Learning To Speak French
Many people think they know how to speak the French language, or they think they have enough to get by. But as I found out to my cost this is often not really the case. This is how to really learn French, whether you are a complete beginner or think you already know enough…
Let me begin by telling you my story. I learned French at school and was pretty good at it, even though I didn’t make much effort with it. I was in the top handful in my class of this language, and I suppose felt pretty smug about that. After leaving school I did some brush-up work on my French, using learn French guides and similar books. Now I felt ready to put what I had been learning into practice.
The opportunity to speak the French language with French people did not come at once, but a year or two later I was fortunate enough to find myself en route to France. This was exciting! Now I would be able to try out what I had learned, as well as immersing myself in the culture. I couldn’t wait.
Having arrived and sorted out accommodation I launched myself out into the busy and fascinating streets of Dieppe. Dieppe is one of the channel ports in Normandy, a popular area for tourists going to France. I began to explore the quaint streets and fascinating little shops, by this time brimming over with my desire to speak the French language in practice.
I headed first into a patisserie, eager for some refreshment in the form of local French cakes, and began to chat animatedly to the shopkeeper. In French, of course. But there seemed to be a problem. The French man could not seem to grasp what I was saying very well. I began to speak more loudly, but this only seemed to make things worse. I ended up pointing to what I wanted to buy.
Outside on the street again I felt a little deflated. But perhaps the shopkeeper had been hard of hearing? I went into another shop to buy some postcards. Taking a deep breath I tried to speak French again, asking how to send the postcards and where I could buy stamps. I had a little more luck this time. The woman behind the counter was willing to take the time to listen, and she even corrected my French for me once or twice.
Now the problem with my French speaking was becoming clear. It was two-fold. Firstly I was speaking French using the old-fashioned traditional form of French I had learned in my class at school. Secondly, my pronunciation was pretty bad.
The moral of this little story is that if you want to learn how to speak the French language for real you need either to take classes from a native speaker OR find a language learning program based on audio lessons made by a genuine French speaker that uses modern conversational French. Don’t settle for less if you want a viable knowledge of this language.