Having a lazy French study day?
All you want to do is sit around in your pajamas and browse the Internet.
That stack of flashcards is just going to sit there collecting dust.
The French conversation program you picked up last week? You know you should start…but today? Psshh.
You don’t even have the attention span to watch a French movie or TV show.
Think your day’s as good as wasted? Think again.
You can create a French immersion experience around your inclination to kick back and veg (or as the French say, glander).
Here are some simple ways to make lazy days more productive.
Practice French Online: 7 Smart Methods for Immersive Browsing
1. Change all your language settings to French.
Just browsing in French will help you pick up everyday language as experienced by internautes (Internet users).
On Twitter, you’ll quickly learn that tweeter (to tweet) has been established as a regular -er verb. If you don’t already know the difference between the third person singular and plural conjugations of the verb aimer (to like), switch to French on Facebook and you can be sure you’ll never forget.
These are little things, but they add up.
You’ll receive your notifications in French, too, and come to associate certain sentences with information pertaining directly to you (so-and-so sent you a message, etc.). These phrases will repeatedly pop up on your screen, so you can’t avoid remembering them.
This is like a supercharged flashcard deck you don’t even have to make yourself!
If you’re not already a social media user, consider trying it out. Twitter is especially fantastic for finding people with similar interests and goals.
Don’t just stop with social media profiles—you can change the language on your web browser, operating system and e-mail accounts, too. Just be careful of doing this if your French isn’t very advanced yet.
You’ll want to take note of how to change everything back in case you find yourself panicking in unfamiliar territory. For example, “settings” is paramètres.
2. Use social media to observe and connect with French speakers.
Once you’ve gotten comfortable navigating around your various social media accounts in French, see if you can track down some French speakers.
You may already have a pen pal or language exchange partner, but socializing with native speakers on a larger, more casual scale has benefits, too. After all, it’s probably something you do all the time in English.
Following, “liking” or just browsing the profiles of French-speaking celebrities is a good place to start. From there you can branch out to connecting with other fans. But if you don’t have anyone in mind, you can simply search for certain French key words to find people who might interest you.
For example, if you love movies and you’re browsing Twitter, go up to what should now be the Recherchez sur Twitter bar and type in “J’adore les films.” This will bring up tweets from everyone who has used those words recently.
If you put those words directly in your profile information, it’ll help other movie fans find you.
You can also try searching for French words or phrases as hashtags. Go ahead and start slapping these onto your own tweets while you’re at it! Here are some popular ones:
- For books or reading: #lire #livres
- For music: #musique #écouter (this one can also be used for radio or podcasts)
- For cooking: #cuisine
- For the latest news: #nouvelles
- For technology: #technologie
Due to the character limit on Twitter, French-speaking internautes will try to make hashtags as short as possible, which often means cutting out the article. You might think this would cause problems with linguistically ambiguous hashtags like #film or #cuisine. But if you have your language set to French, Twitter will conveniently direct you to French tweets.
Once you’ve connected with some French users, try posting some of your thoughts in French. If you’re a beginner, this might seem daunting, but it’s really a low-pressure situation. You don’t have to worry about pronunciation, and you can take as long as you want to compose what you’re going to say. No matter what, you’ll get some practice in, and you may even get some replies!
3. Surf shopping sites and classified ads in French.
You might be thinking: “Woah, hang on. I can see the benefits of French browsing, but shopping sounds dangerous. What if I accidentally purchase a poodle for a thousand euros?”
Slow down and take a deep breath! For one thing, a lot of the “shopping” you do on the web is the online version of window shopping, and that’s where you want to start. It’ll help get you to the point where you’re comfortable buying, too.
Where to look.
Most larger shopping or classified ad sites like Amazon, eBay, and Craigslist offer service in France and French-speaking countries that you can easily access through menus on their home pages. As long as you’re dream shopping, though, you may as well dream big. Type immobilier and Paris, Bruxelles (Brussels) or any other place into a search engine to browse real estate in that area. Once you’ve found your dream house or apartment, dream-furnish it by searching for meubles. Or just skip right to your dream voiture (car). Just make sure you keep your credit card information out of these ventures!
