Your French skills are pretty good, but there’s more to explore.
You’re feeling pretty confident about your French expertise, and it’s easy to think that there’s nothing left to discover.
But there is!
Make every day an adventure by finding out more about the language you’ve grown to love.
These four strategies will help you brush up on your French every day and uncover (and perfect) the nuances of the French language.
How do you do that without taking classes? Read on to find out!
Why It’s Important to Get Your Daily Practice In
Learning a language is a never-ending process. Much like how a bridge requires constant maintenance to stay standing, your French needs TLC.
If you don’t use it, you lose it
Unless you live in a French-speaking country, your French skills will decline without constant practice. You need to practice every day.
For us adults, new languages don’t stick in our brains like our native language. So unless you grew up bilingual, you can lose what you learned. But don’t despair. As you’ll find out, maintaining your French is easier than you think!
There’s always something new to discover
Tying in with the above, think of your French skills as an asymptote (a line that a curve approaches very slowly, but doesn’t meet). When you start learning, you make rapid progress.
However, as you become more advanced—that is to say, as your French approaches fluency—the rate at which you learn slows down, much like how the curve never reaches the asymptote. This means there’s always something new to learn for the language learner. It just might take a while to find it.
It keeps your skills sharp in other areas
It’s well documented that learning a language brings mountains of benefits to your brain.
According to The Atlantic, people who speak more than one language focus better on critical information, are more observant, score better on standardized tests and stave off dementia more than their monolingual peers.
Daily French Practice: Maintain Your Momentum with 4 Simple, Solid Strategies
Strategy #1: Listen to 30 Minutes of French Audio Daily
Ask yourself what part of learning French is most critical to becoming conversant in the language.
Your first guess is probably the ability to actually understand spoken French. Listening to 30 minutes of audio per day will help build this skill.
You might be wondering where I came up with 30 minutes per day. Well, it’s nothing scientific, but it worked well for me. It was easy to carve out 30 minutes of audio after work or before bed when I couldn’t dedicate as much time to it in other parts of my day. And it was something I could include in my schedule on a daily basis.
Here are some of my favorite audio resources!
I keep coming back to it, but if I had to choose just one resource for language learning, it’d be YouTube. Seriously, I don’t know how people learned before it!
You can find French videos on any topic that you find you might need, like this 17-minute video on the basics of French grammar or this captivating video on the Auvergne, a region of France that’s off the tourist radar.
I used to get hung up on understanding every word I heard and abused the repeat button way too much. But this only leads to frustration. Instead, try to relax and get the “big picture.” You’ll understand better than you would trying to focus on every word. With time, imperceptibly, you’ll understand more and more to the point you can do it as effortlessly as you can in English.
If you love the idea of learning with YouTube, you’ll love the FluentU French program—all of its learning material is based on fun, fresh YouTube videos made by and for native French speakers. It goes way beyond YouTube though, with interactive subtitles, dynamic exercises and personalized vocabulary lists. It’ll take your YouTube obsession to the next level.
Stay tuned, we’ll come back to this in a bit.
Check out classic French titles on this website. The best part of listening to audiobooks is that you can do it at work or while lying in bed. Most classic French novels like “Les Rougon-Macquart” (“The Rougon-Macquart” series of 20 novels) by Émile Zola, have been transformed to audio and are freely available to the public.
To use the site, connect your e-reader to your computer or download your desired text directly. Just click on the link of a book that looks interesting, and you’ll see audio options at the bottom of the book’s description.
Strategy #2: Find Time to Read French for 30 Minutes
Reading gives you time to actually see French grammar in action. In my opinion, written French is a work of art. When well-composed, sentences melt into each other, like a flowing river compared to English’s choppy sea.
Again, 30 minutes is the time that worked for me. In 30 minutes I could read a chapter of a novel or a detailed article. Yes, I know I’m asking for another 30 minutes of your time, but trust me, it’s worth it!
It’s true there are plenty of other great French news sites, but I always go back to Le Monde for its quality of writing.
Like the BBC, Le Monde is a standard of journalistic excellence in the French-speaking world. Reading news articles is a great strategy because you learn vocabulary from current events, giving you the opportunity to hear up-to-date words and phrases to add to your lexicon.
Wikipedia is also a great source of French reading material. Topics are constantly being added, so even if the information isn’t current, you can still pick up some great vocabulary.
So don’t hesitate to look things up in French! Wikipedia is probably the best free source to learn how to write academically. What’s more, if you feel confident, you can contribute to the site. As people edit what you write, you’ll learn how to write better.
Project Gutenberg probably has the largest collection of free French books online. Here you’ll find all the greatest titles in the French canon, from Molière to Proust. The site is easy to navigate and there are tons to choose from. For the intermediate learner, I especially recommend the works of Jules Verne like “Voyage au Centre de la Terre” (“Journey to the Center of the Earth”).
Tip: Much like how I got stressed out trying to understand every spoken word, I also used to get frustrated trying to look up and memorize every word I read.
The fact is many of these words are obscure, and French speakers themselves look them up. If it’s an often repeated word, of course research it, but don’t worry if you don’t understand everything you read, that’ll come in time.
