Are you trying to pick French up again after several years, or maybe even decades?
Maybe you have some big gaps in your French learning journey, or you’ve forgotten most of the French that you learned in high school or on your study abroad in France, but something recently piqued your interest in re-learning.
Reconnecting with your French is a great way to keep your brain working, and you’re never too old (or too young) to learn or refresh your French!
In today’s lesson, I want to share some practical tips for restarting your French learning, with some vocabulary tips to help you adjust to modern, everyday French.
1) Reconnect with your French: Structured programs help!
Félicitations ! (= Congrats!) Learning is fun – and reconnecting with French is the best way to engage with French culture. Or even to travel to France!
Now, you’re full of motivation to learn French. That’s great!
The problem is: motivation quickly fades out after a time. But you can use your motivation today as a starting point.
Set up un système (= a system) to keep practicing even tomorrow. And the day after that, and whenever life is happening. A simple way to do it is to join a structured program – so your motivation today doesn’t go to waste!
Find something that suits you, where you’ll have regular reminders and motivation.
Click here to learn more: French Structured Courses for all Levels
2) Reconnect with your French: Finding French culture online
For your regular practice, you can take advantage of the giant trove of French culture and resources just at your fingertips.
Yes, back in your childhood days, maybe, when you were learning French in school, it was probably difficult to find good French movies or even any French TV show to watch.
But nowadays, there’s a ton of new films and series that you can watch right now online, on Netflix or YouTube or any streaming service, and they’re a great way to practice your understanding of spoken French. Or just having fun with French culture!
Click here to learn more:
3) Reconnect with your French: What has changed
Since last time you practiced, some French words have changed meanings. Or they’re outdated and not used as much anymore.
Of course, slang has changed. We don’t really use 70s slang like une gonzesse (= “a girl”) anymore.
Click here to learn more: Outdated French Words from The 70’s
But don’t worry too much about it. First, because you probably didn’t learn that much French slang in the first place. And second, because you can still use it, even if it might be a bit old-fashioned: from you, it shows you’ve made an effort, it will sound cute and endearing.
On this topic, let me expand on two words:
Mademoiselle = “Miss,” a term to refer to a woman who’s not married.
In everyday life, it’s used for young women.
Some people see “Mademoiselle” as kind of sexist. It can be used in a demeaning way, it’s infantilizing, and there’s no male equivalent. It’s being slowly phased out of official forms.
But for you, don’t worry: you can still use it in everyday life.
It’s part of a group of titles to address people politely. These are:
Mademoiselle (Mlle) for unmarried women (or now, most young women)
→ plural: Mesdemoiselles (Mlles) (silent “Mes” sounds like “Meh”, no “s” sound)
Madame (Mme) for married women (or now, for any woman)
→ plural : Mesdames (Mmes)
Monsieur (M.) for any man (sounds like: [Muhs / yuh], silent “r”)
→ plural : Messieurs (MM.) (sounds like: [Mess / yuh] )
They’re used on their own, or before a name:
- Merci, madame = Thank you, Madam.
- Bonjour monsieur Durand. = Hello Mr Durand
But really, the important politeness words are still:
- Merci = Thank you
- De rien = You’re welcome
- Bonjour = Hello
- Excusez-moi. = Excuse me
- Bon appétit
b) Bon appétit.
Bon appétit. = “Good appetite,” “Enjoy your meal.” (silent “t”)
In French culture, meals are a social event, and we take the time to enjoy them with people. And to celebrate that, and to give more ritual and meaning to our everyday meals, we start it by wishing “Bon appétit” to the people we’re sharing it with. It’s a sign that we all can start our meal.
Now, some people are contrarian, and you might hear about how “Bon appétit is actually rude” or something like this. But there’s no historical basis to it, and people don’t find it rude in everyday life, so keep using “Bon appétit.”
Click here to learn more: Souhaiter «bon appétit» est-ce vraiment impoli ? [Article by newspaper “Libération”]
4) Reconnect with your French: Everyday spoken French
Practice your informal French!
Informal French might not be what you learned back in school, but that’s the French we actually use in everyday life. And the one you’ll hear in most movies and shows and resources that you’ll find in modern French culture.
Now, good news: everyday informal spoken French is often simpler than proper French.
a) Drop the “ne”
You might remember how to build negative sentences in French, with “ne… pas”, like: Je ne sais pas. = I don’t know.
In informal French, we very often drop the “ne” from that kind of sentence. For instance, we say: Je sais pas.
- Elle n’est pas là. (= She’s not there.) → Elle est pas là.
- Ils n’ont pas le temps. (= They don’t have time for this.) → Ils ont pas le temps.
- Je ne suis pas sûre. (= I’m not sure.) → Je suis pas sûr.
Click here to learn more: Spoken French Rules – Drop the “ne”
b) Cut the “e”
One step further: we also cut the “e” whenever we can, to speak faster. Most notably in small, one-syllable words. Such as “Je” for instance.
So we’d say instead:
- J’suis pas sûre. = I’m not sure.
- J’sais pas. = I don’t know.
Oh, and actually, “J” + “s-” → Ch-. We actually say:
- Chuis pas sûre. = I’m not sure.
- Chais pas. = I don’t know.
Finally, with another example:
Ce matin, le train est arrivé à l’heure. (= This morning, the train arrived on time.) → C’matin, l’train est arrivé à l’heure.
That’s the kind of thing that will really help you start understanding the informal spoken French that you’ll hear. Then you can start applying what you learned years ago, like grammar and vocabulary etc.
Click here to learn more: Essentials of Spoken French – Cutting the “e”
c) Filler words
Some words are just filler. When you hear them in a French conversation, don’t give them too much meaning, focus instead on the rest of the sentence. Words such as:
- Quoi = What
- Euh = Hum
- Tiens = Take this example
- Du coup = So
- Tu vois = You see
- Genre = Like
Click here to learn more: Essentials of Spoken French – French Filler Words
And now you can dive deeper into Understanding Spoken French!
Click here to learn more:
- Understand Fast Spoken French Conversation: Mont-St-Michel with 2 native French speakers
- Understanding Fast Spoken French: Unpronounced letters
- Understanding Spoken French (Even When It’s Fast)
À tout de suite.
I’ll see you in the next video!
→ 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 learn more spoken French for free. Students love it! Start now and you’ll get Lesson 01 right in your inbox, straight away.