How to Speak French Fluently: A Foolproof 5-step Method to Follow
Does beautifully spoken French make your heart smile?
Could you watch the French film “Amélie” all day?
Or perhaps you spent years learning French at school and don’t remember a thing, but you’re ready to give it another shot.
Whatever your case, with the right approach, attitude and determination, becoming fluent in French is absolutely within reach. There will be obstacles, but staying optimistic and setting a serious goal for yourself will aid the process.
Being fluent in any language is a challenge, but the day you are able to express yourself effortlessly with a native speaker using correct grammar, good pronunciation, smooth articulation and a wide range of vocabulary, you have successfully become fluent.
To keep you headed in the right direction, we’ve put together five steps for you to follow in order to become fluent in French. Consider this your fluency compass that you can carry around in your pocket and keep referring back to along the way.
How to Speak French Fluently: A 5-step Method to Keep You on Track
1. Get Back to the Classroom
You haven’t done homework in years, but getting back to the classroom could be your best option to begin the process. This is the most important step, because here you will learn everything necessary for the steps to follow.
Because of technology, there are online possibilities that you could explore, but being in a classroom with an actual teacher to answer questions and other classmates with whom you can share the experience is best.
Especially if you have never studied (or forgotten) the basics of French, human interaction will really advance your learning process. If you have a strong discipline and are able to continuously follow your courses online and do your daily homework, you could potentially succeed via internet. Beware that completing an assignment or a section online doesn’t always mean that you’ve understood—you know yourself, make the right decision from the beginning.
Learning the correct vocabulary, grammar and conjugation, is key to succeeding in being fluent. You will also learn pronunciation, which in the end will be your ticket to passing for a true French native. You will need all of these skills for the rest of your days as a French speaker. Take this step seriously and make sure you are fully prepared to spend the time necessary to succeed.
Availability of French courses really varies by location, so here are some ideas to help you find one more easily:
- Alliance Française
- Your local university/college
- Continuing studies programs
- Language schools
- Immersion schools/camps
2. Immerse Yourself Using All the Media Tools Around You
Got a smartphone? Download apps.
Got a computer? Watch the French news or TV shows and download French music.
Using YouTube can also be one of the key steps towards French fluency. But, the content that you’re absorbing must be native, educational and entertaining!
To get you started, check out this great video breaking down all the key French lessons to be learned from an onstage performance of comedian Gad Elmaleh. You’ll learn all about French tenses, French comedy, constructing questions in French and much, much more.
Start by subscribing to the FluentU French channel to stay up to date with all the latest native French media while learning exactly how to use it for your native French learning benefit!
Now that you have learned French at its most proper form in the classroom and are able to put together sentences, conjugate a verb and say “Où est la bibliothèque?” (Where is the library?), it’s time for phase two, which is the full immersion step. During this time you will vacuum up as much French culture and language as possible.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
French TV shows
From soap operas to game shows, watching French TV will give you a good grip on common spoken French. You might even be able to pick up a few fun expressions. While this complete guide to watching French TV online has tons of options for you, here are some of my personal favorites:
- “Qui veut gagner des millions“ Aside from learning fun facts, you’ll also be able to use your reading skills watching this game show. Just like “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” participants must answer questions correctly.
- “Kaamelott” This popular comedy TV show is for the more advanced students. It uses modern language and situations to create a humorous view of the Arthurian legend.
- “Les Guignols de l’info” Want current news? This daily satirical news show is hosted by a group of puppets. The news is current, but the way it’s given is also for more advanced students with not only a strong grasp on language, but also on French culture and politics. Beware, it can sometimes be crude and insulting.
French music immersion
Are you a fan of music who always listens to the new up-and-coming artists? Find a French artist that best suits your style and make yourself a playlist to play at all times—or at least a good chunk of time.
- Stromae: This is a hip-hop/pop artist whose lyrics are more geared towards political and cultural topics. Great beats and catchy choruses.
- Zaz: Zaz is a contemporary artist that not only has a jazzy, scratchy voice, but doesn’t have very difficult lyrics to follow and also has catchy choruses making it easier to sing along to.
- Michel Sardou: Want to listen to some oldies? This is a great artist for beautiful melodies but also very poetic lyrics. This would be for the lower to intermediate student.
Find what suits you and start listening to French artists in your car, while running or cooking dinner. The more you submerge yourself in it, the better.
