You’ve gotten this far—don’t make a mess of your French.
“Oui, je parle français.” (Yes, I speak French.)
Doesn’t that sound beautiful to your ears?
To be able to say this magic sentence with confidence, you’ve got to study intermediate French the right way.
This is the point at which French starts to get seriously complicated, so it’s no wonder that it makes or breaks French learners.
Luckily, we’ve lined up the best fool-proof (and fail-proof) practice methods for you to succeed at the intermediate level.
For English speakers, the ability to speak French seems to add a whole new layer of sophistication and class to their personas, and this isn’t without historical reason.
French has long been an international language of reference. It’s spoken by 700 million speakers and it’s the only other language, next to English, spoken on all five continents. It’s a working language of the United Nations and the European Union, and it’s the sole language of the European Court of Justice.
Although English has in many ways replaced French in the domain of business, French remains an important language in diplomacy, foreign affairs and trade. It’s estimated that 80% of future French speakers will be in Africa, one of the fastest growing regions in the world.
In short, developing and practicing your intermediate French skills is important. But what exactly does it mean to have an intermediate level of French? Réfléchissons… (let’s think about it…)
What’s Intermediate French?
Intermediate French is the ability to be functional in the language. At this level, learners are able to both produce and comprehend the language with relative ease.
Perhaps you’ll have to search your dictionary for some words, but you’ll generally be independent in producing language without the need for much outside help.
Put in context, having an intermediate level of French means that if you were to be tested on your French comprehension for a potential job, you’d understand 90% of what was asked and would be comfortable responding to the questions in a succinct fashion.
You may have trouble going into a lot of depth, but you’re almost there! Sound about right? Or are you just around the corner from reaching this level? Then take a look at the best benefits of having intermediate French under your belt. Get yourself more motivated to advance.
Top 4 Benefits of Practicing Intermediate French
1. Write French as a working language on your resume, enfin (finally)!
2. Become more competitive for jobs (especially in international organizations, as French tends to be a working language)
3. Understand French humor (it’s funny and quite different from Anglophone comedy)
4. Travel to over 80 countries globally who comprise the Francophonie and make French-speaking friends
Convinced? Then let’s make sure that you get the best results from your efforts and time through these fool-proof methods to practice intermediate French!
6 Fool-proof Methods to Practice Intermediate French
1. Read out loud and record yourself speaking
French, similar to English, isn’t a phonetic language. How you read a word isn’t how you pronounce it. It’s essential that you practice reading out loud to work on your pronunciation, because French vowels are perhaps some of the most difficult to master for non-native speakers.
You likely already know how to read decently in French, so try reading out loud and recording yourself. Get yourself a recorder (or use the default app on your cell phone) and record yourself reading short newspaper articles or website content.
This method will give you a good sense of your fluidity and pronunciation difficulties. Recording yourself every so often will allow you to measure your long-term progress.
If possible, print out your texts and record your French teacher or Convo Buddy so as to have a pronunciation reference while reading and recording at home. This trains your ears and mouth in correct pronunciation. It also gives you new vocabulary to work with! It can even be a fun interactive activity to do in your conversation classes, language exchange sessions or group meetups.
Online Text Sources
- Le Monde — A widely-acclaimed international French newspaper, covering everything from politics to art and culture.
- Le Figaro — Another French newspaper covering current events, both domestic and international.
- Short Stories — This lovely collection of short stories will give you some great, easily-digestible reading material for shorter spurts of French comprehension practice. The stories take on all kinds of topics and writing styles, so there’s bound to be something you’ll enjoy here for casual reading.
- Texts with Audio — Another excellent collection of French learning materials, but this time it’s all podcasts (with the accompanying transcripts). The diverse range of discussion topics found here means that you’ll get engaged in these materials easily.
2. Watch French movies with French subtitles
French cinema is world-renowned and has great diversity due to the global reach of the language. The two regions that produce the most Francophone cinema are France and Quebec due to heavy public investment, institutional support and political will to promote the French language.
To transition from being a beginner to being an intermediate speaker, switch off your English subtitles and opt for ones in French. This is very helpful as you’ll get proper pronunciation for many of the words you may have been pronouncing incorrectly.
