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Get ready for beginners’ French
Get ready for beginners’ French

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5 Having a go – not aiming for perfection

One of the key goals in learning French is being able to communicate effectively with others (even if your goals do extend much further to developing perfect knowledge of French vocabulary and grammar). While you will need a certain level of grammar and vocabulary knowledge to achieve this, it’s useful to remind yourself that ultimately you’re aiming to understand others, and to be understood. You may well use the wrong gender or the wrong tense sometimes as you try to get your point across, but that won’t matter so long as the other person understood what you meant. Effective communication will be measured by your successful interaction in French, not by how accurate your grammar is. Here’s a situation that demonstrates this.

Imagine yourself at a train station in France. You need a train ticket to travel to a nearby town. If you have an exchange in French that ends with you buying the correct ticket, then you were 100% successful in communicating in French. This remains true even if you made some errors as you spoke or failed to understand some of the words used by the ticket clerk.

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Figure 4 Successful communication

As a learner, it’s crucial to keep in mind that the most important thing is having a go.

This matters in your learning journey, because you need to get comfortable with trying your French out from the very start. Down the line, you’ll find the best preparation for using your skills in a real situation – for example, in an actual train station in a francophone country – was having practised consistently in a ‘safe’ situation, i.e. as part of your French course. Whichever method of study you choose – an evening course with a teacher and other students, an online course with virtual tutorials, or independent learning – you will need to practise speaking up and using your French as you learn. You will find ideas and inspiration for doing this in the final sections.

To summarise:

  • being understood is more important that producing perfect sentences
  • successful communication is about getting things done in French, not about grammar
  • always have a go and try using your French.