3. Join a French Conversation Group
Okay. You’ve made it this far, so we have some good news for you: from here on out it only gets easier and this is where the fun begins. Now that your French has reached a good level, it’s time to put it to the test. The only way to truly know what level you have obtained is to speak and converse.
Find a group where French natives and students convene. Doing so will help you assess how far you’ve gotten in your learning. This step often brings out fear in people, but you’ve gotta do it. Conquer your fears!
Once you start attending a regular French conversation group, you’ll realize you had nothing to be afraid of in the first place. You’ll probably even make some new friends. Plus, this is going to skyrocket your French speaking skills, which can only be learned through this type of practice.
So join a group, talk to as many people as possible, see how far you can take a conversation, engage and listen. Just know that the other attendees are either in the same boat as you, or were at some point, so they’re there to help. It should be friendly and fun.
Here are a few options to find a group near you:
- French Tables: Lots of cities and universities around the world have a weekly or monthly French table that allows students and natives to join over drinks, potlucks or group activities to speak French. Research what’s available in your town and don’t waste any time. Go speak French!
- Meetup Groups: This is a great option for any level of French. Visit www.meetup.com, type in your zip code and then search for “french” to find meetups near you.
- Alliance Française: Another great option is checking out the events calendar from your local Alliance Française. Besides French courses, you’ll discover fun events throughout the year, from storytelling and book clubs to nights on the town.
4. Date a French Person (or Find a French Friend)
Having any kind of relationship with a native (especially if they have poor English) will be your best tool to put your hard work to the test. You’ll only have yourself and your newly gained skills to fall back on.
Conversing with a native speaker will also be a great way for you to discover conversational French. The fluidity and phrasal contractions will be a challenging but exciting step in your learning.
Of course, if dating is not an option, seek out someone who is willing to take some time to meet with you once or twice a week over coffee and simply talk with you in French. Prepare several topics that interest the both of you, spend time in conversation and don’t forget to ask questions. You might consider this a “lesson” and offer to pay a reasonable rate for the meetings.
Or if it’s a language exchange that you desire, here’s how you can find a partner—online or in person.
Forge ahead; you’re just a step away.
5. Move to or Take a Trip to a French-speaking Country
Congratulations! If you are seriously considering moving to France (or at least visiting and spending time in a French-speaking country) you should be more than prepared after following the previous steps.
Remember, France is not the only option! There are plenty of other countries that speak French as a first language, so find out which ones are most accessible to you and immerse yourself.
If you really want to do this (hooray!), know that there will never be “the perfect time” to go. So you just need to set a savings goal, buy your ticket and commit. It will be so worth it, we promise!
Should you want to spend a lengthier time in France, for example, here are a few ideas of how to do so legally and economically:
- Work as an au pair, which usually means free room and board, plus a modest weekly stipend
- Volunteer in a variety of situations through HelpX (Help Exchange) in exchange for food and accommodation
Here are a few more tips for making the most out of your time in a French-speaking country:
Research the culture
Make sure to research the culture of wherever it is you’re going, so that you know how to be respectful in your actions, words and attire. You’ll probably have acquired some good ideas of what to expect while following steps 3 and 4, so you shouldn’t be completely surprised when thrown in the tornado of things.
Make friends who speak French
This sounds quite obvious, but when you’re in a foreign environment, it’s very easy—almost a natural tendency—to seek out (subconsciously) people in similar situations as yourself. So avoid making lots of native English-speaking friends, because hey, we can speak English at home, right?
This could be a difficult task, but if you are 100% determined to continue your fluency journey, spending most of your time with native French speakers is absolutely essential. Oh, and you can’t just sit there and listen to their gorgeous French voices—you’ve gotta speak, too!
Get a French-speaking roommate
One way to help with the previous suggestion is to purposefully find an apartment with a native French speaker. This is another great way to force yourself to speak French every day. You’ll get much more comfortable speaking, plus you’ll probably make a friend in the process!
Enjoy Your Journey Towards Fluency
Learning a new language is exciting. You’ll acquire new skills along the way, but most importantly people will call you bilingual. Make it fun, be committed and look forward to waking up in Paris with a delicious croissant and café au lait while reading Le Monde and listening to Stromae.
Determination is the key to learning French. But you’ve already made up your mind and you’re all in, right? So then follow these five steps seriously and you’ll succeed. Set a serious goal and be realistic. Good luck!
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.