What I’ve Learned in French Class So Far: Part Deux
Wednesday June 8, 2016

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J’ai beaucoup appris, mais j’ai beaucoup plus à apprendre. (I have learned much, but I have a much more to learn.) After two quarters of French, upon reflection, while at times I felt like I was stuck in the proverbial new language mud, I know my ignorance has thankfully been diminished, albeit maybe only a smidge, but still my affection for the language that has captured my attention for decades has undoubtedly been amplified. However, in reaching this realization, I am more aware of all that there is to know. The many verb tenses, the subtle contextual hints that determine what word is being used, and the nuances that make the art of French conversation a skill unto itself have revealed themselves and I am determined to keep the flame of learning burning.

At the end of last quarter in March, I shared 15 things I had learned in French class so farand many readers commented, shared their experiences and suggestions. All of which I wholeheartedly appreciated and I have a feeling many other French language learners did as well. And so with the second quarter having wrapped up this past Monday, the final handed to my professor and the summer beginning leaving me to my own devices to continue to learn and improve, I wanted to share 12 new things I have learned over the past three months about the how to learn the language steadily, how to learn anything and how to integrate the learning forever into your everyday routine.

What I’ve learned so far . . .

1. Coffee Break French is a great walking companion

Currently I am on lesson 23, just beginning the second unit, and in the short 15-17 minute lessons, I am able to pick up a handful of vocabulary terms as well as practice phrases for conversation without being overwhelmed. I highly recommend this free app (and they have an accompanying website for more practice as well).

2. Print out recipes in French

A few weeks ago, I did this for the first time, and while it was challenging, I loved discovering simple verbs that I know I would use in conversation if I only knew them such as cuire (to cook) and tranche (to slice). Much like investing in something we’re passionate about, learning a language becomes easier when we are integrating the learning process with what we love doing naturally. For me, that is definitely cooking.

3. When you do what you love in the language you want to learn, it’s easier to pick it up more quickly. So I find myself watching more romantic comedies in French. These are just a few I have enjoyed recently: Barbeque, Haute Cuisine, Sex, Love & Therapy, What’s in a Name? and Le Chef (all available on Netflix). I am beyond eager to watch A Chance Encounter which will be released in the next few days on iTunes.

4.Listening to Journal en français facile on RFI (Radio France International) each morning is a simple way for the newsie that I am to improve my ability to hear French (they provide a  transcript as well).

5. Wanting to continue my weakest area, conversation, I am considering using  iTalki to hire a French tutor to practice regular with during the summer. (Has anyone had experience with this? Please do share!)

6. Stopping into the weekly Parlez Français à Bend for conversation from time to time at a local restaurant is a great way to find people with the same passion.

7. After reading Flirting with French, I am going to be labeling a room a week with sticky notes in French (repetition, repetition, repetition).

8. Reading French regularly in a current context medium provides context clues to help improve vocabulary and recognition. I will be stopping by online French newspapers and magazines such as:

News: Le Figaro, Le MondeL’OfficielLe Point  Fashion: Vogue Paris, Elle, Literary:  Le Magazine Littéraire, Culture & Celebrity NewsL’Express: Culture, Paris Match

9. Just because I didn’t know something on a test didn’t mean I couldn’t learn it. It simply meant I wasn’t prepared. We can all learn something new when we have the information available, the time to study and the proper tools to make the learning as simple as possible. Make learning a priority, seek out tools and strategies that work with you and your learning tendencies and you will continue to make progress toward your goal.

10. Switching my phone’s keyboard to Français is a simple way to be exposed to the language in everyday activities. For iPhone users, click here to find out how; for Android users, click here.

11. It all comes down to practice. Short term memory is great for success on tests and exams, but if I want the language imbedded in my mind, I have to practice it enough to plant it in my long-term memory. It took me four different walks and six times of listening to the Coffee Break French lesson (#12) on numbers 11-1,000 in order to implant the automatic memory of the numbers into my mind. I felt like an elementary student, but I honestly had never been taught them or, more importantly, taken the time to truly memorize them. Needless to say, it was the constant practice that made the difference.

12. Reading books in English about the French culture adds more depth and understanding. At the moment, I am reading The Bonjour Effect which I mentioned in last Friday’s This & That. So far, I am absolutely enthralled as it is breaking down the French’s approach to what to say, when to say it and why. All of which adds an intriguing new layer to the language I already am intrigued with. Discover more books about French that I highly recommend and reread constantly here.

And the journey truly has just begun, and what a wonderful journey it has been so far. I can only imagine the doors and adventures it will open up in the future. Please do continue to join me as I share along the way what I discover and find helpful as I stumble and succeed with the language of Simone de Beauvoir, Juliette Binoche, Claude Monet, and Coco Chanel, just to name a few historic and contemporary figures of inspiration. Read Part Trois of my journey after classes have wrapped up here.


~What I’ve Learned in French Class So Far: Part Une

~Why Not . . . Indulge Your Inner Francophile?

