Conversation works wonders.
Not only is chit chat a fun way to relax and get to know someone, it’s also one of the best ways there is to learn a language.
If you’re not surrounded by native speakers, though, opportunities to converse in French can seem few and far between.
But believe it or not, there are lots of ways for anyone to speak in French on a daily basis.
With the great ol’ technology we all know as the internet, you can practice French conversation without ever leaving your house!
Don’t have the time? No problem! Sharpen your skills on the go.
In fact, you can practice your French conversation virtually anytime and anywhere, with or without a language partner.
It’s a good thing there are so many options, because talking in French is absolutely essential if you want to become fluent.
Like it or not, textbooks and podcasts won’t do all the work.
If you really want to get better at French, you have to get chatting!
But why is learning through conversation such a great way to improve your French?
What You Can Do with French Conversation
Think on your feet!
The great thing about conversation is that you never really know what’s going to come out of someone else’s mouth. While we all know how to talk about our favorite activities and pastimes, they might not always be what comes up when we talk to others. Being in the moment requires a lot of quick thinking. When you use conversation as a way to practice French, you’re actually learning to think in French, and to do it fast. You might just surprise yourself with how quickly your brain can come up with the goods.
Improve grammar and pronunciation
Sometimes, it takes saying things out loud for us to realize that they’re not quite right. Sentence structures in French can often be hard to get your head around, and hearing the words said out loud is a great way to remember what to do. If you’re afraid you’re mispronouncing words, try saying them to someone else. Whether they’re a native speaker or another French learner, there’s a good chance they’ll know what you don’t. Help each other and learn something, too!
Speak like a local
When we learn from textbooks, we speak like a textbook. In French-speaking countries, things might turn out to be a little different than you expect. So unless you only want to talk to other learners, conversation is a great way to pick up idiomatic phrases and colloquialisms. Soon, you’ll be dropping them into spontaneous conversations and speaking like a local!
A great resource for learning French the spontaneous and authentic way is FluentU.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
FluentU isn’t just watching videos—it’s about learning and actively practicing the language you hear. Use the interactive subtitles, flashcards and vocabulary lists to learn French phrases better than ever!
Widen your vocabulary
Hearing other people talk is a great way to pick up new words and phrases. A native speaker will definitely be able to expand your vocabulary, and even talking to another French learner gives you the chance to learn a little about what they’ve been learning. It’s more than likely that you’ll have been studying different things, so speaking together is a great way to join forces and learn at double the speed!
Highlight your weak points
Like it or not, we all have parts of a language with which we struggle. Talking to someone else about our struggles, having someone point out our mistakes or even just hearing our own voices out loud are all great ways to understand where we’re going wrong and what we can do to make it better. Understanding where we’re going wrong is one of the most importants parts of learning from our mistakes and speaking more fluently in the future!
5 Innovative Ways to Work French Conversation Practice into Your Day
1. Engage in focused activities with a conversation partner
Finding a native speaker with whom to practice your conversation is actually incredibly easy, thanks to the internet. Sites like Conversation Exchange and My Language Exchange make it simple to find someone who wants to practice their language skills and get in touch! You don’t even have to live in the same city. Skype (and writing exchanges besides) are highly recommended.
Once you’ve found your partner, it’s good to have a talking point in mind. So if there’s something you want to practice or find out more about, suggest it at the start of your conversation.
Having an idea of how you want to practice will enable you to talk with much more focus and highlight any weaknesses or learning points.
Don’t forget to ask lots of questions, too! Your partner will undoubtedly have a huge range of knowledge just waiting to be shared.
Talking about specific topics with your conversation partner is also really great for improving your vocabulary in a focused way. You could talk about something that happened in the news, a cultural event or your favorite movies. Picking a specific topic will enable you to stay focused in your conversation and learn new things along the way, too!
We all have situations in which we dread to find ourselves abroad. What would we do in these situations? How would we get our point across and be understood?
Role play is a great way to prepare for events that make us nervous and get to grips with our conversation at the same time.
Try practicing what you would do if you found yourself in a restaurant or supermarket where everyone was speaking French. The simplest activities are often those in which we lose our heads in real life, so use your partner while you can!
