Do you feel stressed at the very thought of having to speak French?
Do you listen to native speakers and stare in awe, thinking you’ll never talk like that?
You’ve got lips, a tongue, teeth and a throat, just like them.
If they can, you can, too.
Jacques Cœur once said: “À vaillant coeur rien d’impossible.” (There’s nothing impossible for a valiant heart.)
And I know your heart is valiant and your mouth is up for some French speaking, so get ready to live your life in the fast lane and learn how to speak French at supersonic speed.
Fasten your seat belt and enjoy the trip!
Why Learn to Speak French?
Learning how to speak French is a task for the brave of heart.
You’ll need to give your best to master one of the most romantic languages in the world.
But why is it so important to learn how to speak it?
Here you have some reasons:
- French is a widely spoken language in the world. French is spoken by over 300 million people in the world and is an official language in 29 countries. That’s a lot of potential speakers to interact with!
- French is an important business language. France is one of the world’s largest economies, and French is one of the official languages in organizations such as the European Union, the United Nations and the African Union, among others.
- You’ll need powerful speaking skills to pass your French oral exam. If you need to pass a French oral exam, you’re going to have to work on your pronunciation and speaking skills. French is a difficult language to pronounce, so winging the exam isn’t going to do the trick.
- French can land you the job of your dreams. What if your dream job involves speaking French fluently and having to ace a job interview in French? If you don’t speak the language, you ain’t getting the job, pal.
- It’ll help you meet new people. There are millions of French-speaking internet users. You could make a few good friends thanks to your language expertise. Imagine even meeting the love of your life because you know how to use French pick-up lines!
- Speaking French will make your trips and holidays easier. Whether you travel for pleasure or business, knowing French in a French-speaking country will always come in handy in hotels and restaurants, when asking for directions or at the doctor’s office.
French Speaking Tips
We’ve answered why, but the million-dollar question is how to improve your French speaking skills.
I have some million-dollar answers for you:
Improve your French pronunciation
The first and most obvious thing you need to do to speak proper French is work on your French pronunciation and improve your French accent.
French people are known for switching to English if they don’t like how you treat their language (i.e. if your French isn’t good enough by their standards) or they think their English is better than your French.
Whatever the case, you don’t want them to switch, so try to improve your French pronunciation ASAP!
Shadowing is a simple but super effective language learning technique where you listen to native audio of the language you’re learning and repeat it as close to the original as possible.
It’s like being a human parrot, except it really works!
Shadowing will work wonders on your pronunciation and will allow you to learn vocabulary and grammar structures along the way.
Master non-verbal French communication
Being fluent in French and speaking the language better than Gérard Depardieu makes it necessary for you to include French gestures and French noises into your conversations.
French and English non-verbal communication aren’t the same, so if you want to pass for a native speaker, you’ll need to learn the differences between them.
Determine your level of French
You need to know your level of French to be able to improve it.
If you’re an advanced learner, you don’t need to waste time with resources on spoken French for beginners. Likewise, if you’re just starting to learn the language, resources for advanced students are completely out of reach for you.
Determine your level and use speaking resources that are appropriate for it.
Use French media to your advantage
If you really want to learn how to speak French fast, one of the best things you can do is use native French media.
From movies, series and videos to podcasts, the news and the radio, the internet is full of native French media ready for you to gorge on.
By listening to native speakers use their language, you’ll learn how to speak French fluently and will be able to improve your French speaking skills in a fun and easy way.
But if you’re still not ready for native media, you can always start your speaking practice with the videos available on FluentU’s French YouTube channel.
FluentU French uses real native content and dissects it for you so you can learn French easily while you get immersed in the language.
Thanks to videos like this, you’ll learn how to sound like a native French speaker in no time:
This is just one cool example of all the awesome content you’ll find in the channel. Subscribe to FluentU’s French YouTube channel now and you’ll see your French speaking skills improve, no matter your level, one short video at a time.
Add filler words to your convos
From weird noises to fully-fledged words, French filler words are found in every single French conversation, both formal and informal.
