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

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6 Creating opportunities to practise French

Never forget that learning a language means learning a new way to communicate, so you should seek out as many ways of communicating as possible. If you enrol on a course with a group of other people, see if you can find someone to work with you, a ‘study buddy’ that you can keep in contact with and meet occasionally for practice.

Think of the different skills you will be developing as you learn French: reading, listening, writing, speaking. Reading and listening can be considered ‘passive’ skills; you may be able to read a dialogue in French and understand a good deal of it, or get the overall gist when listening to some spoken French. Writing and speaking, on the other hand, draw on ‘active’ skills; you are producing the words and structures yourself, from memory. When you are speaking, you may be doing so spontaneously or without a script. You can prepare yourself for this challenge by working with another French learner. Each time you learn a new structure or new set of vocabulary, practise it with your study buddy. Keep your own set of written notes too, and keep practising the new structures and vocabulary so they become more and more familiar.

If the study buddy approach doesn’t appeal to you right now, don’t worry! It’s understandable to feel a bit shy – talking in another language can feel awkward. It’s still important to work on your active language skills though. If you have a pet, try talking to them instead. Animals are excellent listeners, and they won’t criticise you for your accent! And if your home is pet-free, perhaps you have a friendly pot plant or cactus that can step in. The aim here is to produce language out loud, by whatever means you feel comfortable.

Nowadays we have a huge range of technology at our fingertips, which can come in very handy when learning another language. Aside from all the language apps that are available (which may well be worth investigating), it’s quite simple to record yourself and play it back on most devices, so make the most of that too. Hearing recordings of ourselves is another thing we often dislike, but it’s useful to try and overcome this feeling early on. By doing this, you can start listening critically to what you say and how you say it.

Finally, seize every opportunity to communicate next time you visit a French-speaking country. Keep a positive ‘can do’ attitude and try out what you know. Don’t worry if you don’t get everything exactly right. You will feel pride in your progress when you convey what you want to say successfully, and you will go from strength to strength.

To summarise:

  • you are learning a communication skill, so communicate whenever you can!
  • use technology to aid your learning
  • have confidence and try your skills when you visit a French-speaking country.

Activity 5 Address your challenges

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Think about how you might put this into practice. You considered the challenges you’ll encounter earlier this week – now it’s time to think about ways of tackling them. Here are some questions to consider.

  • How will you address the challenges that you have identified this week?
  • How will you make time to learn French?
  • How will you make sure you always have a go?
  • How will you create opportunities for practice?
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