23 Questions About Learning French in 2020, Answered!

Bonne année ! Happy new year!

I’ve heard from a lot of students these last few weeks about their French learning goals in 2020. Some of you want to improve your oral comprehension, others want to learn more French vocabulary. But what you all have in common? You have questions about learning French, of course!

I did a live Q&A last year and it was so much fun that I decided to do it again! To celebrate the new year, I asked you to send me all your questions about learning French. I got a ton of them, thank you!

Here are my answers, with links to the French learning resources I mentioned in the video.

Bonjour c’est Géraldine.
Bienvenue sur Comme une Française. C’est parti !

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1) When I read French, I understand everything without too many problems. But I always forget about the new words I’ve read when I try to use them later. How can I remember these words in a real conversation?

As I like to say to my Spanish-speaking students (or Italian, or any romance language… and even English speakers!): “Reading doesn’t count.”

Reading French can be pretty easy, but you can’t rely on your French reading skills alone if you want to have good French conversations. Speaking is what matters.

If you read or learn a new French word and you want to remember it, try placing it in a conversation you have with yourself. Come up with a few sentences using that word and practice saying them out loud.

You can talk to yourself in the mirror in the morning, or when walking the dog, or try talking to your pencil when working… Whenever it is, just talk to yourself! It may feel silly at first, but trust me — it works!

This practice will help you know exactly how to use the word in real-life conversations.

2) Could I see some interviews between you and other French citizens? Or everyday conversations, maybe with subtitles, to help practice real spoken French.

Yes, you can!

If you haven’t already, you’ll find some extra French lessons (that are all in French) every week by joining my newsletter.

Better yet, you’ll find many more examples of these interviews and conversations in my program Everyday French Conversations. This is a paid program that has exactly what you’re looking for! You’ll find videos where I speak with my French friends, as well as optional subtitles for each conversation and the full written transcripts. There’s also some quizzes, so you can test yourself and remember what you learned!

It’s the most authentic course of all. They’re real life conversations, on real everyday topics, with my real-life friends, in real French settings (and not a sound-controlled studio.) You’re basically a fly on the wall, peeking into some French people’s social life!

3) Is there a lesson on Comme une Française to see how French cooking happens?

It depends on what you’re looking for 🙂 I recently shared a lesson on French verbs for cooking that will help you navigate a French cookbook in your own kitchen!

But, if you want more insights on French people’s relationship with food and the detailed culture around it, you’ll get all that (and more) in Insider French. It’s a full program on French bread, wine, food, and French food culture that I created with a French food expert. If you’re looking for all the best tips on French cooking and cuisine, this is a great option for you!

4) I’d like to learn French in my spare time. How can I learn sentence construction, some common idioms, and hopefully enough pronunciation to be understood, quickly?

That’s a great goal. And a tall order, good luck! My free weekly lessons can help you with all of this.

But, if you want to start with more structure, check out French for Beginners. It’s my only program for total (or almost) beginners, and I designed it to help you speak French right away, even if you’re starting from scratch.

French for Beginners will help you with all the basics and help you focus on the stuff you need to be understood in French conversation as quickly as possible: only the grammar you need, some useful vocabulary, and a lesson on pronunciation so you can speak with confidence.

Even if you don’t know much, and even if (you think) you still sound horrible in French, at the end of the course, you’ll be able to make your own first basic sentences in a real French conversation – and that’s what matters.

5) I’d like to learn the basic tenses in French.

A problem in French conjugation is that the most common tense is the present tense – and it’s very irregular! That means you’ll need to put in the work to learn even the most common verbs — there’s no way around that. But, I believe in you!

After that, you’ll need to learn “l’imparfait” (the progressive past, very easy and regular), le passé composé (very common, quite tricky), and a tense for the future (like le futur proche).

If you’re really feeling up to it, why not then learn l’imperatif (the grammatical mood for orders and advice), before the dreaded (*shudders*)… subjonctif?

For spoken French conversation, you won’t need le passé simple nor le subjonctif imparfait, so skip those.

You can learn on your own with my free weekly lessons and other resources — or, you can learn the basic tenses in French with more structure! My program Test Your Conjugation for Beginners OR Test Your Conjugation Intermediate gives you step-by-step lesson plans and (a lot of) quizzes. It’s designed for different levels, with everything you need to learn (and remember) the basic French tenses at your specific level of French.