~10 Ways to Unearth Your Inner Francophile

~All French TSLL posts, recommendations and everything French, click here

Thesimplyluxuriouslife.com | The Simply Luxurious Life

12 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned in French Class So Far: Part Deux

  1. Thank you for all the resources and suggestions! I am heading to Paris for a few weeks this summer, and after a “re-refresher” course in French at Portland Community College spring term (I studied French in college nearly 20 years ago) I still feel unprepared! 🙂

  2. Congratulations Shannon! Learning a new language is such a wonderful challenge and one of the best way to really immerse ourself in another culture! I’m going to try your tips in the opposit way as I’m trying to improve my English! 🙂
    Have a very nice day,

    1. Have you seen “Churchmen” on Hulu (in France it’s “ANSI Soient-ils”). One of my favorites.

  3. Shannon! Kudos to you! When I was interested in Spanish, with my child, we looked up music on YouTube. They have many children’s lullabies in English that are the same melody or subject in Spanish. Children’s books with pictures in another language, or comics, also helped. Lastly, instagram is a great way to follow people who speak in another language. Captions to photos are a great way to pick up language. Good luck on your journey!

  4. Great stuff, and bravo to you for keeping at it.
    When I had a French class in NY, the teacher suggested just using the “vous” form for speaking because the biggest group of verbs is -er verbs, and -er, -ez and -é all sound the same. She wanted us to SPEAK. However, I later learned that on a personal level, people “tutoient” — they use the informal “tu” second-person singular. But the vous/-er suggestion got me through years of vacations in France. It wasn’t until I met my husband that I got pushed to tutoyer.
    If you want to watch some fun movies, check out the series of “Les Bronzés” and “Les Visiteurs.” And the “Asterisk” movies with humans (Gerard Depardieu is Obelix, if that gets you going). All leave me with tears running down my cheeks from laughing.
    Bonne chance et bon courage!!!

  5. Hi – I loved this post! I am undergoing a similar effort to improve my French and wanted to share some of the resources and ideas that have helped me.

    You asked about our experiences with online french tutors. I started to take online Skype lessons in January and I cannot say how much this has helped me to progress by leaps and bounds! I was hesitant at first, because I did not have any experience with Skype and I had no idea what it would be like. I looked at a couple of teachers on Italki and some other websites and I was worried that they weren’t professional enough. Would they really be able to teach, or were they just going to chat in french? Then I found Arnaud Barge of “Arnaud’s Language Kitchen.” We had an initial consult via Skype and I knew I had found my tutor. He is kind, funny, and makes me feel completely at ease. He is a brilliant and experienced teacher. He bends over backwards to make the classes what I need/want. http://www.arnaudslanguagekitchen.com

    “Coffee Break French is great.” I recommend it, too. From beginner through more advanced – there is a ton of information included in those courses.

    Other programs that I love are the “Comme Une Francaise Courses”. Geraldine helped me to be completely comfortable in the boulangerie, the market and restaurants (and more) with the content in her programs. Her weekly free videos are fantastic and fun – but the content included in her courses is amazing! She gives you the real “scripts,” the actual things that people say and do.

    “Francais Authentique” is another fantastic series. Johan’s free podcasts are terrific and his “Packs 1, 2, & 3” are a wealth of real french to take you to another level of understanding and ability to express yourself in French. I started with his free course and was completely hooked!

    “The Bonjour Effect” is a terrific and helpful read. I am about halfway through and I have folded down the corner of practically every page to note and remember the key points they make. I enjoy asking my french tutor Arnaud about the things that I read, so I can discuss and validate things with a real Frenchman!

    I, too, love cooking and am working on building up my french vocabulary in that area. Cooking podcasts have been a super helpful way to do that! I use the Overcast app.
    Some that I listen to regularly are:
    Le Grand Miam France Bleu Gironde
    On Va Deguster – Radio France
    On Cuisine Ensemble – Bourgogne
    Maison Jardin Cuisine Brocante (RTL)
    Le Marche du jour France Bleu 107.1

    Other podcasts that are terrific are:
    One Thing in A French Day
    French Pronunciation Tips Podcast by FluentFrench.com

    There are some great blogs in french out there. A couple that I follow are:
    Garance Dore
    Pourquoi pas Colline
    It is great to be able to slow down and read the blog posts. Colline does periodic videos that are super for the slang and way that she talks.

    I have TV5Monde in my cable lineup and watching shows like “Telematin” have helped me quite a bit. There is no question that listening to spoken french as much as possible makes a huge difference. I keep a pad nearby to note words that I don’t know or want to look up/remember.

    On my iphone and ipad I have some great apps:
    Larousse French

    Oh I could go on and on! I can’t believe how many resources there are out there. I wish they had been around when I started studying french way back when! I hope that these ideas are helpful to others.

      1. Wow Jennifer what a great line up of fabulous information! Although it is 4 years old I think most of what you list is still relevant. Thanks so much!

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