When’s the last time that you practiced your comprehension of real, everyday spoken French? Watching French movies and diving into French resources is fun, but it’s important to put in some work if you want to really improve your French comprehension.
Of course, it’s more than okay to absorb French content just for fun! But today, I want to encourage you to practice. Because with a little work, French resources can be amazing tools for learning!
Let’s practice your understanding of fast spoken French by analyzing one real example together.
Want all the vocabulary of the lesson ?
1. First viewing – Understanding the broad strokes
In the video lesson, I show you a short clip with Paul Taylor. He’s an English comedian who speaks perfect French, with the accent we have in everyday spoken French. He’s driving around in his car, answering questions for the French Huffington Post online.
[ Le truc en plus : Check out his full show #FRANGLAIS on YouTube, it’s really funny. And subtitled!]
Can you understand what he’s talking about? In very broad strokes?
Maybe you didn’t understand everything. Maybe you didn’t understand most of it. It’s OK! He’s speaking just like everyday French people do in real French conversations, and it can go pretty fast! Now we could despair and give up… but instead, we will cheat 😉 .
2. Second viewing – Subtitles and vocabulary
When learning French, you’re allowed to cheat. It’s not school anymore. You’re not here to get a good grade. You only want to improve and have fun.
So first, let’s put on subtitles. On YouTube, for instance, you can often find automatic subtitles, and they can help you get closer to understanding.
Can you understand the clip with the subtitles on?
La troisième chose que j’ai apprise, c’est que les Français, vous avez du mal à parler anglais, mais ce n’est pas de votre faute. C’est parce que tout le monde vous juge. Et vous avez peur de parler. Et parce que vous avez peur de parler, bah vous avez un accent… bah un peu pourri, comme les Anglais quand ils parlent anglais. Mais le truc qui est difficile, c’est que vous enlevez les “h” de partout, là où il faut pas enlever les “h.” Par exemple, ‘Uffington Post, c’est pas ‘Uffington, c’est Huffington, there’s a [bleep] H. Huffington. Voilà.
→ What don’t you understand from this transcription? Write those words down in your notebook and translate the words you didn’t know.
When working with your own resources, you can stop here, and that would be fine! But today, let’s go one step further.
3. Third viewing – Specifics of spoken French
Listen to what he’s actually saying – and how he’s saying it.
→ You can slow down the video (on VLC, on your DVD player, or on YouTube) to better parse spoken French.
You’ll hear some things that are typical of spoken French. We don’t usually write it down!
For example, here we have:
- “Eating” some letters.
→ For example, “il faut” is pronounced “i’faut.” (= there needs to be… you need to…)
- The “ne” is dropped in negative sentences
→ For instance, “ce n’est pas” (= it’s not) is actually pronounced “c’est pas”
- Colloquial language.
→ Here, “pourrie” (= rotten) is used in its familiar meaning of “awful, lame.”
You can learn a ton of French vocabulary, but if you don’t know how we mispronounce it in real life you won’t be able to match what you hear with the vocabulary you know!
This is a process that you can apply yourself with any French resource. It takes time but trust me, it pays off.
Oh, and by the way, did you notice? He says that “English people have a bad accent when they speak English.” He probably meant “when they speak French.” In real life, we sometimes plainly make mistakes too!
4. Fourth viewing – your progress
Watch the clip one more time, without subtitles and at normal speed. How much do you understand now? Do you hear the words more clearly?
Now, you can do the same with other clips on your own.
Meanwhile, set yourself two reminders:
- Come back to this lesson in a week
- Come back to it in a month
It’s called spaced repetition. That’s how you can actually remember things. Write down what you understand each time, and look at your progress!
Practice your hearing too. For example, check out these other lessons:
- French pronunciation: Hear the difference between “ou” and “u”
- French pronunciation: Hearing the French “-euil” sound
- French pronunciation: What’s “la liaison” and how we use it
À tout de suite.
I’ll see you in the next lesson!
→ 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 🙂
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