
With iTalki, you can find a learning partner and chat in French as you take a walk in the park…
You can also study on our own!
You can print out vocabulary sheets with the words that you find the most useful or difficult, or you can print out your lesson notes! (see part 3)
And Quizlet can also help you make your own quizzes to self-test (or find ready-made ones).
Finally, you can of course listen to a lesson you already studied.
In the Comme une Française school, you can download all your lessons and dialogues in MP3 to listen on your phone or tablet.
3) What to do with 10 minutes or more
What if you have a bit more time every day?
Then you should create a ritual. This will really help you make your French learning a part of your routine. (And plan it in your calendar, if you can – don’t “wait for the right time” or you won’t do it. You need to create the occasion.)
And then get to work!
For a Comme une Française course, you should focus on 1 lesson per week. This means one point of grammar, one verb, one conjugation…
It seems long but you’ll know the content inside out. It’s the best ROI ever !
(And of course, you have a lifetime access to the course anyway.)
Smart Tip: consuming content is good. But it’s even more important to review, test yourself, and remember what you saw before.
This applies to everything you learn. You can even do this with Comme une Française weekly lessons!
On Comme une Française School, I offer tests so my students can learn faster and avoid learning mistakes. And the lesson path is structured. Not random.
L’apprentissage structuré (= structured learning) is the quickest way to get results that matter, outside of being parachuted into a small French city and forced to speak 5000 French words a day with locals.
For instance, here’s a schedule sample you can create yourself, for a week:
- Day 1: Discover – Watch the lesson once.
- Day 2: Take notes – Watch again and take notes. On Comme une Française, you can download the PDF of the lesson for free to take notes/highlight elements on it. Ask questions.
- Day 3: Test yourself – With Quizlet OR a Comme une Française Quiz OR with a friend.
- Day 4: Practice – Make sentences with what you learned in the lesson. Use the comment area.
- Day 5: Review – Go through your notes again, re-test yourself, share your findings with fellow classmates..
- Day 6 and 7 – Same as Day 5
You don’t need to tackle a lot every week. You don’t need to take a long time everyday. But with structure and regularity, you’ll soon make results that last longer.
If you feel like “Eh, I’m more ambitious, I could study more!” that’s good. But don’t do it. Instead, focus on remembering and using what you just learned.
Studying more is tempting but you’re here for the long run, not for short-term bragging rights. You don’t want to burn a lot of energy in one day, and give up after 2 weeks, do you?
I want you to ENJOY learning and using your French!
Et toi ?
Quel sujet vas-tu étudier pendant une semaine ?
What topic are you going to study for a week?
For example, you can write: “Je voudrais mémoriser le présent du verbe “faire” parce qu’il est très utile en français.” (“I’d like to memorize the present tense of the verb “faire” (= to make) because it’s very useful in French.”)
Want to save this for later ?
→ If you enjoyed this lesson (and/or learned something new) – why not share this lesson with a francophile friend? You can talk about it afterwards! You’ll learn much more if you have social support from your friends 🙂
→ Double your Frenchness! Get my 10-day “Everyday French Crash Course” and discover more spoken French for free. Students love it! Start now and you’ll get Lesson 01 right in your inbox, straight away. Click here to get started
Allez, salut 🙂