If you want to achieve fluency in French someday, you need to start filling the silences with filler words, just like native French speakers do.
Read out loud
Reading out loud has a lot of benefits many language learners ignore.
For starters, it’ll help you improve your pronunciation and intonation, especially if you record yourself while reading and revise the audio afterward.
Additionally, it’ll get you ready for real speaking situations. You’ll be used to talking out loud, so you’ll stress much less when you have to have an actual conversation.
Last but not least, it’ll improve your French grammar and vocabulary. When you read out loud, you’re more aware of what you’re reading, so the process goes from passive to active learning.
Listen more to speak better
Listen to as much native French as you can. This’ll help you get a better grasp of how real French sounds like, which in turn will allow you to speak better and more fluently.
Use podcasts, audiobooks, the radio or any other source of French audio you can think of. To make the results even better, engage at least one other sense while you listen (for instance, you can listen to an audiobook and read the book at the same time, or watch a French movie with French audio and French subtitles).
Talk to yourself in French, a lot
I haven’t gone crazy. Talking to yourself in French is a superb way of practicing your French speaking skills.
You can just stand in front of the mirror and tell yourself your plan for the day, or have a conversation with yourself while having a shower.
You can even listen to your inner voice tell you a goodnight story in French!
Try it. The results will surprise you.
Get feedback and learn from it
Find a native French speaker who’s willing to listen to you and correct you when you make mistakes.
There are plenty of places on the internet where people are looking for speaking partners, so it shouldn’t be hard to find someone who can help you improve your spoken French.
Write your mistakes down and analyze them when you’re by yourself. Study the rules you’ve broken and repeat your mispronounced words until you get them right.
Learn from your mistakes and you’ll be unstoppable.
French Speaking Programs
Apart from applying the previous list of techniques, there are other options you can try to improve your French speaking skills.
There are several types of French speaking programs and learning strategies learners can use to sound more like a native French speaker.
The following are four of my favorite ones:
French language labs
French language labs are an excellent option for learners of French who want to boost their speaking skills, because they focus on pronunciation, speaking and listening comprehension.
There are many different kinds of French language labs available, the main being:
- Phone language labs (normally in the form of apps).
- Web-based language labs (available online).
- Software-based language labs (which you can install on your laptop or computer).
- Traditional physical language labs (in which you attend a class in person).
- Virtual language labs (which take place live in a virtual classroom via Zoom, Skype or a similar platform).
Online French speaking courses
Online French speaking courses are courses that have been specifically designed to help you improve your spoken French.
They have the advantage of letting you decide the teaching method, the learning channel, the amount of money you want to spend and the time commitment you’re putting toward them, among others.
Many of the French speaking courses available online allow you to have direct contact with native speakers of French, and you can even have a French teacher just for you if you’re willing to pay a bit more.
French home immersion
Home immersion is probably one of the most comfortable yet efficient ways to practice your French speaking.
If you want to learn how to speak French at home, there’s a wide array of possibilities you can choose from.
Some learners like to use French speaking apps or learn French on Discord, Reddit or Facebook. Others go for reading, listening to and watching only French content and media, and then there are others that do all of the above plus any other stuff they can think of so as to be completely surrounded by the French language.
There’s also a group of learners who decide to take the plunge into the native-French swimming-pool and bring their immersion experience to a whole new level with the FluentU program.
FluentU uses native content to give you a full sense of immersion from day one, whether you’re a beginner who’s starting from scratch or an advanced learner who’s looking to get completely fluent.
Every FluentU video includes a set of contextual subtitles. If you hover your mouse over a word you don’t know, you’ll get a definition in context. This’ll be super useful when you’re practicing your speaking skills, because you’ll know the words you have to use, when and how.
Écureuil is quite a difficult word to pronounce! But if you’re using FluentU, that’s not going to be a problem. When you’re watching a video, you’ll hear its native pronunciation. Besides, you can always click on the word and open its interactive flashcard. There, you’ll find not only the pronunciation and a translation, but also sample sentences with their audio and translation and a list of videos that contain the word.