6) I’m going to Paris next year. I’d like to know more slang, and how to deal with common situations: at the restaurant, how to ask for a bag at a checkout… And everything that can make me sound more “French”.

Congrats, you’ll have fun in Paris!

I can recommend some of my lessons on everyday French slang, ‘shocking’ French slang (and swear words), or how to speak French at the restaurant.

But I also think you would enjoy French Conversation with Confidence: it’s my best program for tourists or visitors in France! In it, I will walk you through real everyday French conversations — the exact kind you would encounter in Paris — and you’ll learn how to master real-life situations. Get the confidence you need to enjoy your trip to France as much as possible!

7) How about planning a two-week immersion trip, that includes class time and visits to different places?

That’s a great idea! I’m not doing that myself (for now, at least), but I can recommend some friends of mine.

The first one is Accent Français (“French accent”), a school in sunny Montpellier in Southern France. They offer exactly what you’re talking about: an immersion trip, complete with visits and lessons. They’re a great school! I even made a few video lessons with them, about immersion and tips to learn French, such as my conversation with Julie, or my tips for learning French that I recorded in front of a class.

I also recommend the company Safran Tours. They’re organizing different lovely trips in France (mostly by bike or hikes). They won’t give you French lessons, but you’ll have a great trip! They’re the company I use in my personal life when I travel around France during the holidays, so you’ll be able to visit in a truly authentic way!

8) I would love vocabulary lessons, however I have always most struggled with verbs in the past.

Why not learn both?

You can get more comfortable with French verbs with my course Test Your Conjugation, or my other grammar lessons, such as:

Learning French vocabulary is endless. You can start on my blog of course – take a look at question 12 in this lesson as well! But, I don’t think you should set out to learn “French vocabulary” for itself. Instead, you can focus on learning specific parts of French vocabulary that can be useful to you. Narrow down your focus and you’ll learn much more!

Try to read / watch / learn vocabulary about your job or your passion, for instance. This way, you can quickly use your French to connect with people – and that will organically expand your vocabulary even further!

Also, it’s more fun.

9) What’s the difference between “Quoique” and “Quoi que” ? And between “Bien que” and “Malgré que” ?

Oh. That’s a tricky one.

So, “Quoi que” means “Whatever…”, mostly at the beginning of a sentence (never on its own), and it’s followed by the subjunctive tense. As in “Quoi que je fasse, je pense à toi” (= “Whatever I do, I think about you”).

Quoique” in one word means “Even though / Although.” It’s often used on its own, as in: “Je pense que ça va marcher. Quoique…” = “I think it’s going to work. Although…”

Bien que also means “even though”, and it’s followed by a verb in the subjunctive (never on its own). As in: Bien que je ne sois pas là, je pense à toi. = Even though I’m not here, I think about you.

Finally, “Malgré que” doesn’t exist! We only say Malgré (= despite), and it’s always followed by a noun. As in: Malgré mes problèmes, je pense à toi. = Despite my problems, I’m thinking about you.

Some French people say “Malgré que” but it’s a mistake that you shouldn’t make.

So now you have your answer! However…

These four grammatical structures are all fairly rare in everyday spoken French.

I don’t know your level, but if you don’t have at least an intermediate level of spoken French… then I forbid you to care about this question!

It’s something that I see in my students, that’s not too uncommon: be careful about being too much of a perfectionist with your French grammar!

Don’t worry about your grammar mistakes for now. Really, they’re not that important — and, as I’ve said, even French people often make them. Don’t get stuck with complicated grammar problems. Focus on communication instead!

Once you’re confident speaking French (and making tons of mistakes), then you can try refining the way you say things. But, getting stuck too early in French might sap your motivation. You’ll never get everything right anyway. French is very complicated and illogical.

What you can do is to start with the sentences you’ll need in your everyday French conversations and the tools to express your ideas and build relationships. Grammatical progress will come organically later — or maybe not! Either way, you’ll have too much fun to notice.

10) What’s the difference between “Qu’est-ce que… ?” and “Est-ce que... ?”

That’s a great idea for a future video lesson! Keep your eyes peeled in 2020.

