Aspiring Francophones search tirelessly for the secret to mastering the most beautiful language on Earth. What is it, alors?
If you have already had the experience of learning a language from zero to fluidity, then you know that it is an enriching, limitless journey. There is always more to discover about the language — and ourselves — in the process. The bonne nouvelle (good news) is that you only have to learn French once to speak it forever. The key to successfully mastering it the first time around is staying engaged throughout your “French Journey.”
Here are 6 secrets to learning French successfully, or, “The 6 C’s.” And while you learn, remember that French loves you back just as much as you love it, probably more.
Stay curious. In the moments when the subjunctive has you down, when your indirect and direct object pronouns have you wanting to beat your textbook with a baguette, when the use of French prepositions has you exclaiming, “Why?!” — breathe, relax and say, “Why not?” Turning your frustration into curiosity will not only make the journey more enjoyable but will also inspire you to explore the ins and outs of French grammar and pronunciation until your understanding becomes natural. Catch yourself trying to make French grammar fit into the paradigm of your native language? This is a sure sign that you’ve abandoned your sense of curiosity. Let French be French, not a translation of English.
Find a community of fellow French learners and keep them close. Your community could be in the form of a classroom or an online group. Your community could also simply be a trusted French speaker. Finding people to practice your French with will keep you engaged. Having the support of other learners will remind you that you are not alone in this adventure and will keep you accountable. Remember that if you are an advanced student, even just practicing with a beginner will help you. Teaching is a powerful way to solidify your skillset.
Learning a second (or a fifth!) language is a beautiful projet. With each language that we speak, we open up our world to a new stream of possibilities via the people that we will connect with in that language. You are learning French to communicate in French, to connect with French people, not to impress others or to add more pressure to your life. In the moments when you judge yourself based on having the “perfect” accent or by making zero mistakes, be kind to yourself and do not forget that the end goal is purely to communicate. And that no one is perfect.
If you can succeed in living each piece of devoirs, every exercice, as an act of creativity, you are well on your way to enjoying your French Journey. And if you can embrace the nuances of the French language as creative license, you will have fewer headaches. Par exemple, the often fluid nature of the imparfait and the passé composé, the use of the liaison, and the wide landscape between spoken and written French are empowering if you embrace their exceptions.
Ten minutes a day. Our lives our made up of the content of our days. It’s only ten minutes because the hardest part about sitting down to study is just that — sitting down. Once you are in the French zone, relishing in those sensual French sounds and connecting with your Francophile soul, those ten minutes fly by. To circle back for a moment to creativity, if you constantly find yourself saying that you do not have enough time for your French, consider creating that time. Sometimes this means taking other activities off of your to-do list. If French feeds your soul, why wait? An inspired life is made of inspiring moments.
Living in France is so lovely for so many reasons. One of which being that you do not need to wait long or look far for a reason to celebrate — and celebrating here takes place with a coupe (a champagne flute) in hand. Celebrate your successes! They are not limited to your last quiz score or how many mistakes you didn’t make in that conversation exercise or whether or not that French person spoke back to you in French (finally). A success worthy of celebrating could be the fact that you’ve spent ten minutes with French every day for the last week. And, yes, listening to French music, a French podcast, or watching a film in French counts as part of your ten minutes.