FluentU also creates personalized exercises and quizzes at the end of each video. By doing the exercises, you’ll keep on working on your French immersion, because all the words, phrases and sentences that appear on them also include native audio.
With the FluentU program, you can choose what you want to watch and listen to. The video/audio/flashcard dictionary will make this task incredibly easy. Just type a word in the search bar and you’ll get all the native content FluentU has related to it!
Here’s an example for the verb sortir (to go out, to leave):
Not convinced yet? I could tell you about the spaced repetition system FluentU uses, the vocabulary lists you get for each video, the daily goals you can set or the completely personalized immersion adventure you can embark on, but at FluentU we believe that a video is worth more than a thousand words, so subscribe to a free trial and start enjoying all the goodies yourself!
French language exchange
Another awesome way to practice your French speaking skills is to learn French with native speakers.
Language exchange is very often a free alternative because you’re being taught a language by a native speaker while you’re teaching them your native language.
This type of learning has the advantage of giving you immediate speaking feedback you can apply right away. It also allows for a less formal environment, which leads to you being more relaxed and eager to talk.
Finally, you and your partner get to choose the topics you want to talk about. The sky is the limit, and today’s weather forecast says it’s going to pour with a rain of perfectly pronounced French words.
Learn French Conversation Skills
This last section will cover topics you need to improve your conversational French and a couple of tips to practice your French speaking skills.
The list of topics included here is by no means comprehensive, but it’ll give you plenty of speaking material to turn to in case you need some inspiration.
Even your very first conversations will require you to introduce yourself in French, but introducing yourself means much more than just saying Je suis Franko (I am Franko). Topics such as greetings and farewells, age, occupation and hobbies can also be included here.
Sentences to use in conversations
There are some simple French sentences and questions such as Quel temps fait-il? (What’s the weather like?) that’ll help you get the conversation going.
There are also many phrases and expressions for beginners that’ll come in handy when you start practicing your speaking skills.
Many of them are part of the filler words group we mentioned earlier. If you don’t know where to start and are wondering how a beginner can start speaking French, this is one of those categories you should give priority to.
Sample dialogues and conversations
Listening to and reading French dialogue examples and French conversation scripts will help you get ready for the “real deal,” which is an actual conversation with a native French speaker.
Getting ready for situations like a phone conversation in French or a visit to the doctor before they happen will make you feel more confident and less stressed when the real conversation takes place.
Other conversation topics
But apart from phone conversations and visits to the doctor, which hopefully will happen rarely, there are other more “everyday” situations you could get ready for before they happen.
The topics here go as far as your imagination, but here’s a list with some ideas:
How to practice French conversation skills
Maybe you’re wondering how and where you can put into practice all the ideas on French conversation for beginners I’ve given you.
In order to get the ball rolling and learn conversational French, the best method is, unsurprisingly, to get some French conversation practice, i.e. to speak, speak and speak some more.
But how? And where?
One of the easiest ways to get your spoken French going is to learn French conversation online. From finding a language partner to using your social media to speak your mind in French, the internet gives you an endless world of possibilities to practice your French conversation skills.
Another great idea is to take some French conversation lessons. These can be conversation lessons with a tutor, video and audio conversation lessons online or even conversation lessons from an app. The choice is yours.
Finally, many language learners love group conversation lessons. This type of practice gives you the chance to connect with native French speakers and other learners of French and have direct contact with the French language “in the wild,” as one of my workmates says. If you happen to live nearby, you can’t miss taking part in a French conversation group in NYC. They’re awesome!
Now you have in your hands all the tools you need to start practicing French conversation.
I know for a fact that taking the first step and starting to speak in a foreign language is hard. I’ve seen my students struggle to even say bonjour for many years.
But practice makes perfect, and with a skill such as speaking, the more you do it, the easier it gets. For real!
So leave that stress behind, be brave and start speaking French like nobody is listening.
Stay curious, my friends, and as always, happy speaking!
Francisco J. Vare loves teaching and writing about grammar. He’s a proud language nerd, and you’ll normally find him learning languages, teaching students or reading. He’s been writing for FluentU for many years and is one of their staff writers.
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