For now, I’ll give you the short answer:
Qu’est-ce que…” means “What is…”, as in Qu’est-ce que c’est ? (= What is it?)

Est-ce que…“ means “Is it… ?”, but it can come with a different subject later in the sentence. Basically, it’s just the grammatically correct way to announce “this is going to be a Yes/No question !”

So “Est-ce que tu es là ?” literally means “Is it that you’re here?” You should understand it as “[Yes / no question] + You are here”. So, you would finally translate it as: “Are you here?

It’s a bit more complicated than the bare minimum, though. In real spoken French, we more often simply add an interrogation point at the end of a sentence:
Tu es là. (= You are here.) → Tu es là ? (= Are you here?)

11) Do you have a lesson on French literature ?

I love to recommend books and comic books on Comme une Française!

Click here to find my free lessons on French books.

12) Can I get some French idiomatic expressions, to sound more French and make my French friends laugh?

Oh, yes you can!

You can make your French friends laugh with:

I love colloquial and/or weird French expressions. When a foreigner uses one, their French friends immediately know that they’re not a “simple” tourist, but someone who really wants to learn French. It gives you that little bit of extra that can help you start a friendship.

Also they’re fun to learn, and fun to use.

13) Do you have a lesson at the airport?

A few years ago, I made a guide on arriving at (and leaving from) the Parisian Charles-de-Gaulle Airport. Later, I expanded the lesson with French Vocabulary for airports: the different areas, how to say “passport,” and more vocabulary that will help you navigate a French airport with a little bit less stress.

You can also find a lesson on trains (and train travel) in France.

14) How can I talk to French neighbors?

I love this topic. Neighbors are people you might see often. Sometimes they can become friends, sometimes they’re just polite strangers — but in any case, interacting with them will involve small talk and the French basics.

I cover this relationship in French at the intermediate level in French Conversation with Confidence – so you always have something to say in the elevator, for instance.

For more advanced students, I encourage you to check out Subtle French for Fitting In, where you’ll dive into building a relationship with your neighbour (and other French people). You’ll learn the “basic” chit chat, of course, but also something more: French culture, and how we relate to each other over time. It’s something that most students don’t even see – so you don’t know that you don’t know!

With this program, you’ll get to understand the mindset of French people, how we build relationships slowly, and how we make friends!

15) How to flirt in French?

You can start by learning how to compliment someone in French — it can help to be nice. Small talk in French can help, too.

But flirting is a subtle art, that leans on your confidence and your personality more than your words or vocabulary. You can even flirt without any words, or in languages you don’t know… My parents met when my mom didn’t speak a single word of French!

Whatever your level or vocabulary, don’t be afraid to flirt in French (if it’s appropriate) – you only need general communication skills. That involves every lesson of mine, yet it’s also nothing I can teach!

16) Why not a lesson that’s all in French?

Some of my free lessons are all in French. For example:

But, I’m not going to switch to make all my free lessons fully in French. On YouTube, videos are short and need to be adapted to the people who watch them – including beginner students. They’re here to keep you engaged with learning French, with entertainment and some useful tips or scripts you can use.

To go deeper into learning French (or French comprehension), you can check out my full courses. The programs for intermediate learners and up are all in French!

You can also subscribe to my free newsletter, where I send weekly lessons that are written all in French.

17) Can I tip you for your free lessons?

Thank you, but I’m happy to give away my free lessons for free!

If you want to get more involved with Comme une Française, you can take a look at my paid courses. They’re full of practical tips for you, and there’s lots of ways to learn and test yourself. They’re cheaper than they’ll ever be right now (especially if you get the discounts from my newsletter), and you’ll have access to them forever, whenever, and wherever.

18) Is there a way to sound like a foreign French speaker and be confident with it?

YES! Sounding like a foreign French speaker is OK! You can improve your French accent, but it’s mostly not a problem.

You don’t need “perfect” pronunciation. Instead, you should focus on using the right words, building sentences, and learning some grammar – especially the “real-life”, more simple grammar of spoken French.

You’re better off sounding like a confident colloquial foreign speaker than a “perfect grammar” textbook robot!

19) How can I improve my oral French comprehension?

Have fun! You can improve your French comprehension with anything French: Netflix shows (such as “Dix pour cent” / “Call my agent”), Youtube channels in French about your own passion, French movies (with or without subtitles).

