Learning French, oh là là !

As I previously mentioned, my French knowledge upon arrival to France was absolutely nonexistent. And so I was completely under the mercy of the capable hands of ‘les professeurs de l’Alliance Française’


If you have had the pleasure of going to this language school, you might just remember that if you do the intensive courses, they insist on a test every two weeks. One held at mid-month and the subsequent at the end of the month. So for me, a child of two African parents with strong values on education & hard work, there were endless tears every two weeks, before and after the exam period. I worried about not being able to make it, that I had given up my career, moved countries and that I wouldn’t be able to survive in this country if I couldn’t speak the language. I must mention that this self battle started after three months of being on the intensive course. It really is intensive in that you learn new information nonstop, from 9-12:30 followed by afternoon activities in French, followed by homework, and the same again for the days, weeks and months to come.
My Tips about learning French

I’d like to share some ideas on how I got through the hurdle of this difficult language with the exceptions that I loathed and loved at the same time. Personally, they did the trick for me as I am here telling the tale. I started from beginners level (A1) and obtained an advanced certificate (B2).

1.Get out there.

My husband insisted that we buy our fresh fruits and vegetables from our local Sunday market. What is more, he insisted on me doing all the talking with the traders. How I hated those moments. In reflection, that helped a lot. Yes, I can admit it now but back then he was just annoying me. At first it was so difficult making a fool of myself. But I always found consolation in that they also couldn’t speak my language, not so bad then, I assured myself. The market traders even found it amusing following my progress as I added more and more words during our small talk after each visit.

2. Cafe de langue

Grab every opportunity to speak, especially with the native speakers. At café des langues, different nationalities meet up to practice speaking various languages. What I love a lot about this place is that everyone is on the same boat.  I found it quite satisfying that I was teaching the French my language and in exchange they corrected my French unreservedly! I appreciated the ‘open agenda’ and the fact that every conversation got the green light. One minute you could be absolutely immersed in politics and the next, you could be engaged in a heated topic about cheese. Another plus about this place is that, there are no appointments needed. Which is great as you don’t have to plan ahead so much. And of course a glass of wine makes speaking French fairly easy. And lastly, another plus is that there are no contracts. So if the conversation is not flowing for one reason or another, switch tables, no questions asked.

3. Join websites

One that I have used is called conversation exchange I would say invest a little time in reading profiles and see what might be suitable for you, either face to face meetings/Skype etc. Its worth noting that some people are interested in more than just learning a language, so you might want to be vigilant. Equally there is another website called toulangues which is recommended by the French language school. I have not personally used it as I couldn’t juggle. You may want to consider writing your profile in French if you want to attract French speakers, but again there are no rules.

4. Learn phonetics

 Invest on a course (Alliance Française runs 1 hour afternoon sessions) you’ll be amazed at how much you’ll be easily understood by the natives.

5. Use media

As I moved on to intermediate level, I started listening to French Radio  France InterFrance Info etc. There are many but these two are more traditional I would say. What I like about radio is that, one can not be passive. You are really forced to understand the presenters. One learns enormously including matters concerning culture, day-to-day life etc, which is important for integration in a new country. I found TV series equally rewarding, especially the quotidian. Here is where I learnt a lot of vocabulary (in the beginning I relied a lot on subtitles, but its necessary to train oneself to avoid this later as it might impede on other skills, notably listening). I recorded and watched soaps at my leisure, including ‘Petits secrets entre voisins’, ‘Au non de la vérité.

6Language materials

There are lots of materials out there but my absolute favourite is ‘The Michel Thomas Method‘. The late Michel is my Guru! Having survived the world-war, imprisonment and all the hardship, he emerged very strong and dedicated his life to teaching languages, notably to actors who have a clear need to learn very quickly. I must admit that  The Michel Thomas Method really works for me, I have used it to learn to speak with Spanish, German and now French. I highly recommend it. Check out the materials on Amazon

7. Newspaper subscription

My last tip is also to consciously read the paper, not browsing. I subscribed to Courrier international in paper form. This is a great bi-weekly paper that covers articles from all over the world. With the subscription one also feels obliged to read as the pennies drop off the bank account.

8. Online teaching aids

TV5 Monde as such a great educational tool. There are lots of exercises and its great for exam preparations. I am also a huge fan of Pascal, who explains things quite easily using humorous video. If you are a beginner then you are in for a real treat. He has tons of materials on his site as well as on Youtube.

I still continue to frequent the language cafe and consciously speak French whenever I can. It is fairly easy to forget especially as my work involves speaking English. Feel free to ask any questions. And if you have any more tips please feel free to share.
Happy learning.
*Post from my discontinued site marielivelovelaughforever.blogspot.fr 11/05/2015


  1. Thanks for sharing your tips 😉 I am drilling it now >_< hopefully I'll over come this situation lol. It is so nice to know that someone else did it and survived 😀

    1. It’s totally do-able! Immersion is the key though. So it’ll get better once you move to France. It was hard for sure. The you tube video I mentioned (Pascal) are really good. And there are conjugation apps too if you are struggling with that. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions 🙂 Thanks for checking my posts. Good luck in busy London tomorrow 🙂

      Marie x

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