To turn this from a simple foreign movie night to intermediate French practice, equip yourself with a pen, notepad and open ears. Aim to jot down a new word every 15 minutes and you’ll have 10 words at the end of each film.
Netflix and YouTube are full of French titles with the subtitles option, check these popular titles out:
- “Intouchables” (France)
- “Les amours imaginaires” (Quebec)
- “Starbuck” (Quebec)
- “Bal poussière” (Côte d’Ivoire, Ivory Coast)*an oldie, but a classic with a West African French accent!
FluentU is also another excellent resource for subtitled content.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Each video is equipped with both English and French subtitles, which is extremely handy when you’re starting out as a complete beginner and require immediate translation. When you’re up for the challenge, you can turn off the English subtitles. Eventually, you can go subtitle-less and really hone in on your listening skills.
3. Watch comedy in French, it’s hilarious!
Il faut apprendre à rire en français (You gotta learn how to laugh in French)!
French humor is very different and quite quirky when compared to English humor. Needless to say, it’s an important part of Francophone culture.
Comedy festivals are common in French-speaking regions, such as the Juste pour rire (Just for Laughs) annual festival in Quebec, Canada where Francophone comedians from all over come to perform.
As you advance in the language, you’ll also notice that cracking jokes is common in everyday speech and that many different expressions are plays on words. This is a great method to increase your comprehension and laugh a bit while doing so.
Here are two top French-speaking comedians and some recommended skits:
- Sugar Sammy (Quebec, Canada)
Les femmes Québécoises (Quebecois Girls)
La police au show (The Police Officer at the Show)
4. Get a conversation partner
Contact your local Alliance Française to get the local intermediate group conversation schedule or go online and offer your English language skills in exchange for intermediate French skills.
Challenge yourself by preparing intermediate French topics using the conditional and subjunctive in advance. This has the added benefit of helping you avoid having the same conversation over and over or sticking to topics you feel safe with.
- Locate and contact your local Alliance Française Network
- Find a local French conversation meetup
- Find a language partner
5. Listen to simple pop songs alongside written lyrics
This is a great method to expose yourself to the array of Francophone artists out there and get tons of intermediate French practice with style and rhythm! If you’re really motivated to improve, print out your lyrics and highlight new words as you sing along.
Start your playlist with three catchy tunes by three popular artists:
…and here are 7 more songs to keep you singing!
6. Pick a Francophone country and study up
French is an official language in 57 countries. Boy, are there are a lot of ways to speak this one language! Specify which countries you’d like to visit, work or travel to and get practicing the relevant slang, idioms and, most importantly, accent.
As you continue practicing, you’ll notice that there are stark differences in vocabulary, counting numbers and verb usage through out the French-speaking world. For example, the French spoken in Canada is quite different than that found in European or African countries. In Switzerland, some numbers are counted completely differently than they are in France. Intermediate means getting specific, so make sure you do!
Get started with these short guides:
- French in Canada and in France (with English Subtitles)
- Counting in Switzerland
- Check out this list of Parisian slang
Through consistent use of these 6 methods you´ll be an intermediate speaker in no time, and eventually on your way to becoming advanced. To give you little push on your road to mastery, incorporate these three idiomatic expressions into your next French conversation and wow your public!
- Il fait un froid de canard! (It’s freezing!)
- Je vais mettre mon grain de sel! (I’m going to give my two cents!)
- *J’ai la dalle! (I’m starving!)
As a general rule, numbers 1 and 2 can be used throughout the French-speaking world. *Number 3 is a special one because the word dalle (“nothing” or “very little”) can be used in different expressions but it’ll be heard exclusively in France. That being said, all Francophones will understand it.
In addition to avoir la dalle (to be starving/famished) you can also use it in comprendre que dalle (to understand absolutely nothing) or ça coûte que dalle (it cost peanuts/very little). Pretty handy little word!
Make sure to jot those ones down and keep practicing.
For now, I bid you adieu.
…à la prochaine les amis (until next time, friends)!