Students often make the mistake of thinking these French shows will teach them vocabulary (you might learn some vocabulary, but only very slowly) – but they can be quite effective for improving your comprehension!

20) It’s been a long time since you gave a practice dictation. Why not another one?

I love those. I thought I was the only one! Maybe in 2020, who knows?

You can test yourself on the first dictation, or the second try.

21) Terminer / Finir : what’s the difference?

It’s like “to end” and “to finish” : they’re mostly synonyms.

Terminer” (first group verb, means “to end”) is a bit more elegant than Finir (= irregular verb, more common).

22) Can we have a lesson about finishing a meal? Such as a closing dialogue between diners and waitstaff?

Good idea!

That’s actually a part of my program Subtle French for Fitting In. We cover real-life scripts for complimenting the chef at the end of a meal, and how your conversation with the waitstaff changes as you gradually become un habitué / une habituée (= a patron, a regular.)

23) I’d like to be part of your Salon again in 2020! Will it come back?

YES!

For students who don’t already know, Le Salon is my only live class where you can get 2 one-hour live online lessons every month (and an email with a written lesson every week.)

It’s 100% in French, and I can help you in real time with your French and your own mistakes. But what I (and my students) enjoy most is that it’s always up to date.

We cover cultural elements about what’s happening in France right now: books, movies, TV shows, politics, the strikes… It’s all real-life French culture and current events!

And (spoilers): it’s going to reopen at the end of the month!

I’ll keep you informed with my newsletter. Be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already — that’s where you’ll find exclusive lessons (like PDFs or complements to my free YouTube lessons), bonuses, extra free resources, and many discounts to my paid programs.

24) Bonne année !

Bonne année !
I hope to keep teaching you French in 2020!
See you next week 🙂

ET TOI?

Tu vas faire quoi en 2020 ?
What are you going to do in 2020?

You can answer in the comments – in French if you dare!

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Allez, salut 🙂

Join the conversation!

  • Merci Géraldine, we will be delighted to greet your students at Accent Français anytime during the year to offer them a great immersion in France ! A bientôt à Accent Français ! Stéphanie

  • Bonjour Geraldine. When I listen to French people talking,as on the radio or tv,I am trying to translate the french words into English in my mind but find it tres dificile!…is this the wrong way of doing it?.. I have been told that I shouldnt be doing it this way?

  • Bonne année Geraldine.
    Vous m’avez invité à partager mes questions
    On pourrait aussi dire – vous m’avez demandé de partager mes questions.
    Et je voudrais partager mes questions.
    En anglais, toutes ces constructions de phrases sont du verbe plus l’infinitif simple.
    Ma question est – quand faut-il utiliser , ou l’infinitif simple dans ces constructions?

      • Pardon. certains mots n’ont pas été collés dans mon message, ce qui rend la question inutile.
        En anglais, on dit des choses comme «I invite you to come» ou «I’d like you to come» «I am asking you to come» ou «I’d like to come». Il n’y a pas de préposition avant l’infinitif, mais en français il faut parfois mettre “à” ou “de” avant l’infinitif ou parfois juste l’infinitif ou une clause avec un verbe subjonctif.
        Quelles sont les règles?
        C’est un sujet que j’aimerais que vous abordiez, s’il vous plait.

  • Bonne année Géraldine, je pense que un leçon avec les ‘faux amis’ peut-être très utile? J’aime bien les autres questions poser aussi.
    Merci pour m’aide avec Français.
    Bonne journée
    Anne

  • Cher Geraldine, Je vous souhaite une Bonne Annee, En Mars je vais devenir une grandmere en nouvelle zealande. Ma fille est anglaise Mais mon beau fils est Francais et je voudrais parler avec Le Bebe avec les petit chansons et les histoires ‘ d’enfant que tous les bebes francais entendre de ses Grandmeres!
    Bisous, Wendy

  • Bonne Année Géraldine, et bonjour aussi ~
    My French language project for this new year is to
    visit France fairly frequently (from the UK), and to
    concentrate on discovering various restaurants as
    I do ~ in French.
    Your excellent courses, Subtle French, Insider French
    and Exercise Your French all contain very useful
    information and guidance that will help me to do
    this.
    Merci beaucoup Géraldine, et bon appétit 🙂

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