Ready to go from French student to French speaker?
The answer is simple: French immersion.
After burning yourself out every day with work, studies, social commitments and other life responsibilities, this probably seems beyond impossible.
How could you possibly find time in your packed schedule for French immersion?
Creating your own at-home French oasis is simple, fun and relaxing – and it works itself easily into even the most hectic lifestyles.
Achieving instant French immersion is not as exhausting or as time consuming as it may sound, and that’s good news for language learners. The only way to become truly fluent is by tackling the language head-on! You can’t learn French if you’re only doing it halfway.
Sure, you’ve got some essential phrases for survival and even some more specific, colorful vocabulary. You’re certainly on the way to sounding like a native in French.
However, if you want to know more than stale, textbook French – if you really want to understand the ins and outs of French culture and customs, or be able to read advanced French novels – you’ll have to kick it up a notch.
If you can’t get on a plane to France right this minute, there are a few ways that you can immerse yourself in French at home. Some of our favorites will have you speaking French like a star in no time!
How to Create an At-home Oasis for Instant French Immersion
Create a French Space at Home
Pick a room of your house — or just a corner, if you don’t have much space — and turn it into a mini-France! Cover the walls of your French space with posters, stock the shelves with French books and DVDs, and be sure to always have your favorite French webradio stations and podcasts bookmarked for use here.
Another way to get instant French immersion is through FluentU.
FluentU brings authentic content within reach through interactive captions that instantly pull up definitions and example sentences, as well as personalized flashcards that use videos as prompts.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes store or Google Play store.
Stay tuned until the end and, as a special bonus, we’ll show you how and why to achieve total French immersion with FluentU—for free.
Once you’ve gotten your French space as French as it can possibly be, get to work and keep this rule in mind: when you’re in your French space, French is the only language you can speak. Use this space as a place to talk to your French chat buddy online, absorb French language materials, do your French homework and write letters to a French penpal. Try to make your brain only think in French.
Once you’ve decided that this part of your home is your French space, no cheating! Creating a space that is associated with French in your mind will make it easier to be 100% committed to French learning in this location, be it for 10 minutes or for an hour. The length of time can vary as long as you’re completely invested in your goals to immerse yourself entirely in French as long as you’re in your at-home French space.
Get Your News from French Sources
One thing that can be tough for French learners looking for immersion in their home country is changing routines. After all, your family speaks in English, you speak English at work and you likely watch TV in English, even if you have started integrating some French TV shows.
But there’s one thing that you can do to easily switch up your routine: start getting your news from French sources. While the news is very important to many, it’s not something that will completely throw off your routine if you can no longer watch NBC or Fox or read the New York Times all in English.You can get the same information by switching to French news – not to mention, you’ll discover new perspectives and will gain a huge boost in your French cultural awareness.
Look online for the Monde, Le Figaro and Libération, three of France’s largest newspapers. Le Monde tends to report news from a more leftist standpoint, while Le Figaro takes a more right-wing approach. Make your choice — or try a bit of both! — and use these two as your sources for all things print journalism. If you’re a total current events buff and need a quality news source suited to your interests, check out these in-depth reviews of major French newspapers.
As for a news channel, many cable networks offer TV5MONDE for free at 7 p.m., so you can watch the French nightly news. You can also access aspects of Canal+’s Grand Journal program, which takes a humorous approach to the news, online.
Listen to French Music
You’ve already got your dial turned to French radio in your French sanctuary at home, but use your commute to immerse yourself even further. Load your mp3 player with French music, and choose native French podcasts to listen to while you drive or ride public transport.
If you’re looking for great French musicians to try out, French top 40 is a good place to start. You’ll notice that a lot of France’s favorite songs are American, but don’t let that dissuade you! The French music that’s so adored by the French is excellent, and once you discover a single you like you’ll be able to discover the artists as well.
If you still need a bit of direction to get you started when it comes to French music, consider what kind of music you’d like to listen to. If you want classic French tunes, Edith Piaf is a great place to start. If you want something a bit more contemporary, M. Pokora has a lot of fans right now. And if you want something a bit familiar, try listening to Céline Dion in her native language. Check out our list of 7 great French songs to give you even more ideas.
While listening to French music is great for immersion on its own, feel free to use the songs that you’re discovering as a way to enforce your French language learning experience.
Join a French Conversation Group
Immersing yourself in French is a two-way street. You can’t just listen to French all day; you have to speak it too! Use local resources like the Alliance Française, your local library, or Meetup to find a French conversation group. And if one doesn’t exist in your city, you can always start one!
Try associating your conversation group with an activity. It’s always easier to talk when you have something to talk about! Consider making it a reading group so that you can get a handle on reading and discussing French classics, a cooking group where you taste and try new French recipes, or a movie discussion group, where you all watch the same French movie — either together or separately — and you get together to discuss it.
Another idea could be to play French games together. A simple one to start with is the jeu des 7 familles, or game of 7 families. This card game, similar to Go Fish, involves uniting the cards depicting 7 different families. It lends itself well to conversation, because you’ll have to ask for specific cards. And the French version of “go fish!” — pioche ! — couldn’t be more fun to say.
Bonus: Travel to France for an Immersion Course!
Once you’ve created your at-home oasis for learning French, it’s time to cross the pond and try out the real thing. A trip to France may be an expense, but it’s well worth your while when you’ve done your homework and have committed to immersing yourself in French at home.
When you’re ready to plan your immersion class, first decide what you’d like to get out of it. Are you looking to explore the culture of France as well? If so, you might like to pick a program in Paris, like the Sorbonne’s Cours de Civilisation Française à la Sorbonne. Are you looking more for a language experience at a lower cost? Choose a city outside of Paris, like a program with the University of Orléans. Do you want to have true immersion by living with a French family? Pick a program with a homestay option, or even consider becoming a live-in au pair, to get that family element to your experience and offset some of your travel costs.
No matter which option you pick, be sure to do a lot of research before you leave to ensure that you have the right entry visas… and so that you can be sure to make the most of your French immersion experience abroad!
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.