If you really want to take your French to the next level, you also need to include an integrated French grammar textbook into your reading routine. No, you’re not reading in French, but reading about French is better than reading no French at all!
And, yes, I know this is a bigger time commitment than the above strategies, but a grammar textbook is a great way to keep your skills sharp and even get some valuable insight into the language. I personally completed Pearson’s “Practice Makes Perfect: Complete French Grammar” because it goes through every aspect of French grammar with exercises.
It’s perfect for the intermediate speaker who wants to become advanced.
Another great option is Schaum’s “French Grammar,” which I also completed.
Strategy #3: Dedicate Time to Interactive Online French Activities
Technology is wonderful, isn’t it?
Not only can you find spoken and written French for passive learning, you can also find a plethora of interactive web platforms to practice your skills. So take a break from Candy Crush for a second and put your French to the test!
Get truly interactive and immersed in French with this resource!
FluentU lets you learn French from real-world content like music videos, commercials, news broadcasts, cartoons and inspiring talks.
Since this content is material that native French speakers actually watch regularly, you’ll get the opportunity to learn real French the way it’s spoken in modern life.
One quick look will give you an idea of the diverse content found on FluentU:
Love the thought of learning French with native materials but afraid you won’t understand what’s being said? FluentU brings authentic French videos within reach of any learner. Interactive captions guide you along the way, so you never miss a word.
Tap on any word to see a definition, in-context usage examples, audio pronunciation, helpful images and more. For example, if you tap on the word “suit,” then this is what appears on your screen:
Don’t stop there, though. Use FluentU to actively practice all the vocabulary in any video through word lists, flashcards, quizzes and fun activities like “fill in the blank.”
As you continue advancing in your French studies, FluentU keeps track of all the grammar and vocabulary that you’ve been learning. It uses your viewed videos and mastered language lessons to recommend more useful videos and give you a 100% personalized experience.
I’ve always loved Bonjour de France because they offer lessons for all levels. Start by choosing a category like “Vocabulary” or “Scenarios” and then choose your appropriate level. The site then selects a number of activities appropriate for you. It even has fun tools like karaoke to test your skills.
Warning! Once you get on this site, be prepared to stay awhile! There are so many fun tools and games, it’s likely you’ll spend more than 30 minutes here!
There’s nothing more boring than writing tons of vocab lists in your cahier (notebook). Fortunately, the internet has given you an alternative with this resource. Vocabulary is learned in logical groups through integrated lessons, including exercises, games and tests at the end of each section.
French games also has a YouTube channel with tutorials for French learners. The majority of the lessons are for children, but they’re engaging enough to hold the attention of any adult trying to learn the language.
What makes Hello-World unique is the sheer number of activities to choose from (over 700 for French alone). Hello-World works as a collaborative community where users can upload their own activities or games. You can use the site without signing up, but if you want to make something of your own, you have to register.
Choose from categories like “Memory” and “Fontaine Fables.” You could also dive into some “Logic Puzzles” for a real challenge, or just have a little fun with “Children’s Games.” Whatever you’re looking for to pass the time in French, Hello-World will probably have it!
Strategy #4: Find Small Ways to Incorporate French in Your Routine
Sometimes we don´t have time to actually sit down and study. That’s the reason why it’s best to transform your daily life into French! I call it the “immersion bubble.”
Here are some resources to help you do that!
A great way to keep vocabulary at the forefront of your mind is to make flashcards for things around your house. If your family is okay with it, this is an authentic way to incorporate words and phrases into your routine.
Remember how I said, “Don’t worry if you don’t understand every word?” The words you actually want to focus on are things you see on a daily basis. Namely, things in your house, office, whatever. And if you don’t want to make your own labels, you can opt for a French Vocabulary Stickers set, which gives you a bunch of handy and durable word labels for items around your home and office.
Make your house a French immersion paradise with the smells of French cuisine! The great thing about recipes is that they teach you vocab and the impératif (imperative mood). If you want to try your hand at French cooking, Marmiton is a great resource. Check out this recipe for crème brûlée, one of my favorite desserts. It’s basically a cream whose outer layer has been burnt and sprinkled with sugar. Or if you want something more filling, try boudin noir, a type of French sausage.
If you’re not feeling that adventurous, you can try re-writing your favorite recipes in French or simply try to incorporate French cooking vocabulary while you’re working in the kitchen.
As we said before, sometimes you don’t have the opportunity for a sit-down study session and focus on just one resource. So why not have the sounds of French in the background? If you’re in the States, check to see if you can subscribe to TV5Monde, a French news and culture channel broadcast worldwide.
Its contents are excellent, teaching you not only about French, but the cultures of France and other French-speaking countries. In the U.S. version, there are French soap operas, a film and documentaries and not to mention the nightly news segment. Sometimes while going about my daily routine, I kept it on in the background to train my ears.
Since we’re not native speakers of French, there’s always the risk of sliding backwards in our studies.
With determination, these awesome resources and an adventurous spirit, we can keep our French skills current and take them to the next level!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.