Immersion is best, but when immersion is not possible, brushing up while at home on our French as we wait for the opportunity to walk stand firmly on the terra firma of the land of croissants is the next best thing. All of this is to say, the key is to make the learning enjoyable.
Don’t get me wrong, learning the basics, taking courses with a French professor is highly recommended. And so long as you are intrinsically motivated to learn, taking the traditional route to learning is a good idea (see my three post series on what I learned in French class which I attended four years ago at a local community college). However, once you know the fundamentals, and I mean the bare minimum, learning or brushing up in a more enjoyable method is a great idea to ensure you stick with it until you acquire the skill level you desire or the time to hop on the plane or train arrives.
As many TSLL readers know, TSLL’s annual French Week takes place during the second full week in August, but throughout the year, I enjoy posting French-themed posts as well. And with many of us finding ourselves either still at home more than we might be typically or back in lockdown for the duration until the vaccine becomes more widely available, brushing up on our French may just be a wonderful way to pass the time and rev up our excitement for making plans to visit France in the coming latter part of the year or 2022 (I am setting my sights on 2022).
What sparked my interest in stepping back into the informal French classroom was a wonderful French cozy mystery series I came across on MHzChoice this past December and January (streaming service for many European series – largely French, but others as well). Upon watching the first episode, I tickled myself by recognizing some (not many, but still some) of the vocabulary and phrases without having to read the subtitles. So I kept watching, and with each episode, more phrases and vocabulary were becoming more and more familiar.
So today, I would like to share with you 12 enjoyable ideas for freshening up your French language skills. No doubt, you will have ideas to share with us all as well. Please do explore the posts I share at the end of today’s post as many other ideas are also compiled to further language learning which may speak to your learning style.
1.Enjoy watching French television series
As I mentioned above, learning a language is far more enjoyable when you want to sit down and take in the media as much as you want to learn. Last week’s Petit Plaisir (from episode #298) shared a new-to-me French cozy murder series which I have now since finished (there are five seasons) – Blood of the Vine. Slip away to different vineyards around the French countryside, solve a mystery with enologist Benjamin Lebel and learn French while you’re at it.
There are many French comedies and dramas to peruse on MHzChoice for $7.99/month. Have a look at the selection here.
2. Sign up and take online refresher courses from your Alliance de Française
Many Alliance de Française organizations around the world are hosting their in-person courses entirely online due to the pandemic, which means it is a wonderful opportunity to invest in a quality course with highly reputable instructors even if you don’t live in the vicinity. Simply search a nearby city (Portland, Oregon, has a fantastic organization) or the state or even country which may have a Francophile community – search Alliance de Français, and voila! Choices of classes to choose from are yours!
3. Create and enjoy a weekly French movie night
I love this idea, and have inconsistently been enjoying doing just this throughout the pandemic. I have shared many French films as Petit Plaisirs over the past seven years (shared at the end of each episode of The Simple Sophisticate podcast), and a couple of years ago, episode #248 focused entirely on 12 of my favorites. Most recently during this past August’s French Week – the weekly This & That, I shared the film Change of Plans (loved it!), and in 2019 I shared 50 is the New 30 which I can now highly recommend.
4. Practice a break from the news – sort of – Watch/listen/read French news sources only
Perhaps you too are stepping away from taking in so much news each day but still want to check in every once and a while? Why not only check the news via French news websites and newspapers? The traditional paper – Le Monde, or my favorite which sends me updates once each day with the top headlines (not just news, but culture updates as well – The Local. A more light-hearted, but still news reporting online destination for international readers (outside of France and primarly focused on English speakers) is French Morning. Whatever source of news shared in the French language you want to check out each day or once a week, consider it doubly informative. 🙂
5. Change your phone settings to French
From the dictionary you use to check your spelling (when composing texts and emails), to the voice of Siri, and even to the keyboard/typepad, infuse your daily tech habits with your new habit of improving your French language skills and gain even more daily practice.
6. Listen to a French music station
I have uploaded and listen to the France Musique app for French deejays of classic and jazz music. Granted, the music itself doesn’t have lyrics, so it is not assisting my language learning, but in between songs, I hear a bit more French and enjoy my favorite music as well. 🙂
7. Visit Memrise
A worthwhile language learning site to check out and with much free is Memrise. Teaching a multitude of different languages with their more natural approach, discover everyday phrases, greetings and common exchanges which will stick in your memory with their simple repetitive practice.
8. Visit Frantastique
Another language learning website, Frantastique shares their lessons in short, fun and playful sessions. “Each day you’ll receive a lesson adapted to your needs, capabilities and goals. Once it’s completed, you’ll immediately receive personalized corrections and explanations. Your lessons are customized based on your strengths and weaknesses.” Try it for free and see if it speaks your language. 😉
9. Read Fluent in French
A book I recently came across and will be reading soon is Fluent in French by Frederic BiBard. “This study guide has original, helpful techniques, hacks, and tips you can use to enrich your vocabulary and get you on track.” Reviewed quite well, the book’s approach is less formal and more geared to helping you learn how to communicate more informally and naturally with locals.
~Discover more French book favorites below.
10. Keep a French diary
Certainly for more advanced French language speakers, but worth practicing no matter what your level of ability, select a journal and each night write a sentence or a paragraph as best as you can. At the very least you will increase your vocabulary, and at the best, you will begin to strength your sentence composition skills.
11. Check out FrenchCrazy blog
A new-to-me French language and culture blog is FrenchCrazy. Simpler and certainly straight to the point, explore the many posts and topics not only on language, but on the French culture.
12. Pull out a French cookbook and read it (cook from it too if you like 🙂)
I don’t know about you, but much of my French vocabulary when it comes to food has been strengthened by stepping into the kitchen and picking up a French cookbook (or taking a French cooking class), and do I have the cookbook for you to add to your library! Susan Herrmann Loomis just released a new cookbook (shown below), and as someone who has thoroughly enjoyed many of her books and cookbooks prior to Plat du Jour, I think Plat du Jour may be my favorite. It reminds me of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen, but as someone who has cooked in Susan’s kitchen with her and had the opportunity to cook and enjoy a handful of the recipes in the book (check out my time in Louviers with Herrmann Loomis here), and with Susan having lived in France now for 40 years and becoming a French citizen, THIS is the cookbook for your go-to French meals.
~Look for a new interview with Susan to be shared on Monday February 1st on the podcast (episode #300) when she joins me from Paris to talk about Plat du Jour. I cannot wait!
However, pick your favorite French trained cook or chef and simply sit down and enjoy the cookbook and all of the French terms sprinkled about. Whether you step into your kitchen or not, the context will undoubtedly help you figure out what each of the French terms are. Below is one of the most popular French-inspired posts on the blog which shares 10 Favorite French Cookbooks for Your Kitchen Library.
Hopefully you have found one or more enjoyable and dare I say, pleasurable ways of freshening up your French language skills. I don’t know about you, but with so much time between my last trip to France (2019) and when my next trip is likely to be at the earliest (2022), there is no reason not to take the time to learn bit more and feel a bit more confident.
Thank you for stopping by today and bonne journée!
MORE Francophile Language Learning Ideas
What I’ve Learned in French Class, So Far (three part series)
~View all of TSLL’s French-Inspired posts here.