2. Find Meetup groups to practice with other learners
If you’re not quite ready to meet with a native speaker, or if it’s just not practical for whatever reason, Meetup isn’t just a great resource for meeting new people, but also a way to practice your foreign conversation. For learners in French-speaking countries, it can be handy for finding local groups of interest. If you’re not in that situation, though, you can still use it to find other learners like yourself as well as local French conversation groups.
Learning with friends who are at similar stages is a great way to boost your conversation and learning skills.
Setting a specific time at which to meet every week is useful when trying to improve in a language. Try setting a conversation topic at the start of the week with your learning group and do as much listening and reading as you can before you meet. Once you come together at the end of the week, you’ll have each learned something unique about the topic and will be able to share vocabulary and grammar tips. Spread your conversation learning around and improve faster!
Great conversation topics to improve your language skills could be anything from the plot of a movie to how you spent your last weekend.
Here are some possible topics:
- What you did on your last birthday
- Your daily routine
- Where you’re going on vacation this year
- Your favorite foods and meals
- French culture and France
- Your family life
- What you studied at school
- Your home town and local culture
- The next film you’d like to watch
If you have a specific topic or hobby that interests you, this might be a useful time to introduce it! If it’s something you do often, chances are you’ll be asked to talk about it in more detail in the future.
3. Narrate your day in French
Sometimes, however, we don’t have someone else with whom we can chat so easily. We have jobs and errands to run. Making plans with a learning group or even taking half an hour out to talk on Skype can seem impossible. Luckily, you can easily take French along with you as you go about your day. Narrating your routine is a simple way to practice on the go!
During your commute, for example, you can try to describe your day so far (in French). Tell yourself what you have to do throughout the day. Or simply describe events when they happen. The sky’s the limit (but you can even talk about that)! Practicing speaking in some way will get you used to French pronunciation and sentence structure. Get your brain thinking like a native’s and conversation will come much more easily later on!
Of course, unless you’re brave enough to talk out loud on the bus or train, you can just practice narration in your head as you go. If you want to use a notepad and jot down any ideas or sentences you want to remember, this could make for a useful learning challenge. Think about how you would describe your activities in French and then, when you get home, retell yourself what you did that day, out loud!
4. Use YouTube videos to gain confidence
Of course, sometimes it’s a little hard to just start talking spontaneously. So if you feel like your confidence is lacking somewhat, it might be worth considering interactive conversational tools as a way in. There are hundreds of great language learning channels out there, many of which use question and answer communicating to get you to think through your use of spoken language.
The YouTube channels Français avec Pierre, Comme une Française and You Learn French are all tailored with language and conversation in mind and are a great way to learn pronunciation and sentence structures from natives.
Often, videos are produced with a specific theme in mind, so it might be worth watching the video first and practicing a narration exercise afterwards. Take the theme of the specific video and talk about it out loud. Practice your pronunciation and improve your comprehension!
5. Use movies as a conversation starter
Another way to practice alone is to try using videos and movies as a way to get the conversation started. Find a part of a film that has a long sequence of dialogue and get stuck in it!
Films by Michel Ocelot or Claude Berri are particularly good for beginners in French conversation. Both filmmakers use conversational, everyday dialogue spoken at a relatively easy pace. Or, you could try watching one of your favorite films dubbed in French! Many DVDs come with foreign language options and this can be a great way into a story you already know.
French movies are often conversational and contain many chances for you to get talking. Here are some simple steps to follow for easy conversation practice:
- Find a scene in which two people are having a conversation and select “your” side.
- Pause as soon as the other person has finished speaking on screen.
- Answer back to them in French while the film is paused.
- Play the film to see how the character you’re speaking for answered the conversation.
- Note down any differences and potential learning points and continue.
If your answers are different, don’t worry! This is just a way to practice answering someone and coming up with French sentences when put on the spot.
No matter what your situation, you have options to practice your language skills and get started with French conversation.
The only question remaining is, which do you try first?
And one more thing...
If you like learning French on your own time and from the comfort of your smart device, then I'd be remiss to not tell you about FluentU.
FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews, documentary excerpts and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native French videos with reach. With interactive captions, you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.
For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:
Practice and reinforce all the vocabulary you've learned in a given video with learn mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning, and play the mini-games found in our dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."
All throughout, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a totally personalized experience. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn French with real-world videos.