15 Ways to Improve Your French in 2020

© Frenchly / Jenny Hughes

You’re never truly done learning French, or really any language for that matter. There are always more words to discover, more difficult r-sounds to make better, and more word genders to memorize. It’s a task that can be daunting or often feel like homework, especially if you’re taking a class that literally gives homework. Busy lives often don’t allow for that kind of time commitment, but you can commit to improving your language skills on your own time, focusing on the aspect you want to improve on most (reading, writing, listening, speaking), and in the way that works best for you — not all learners are the same and that’s fine!

Here’s a list of 15 ways to practice your French on your own time. If the idea of doing any of them regularly is overwhelming, start small by trying one suggestion per month and really committing to it. By the end of the year, you’ll have a resolution you stuck with (to improve your language skills!) and French to be proud of.

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1. Watch stand-up comedy

There aren’t many more-fun ways to learn French than by watching stand-up comedy. Sebastien Marx, an American who is a naturalized French citizen, is a great option, because he speaks French slowly and articulates well. British comedian Paul Taylor is another great option who will have you laughing at the idiosyncrasies of French culture.

2. Keep a French journal

 

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It’s a judgmental-free way to practice writing. Write a few lines every day, or a couple paragraphs every week. Look up phrases and words you don’t know that need to know to adequately se plaindre about your coworkers in the private pages of your French notebook.

3. Up your slang

In 2018, Frenchly published a monthly list of words heard around the French-speaking office where its HQ is. These are hardly the words of you learned in your middle school Allez-viens! text book. You’ll learn how to brag (bîm dans ta face), describe that awkward guy at the bar (relou), establish that something obviously had to happen (forcément), tease someone for being terrible at something (quiche), and casually allude to playing hooky from work (prendre mon vendredi).

4. Practice speaking with a language partner

 

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Figuring out how to practice speaking is the hardest part of working on your French. There are a lot of benefits to having a language partner; among them, you get to help someone else learn your language and they help you learn theirs (French). Learn more about language partners and how to find one here.

5. Groove to French music

Step one: Listen to some French-language music. Try Angèle, Vegedream, or other trendy artists. Step two: Find a song that really makes you feel good or even dance. Step three: Look up the lyrics (google the name of the song and the word “paroles”). Read them, then read a translation of them (search the title, “paroles” and “en anglais”). Step four: If the song still resonates with you, work on learning the lyrics. If not, repeat steps two through four. Guaranteed, you’ll learn song fun new things like “thune” and “faire de l’argent.”

6. Follow French journalists on Instagram

You spend hours scrolling through other people’s this-vacation-looks-life-changing-but-I’ll-caption-it-as-though-I’m-disappointed photos, you might as well add a few French posts to the mix. Here’s our list of a few French journalists’ feeds to check out.

7. Binge French TV shows 

Netflix is a gold mine for French TV. Watch with English subtitles or challenge yourself by taking them off. Go for Parisian rom-com Plan Cœur, polemic drama Marseille, or docuseries Who Killed Little Gregory?. If reality TV is your thing, you can sign up for M6, the French TV channel, and watch their shows in the U.S. (yes really!). Les Marseillais is the French equivalent of Jersey Shore, and it’ll teach you a whole new kind of vocabulary (and accent!).

8. Listen to podcasts

The key to successfully using podcasts as a tool to practice listening to French is to actually listening to a podcast you’re interested in. If the topic is so boring that you tune out, then there’s no point. There’s a huge variety of French-language podcasts available. Check out our list of favorites here. If you want to maximize your learning, keep a note on your phone for writing down words and phrases used that you don’t understand to look up later.

9. Write to a French friend

The postal system is under-appreciated point. (As in, period. No arguing, it’s just true.) Marvel at its ability to send correspondence around the world, reconnect with a friend and practice your written French, putting pen to paper, by sending a letter. Have fun, make jokes, practice your tenses as you recall old memories and share when your next trip to France is. There’s no pressure — you’re writing to a friend!

10. Keep up with French culture

 

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Staying connected to French culture is an important aspect of working on your French. Read Frenchly to get ideas for French wine bars to visit and work on your wine skills, which books could help you learn about fromage, and the latest political debate to read up on. Listen to The New Paris and The Earful Tower to keep up with a changing France (and get a few travel ideas).

11. Take a trip to a French-speaking country

Before touch-down on the runway, make a pledge to your travelmates to only speak French together. If you’re the singular French-speaker on the trip, ask them to make you pledge to only speak French to French people you interact with (it’s hard to stay in French when French people often want to converse in English with you!). Stick to your word!

12. Flip through French magazines

This is an excellent option for visual learners or people who just don’t feel like they have time to commit to reading a novel. There are plenty of options, whether you’re interested in travel, style or décor. Use a pen to circle words you don’t know or put a Post-It on the back inside cover and write down words you want to look up or remember. Buy French magazines at second-hand bookstores, locations that sell French magazines, or stock up on your next trip to a Francophone country.

13. Stream French movies

France is so proud of their movies, they refer to cinema as the seventh art form. Netflix is another godsend for this one (check out our list of Netflix movies to watch this winter), and Amazon Prime has a selection as well. The hidden goldmine is Kanopy, a free streaming service available to most anyone with a library card. This is where you’ll find the classics like Cleo 5 à 7 and Les Quatre cent coups. Watching cult films like Dîner des Cons and Les Bronzés will also clue you in on popular movie references.

14. Plan a trip

 

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Not the same as taking a trip, this involves reading French and keeping up with cultural trends. Create an itinerary. Decide where you want to eat (check out La Felicita’s website to see the menu and learn the word “teuf”) and search for cool bars (learn on Le Bonbon about where to get raclette or about the new cookie dough bar). Make a new folder in Bookmarks to remember what you’ve learned for when you’re actually in France.

15. Read French Morning

Frenchly, your favorite Francophile site, has a sister website called French Morning. With articles in French targeting French expats in the U.S., London and Montréal, French Morning is a great way to practice reading in French about what’s going on in the Francophone community living abroad.