Daily French practice is a must since it’s only by practicing and using your French that you’ll be able to develop fluency, which occurs slowly over time. Aside from talking in French class and reading French books, there are a number of other ways you can incorporate French into your daily life.
The basic premise is to use French whenever and wherever you can. Some of these ideas might sound silly, but the point is to demonstrate how you can easily introduce French into everyday situations.
Thinking about French every day will help you learn how to think in French, which is a key element of fluency. You want your brain to go straight from seeing something to a French image, instead of going from object to English thought to French thought. Your brain will eventually process French faster, which facilitates fluency.
Fill your home and office with French Things
Surround yourself with French things. Make French labels for your furniture, appliances, and walls; buy or create French posters, and use a French calendar.
Make French the first thing you see when you connect to the Internet. Set a high-quality French entity, such as easy French news on Radio France Internationale, as your browser’s default homepage.
Practice Your French
If you know other people who speak French, practice with them whenever you can. Don’t let speaking anxiety hold you back. For example, you and your roommate can declare Mondays and Fridays “French day” and communicate only in French all day. When you go out to a restaurant with your spouse, pretend you’re in Paris and speak French to each other.
Need to make a shopping list or a to-do list? Do them in French. If the other people you live with speak French, write notes to them in French.
Shopping in French
When you go shopping, practice French with yourself. For instance, count out your apples or your cans of tuna fish in French, look at prices and imagine how to say them in French.
Think in French while performing routine actions. When walking to the refrigerator, think J’ai soif or Qu’est-ce que je vais manger ? Consider the conjugations of se brosser while brushing your teeth and hair. State the French name of each item of clothing as you put it on or take it off.
Keep a notebook handy so that you can write down new words and keep track of ones you need to look up. This can also be part of a French journal or language scrapbook.
If you use Windows, you can set your computer to display menus and dialogs in French.
‘Mots fléchés’ (Crosswords)
Print out free mots fléchés and see how well you do.
How Students Themselves Practice Speaking French
Let’s look at some of the great ideas students themselves have for practicing spoken French. The following comments were taken from a French learning forum:
- “I challenge myself by picking a few objects around me and playing “I spy” with myself or others around me who also speak French. For example, I see an umbrella. Using circumlocution, I describe the item without using any of the words, such as pluie (“rain”), to give it away.”
- “Because I’m so self-conscious about speaking French, I find myself speaking it to my mother, who speaks no French. A live person allows me to put myself out there and I can practice my pronunciation without feeling so uncomfortable. Speaking to someone live forces me to form the word order in my mind along with the pronunciation. I’ll say it out loud in her presence, then switch over to English so that she can understand me.
“I make sure to find things in French that really interest me so that it doesn’t feel like school. The Internet is a great source because there are so many avenues to explore. I read reviews of things I’m interested in, like books and movies. I go to French language message boards that deal with subjects I’m interested in. I’ve also started a journal which is slow going but fun because I get to write about whatever I’m interested in.”
- “I have books on tape in French and I listen to them while driving. I also have a teddy bear that a French friend gave me. When you press his jaws, paws or stomach he says things like Je m’endors…Bonne nuit, or Aïe ! Ça fait mal; his left paw says Bonjour. Every morning, I touch his paw, he says Bonjour and I proceed to tell him, in French, my plans for the day. It gets me in the mood for French for the remainder of the day.”
- “I try to skim the French newspaper Le Monde on the Web several times a week. If I have time, I’ll read one of the articles out loud, which is difficult because the stories are written in fairly sophisticated written French, not in the style of a newscast. Occasionally, I play their aural stories. And I get daily and weekly horoscopes in French from Yahoo. They usually have a lot current French expressions in them.
“I listen to a series of Hachette pronunciation tapes, Phonétique, in the background. I try to do the exercises, but they sometimes are very difficult even when I can give them my full attention, and it’s easy to get frustrated. If the International Film Channel or the Sundance Channel is showing a movie I’ve already seen, I’ll try to keep that on in the background to see if I can pick up the French. I often try to think of the French equivalent of something and articulate it, but I’m often worried about speaking in “phony French” and making mistakes, which would be easy to do since I haven’t studied French in quite some time.”
Were these ideas promising? If any seemed useful, try them yourself. The more you practice, the more you’ll train your brain to think in French. And over time, that leads to fluency. Bonne chance.