How to buy (if you want to).
Amazon.fr is a good place to start. The Amazon Currency Converter lets you see exactly how much you’ll be paying before you purchase. French Amazon also offers a “Help in English” page which can be found by following the Aide option to Autres sites d’aide. This page will walk you through all the steps of purchasing, explaining what the various buttons and options mean.
Every shopping site is a little different, but extensive, habitual browsing is the best way to get to the point where you know what you’re doing. A couple of things to be aware of when ordering products from overseas:
- You may have to pay significantly more for shipping if you’re ordering from a different country.
- Most DVDs purchased from France will be manufactured for Region 2 players, so if you’re in the U.S. or Canada (Region 1), you’ll want to purchase a region-free player to make sure you can watch them! You’ll also want to make sure your devices meet other compatibility requirements.
This might all sound a little intimidating, but getting comfortable is about familiarity. Besides, opening up your shopping options is a good idea. French-language books and movies can be priced significantly higher in English-speaking countries, or they may be entirely unavailable.
4. Search for anything that interests you in French.
You probably already know there’s a French Wikipedia.
Start using it, and start searching in French elsewhere, too!
Any subject related to French culture, especially when modern, is likely to produce longer articles in French than in English. And even for more general subjects—why not try French first?
Whether it’s history, music or pop culture, allow your natural curiosity to lead you. On a lazy day, you might not be jotting down every word you don’t know or even finishing every article, but you probably don’t always do that in English either. It’s a heck of a lot better than nothing!
5. Use search functions to check your grammar and spelling.
You may have a good dictionary and a comprehensive grammar book, but sometimes you just need to know quickly if you can say something.
For example, if you’re thinking about posting on a message board about your love of wine, and it occurs to you to say, “J’aime le vin bien,” a quick Google search (in quotes) will reveal that people don’t actually say that. Another search for “J’aime bien le vin” will show that you simply had the adverb in the wrong place.
Obviously, you can’t check longer or more complex sentences this way, and you definitely can’t trust everyone online to be using correct grammar. But by breaking your sentences up into grammatical parts and seeing how many results they yield, you can get a pretty good idea of whether a certain phrasing is generally acceptable. Google will also try to redirect you if you spell something incorrectly.
If you haven’t discovered it yet, WordReference is another invaluable resource for doing quick French research while you’re online. You may also want to check out these translation apps.
6. Look for and subscribe to French language video and text sources.
You already know that the Internet is a great place to find language tools of all varieties, but sometimes you’re not in the mood for a full-blown lesson or anything that’s going to take up a significant amount of time.
This is where French-language YouTube channels come in handy. You don’t need to watch instructional French videos—just regular people filming themselves or their friends. Regular people playing and reviewing video games. Regular people describing their hometown or telling you about their latest vacation.
There’s lots of good material out there, and you can always find high-quality videos on FluentU to keep you company on even your laziest of days.
It’s also pretty easy to find French language message boards and blogs based on subjects that interest you, from gardening and scientific discoveries to a specific band or musical artist. Reading through whatever you can understand and getting a feel for how people communicate online in French will give you exposure to yet another aspect of the language.
In the meantime, you can find and keep up with French language publications through your social media accounts. Some of them may even find you!
7. Pretend like you just found the Internet (and it’s French).
Regardless of how old you were when the Internet became commonplace (or whether you were even born), everyone has probably had that exciting moment in which they fully comprehended its possibilities. Still, you probably don’t sit around all day just thinking about how great it is. Now’s a good time to remember and start browsing for pleasure anew!
Rediscover the novelty of The Worldwide Web in your French learning. Experience the joy of following suggested links until you don’t remember how you ended up on a particular site. Hop from friends list to friends list on Facebook. Let your eyes wander. Take in site options, recommended content, ads and promotions.
Be susceptible to advertising. If you haven’t caught on, the things you might consider your worst natural tendencies can be helpful and even necessary in learning a language. If you only learn French in a controlled, disciplined environment, it’s never going to become a truly integrated part of you. So go ahead and stare at ads, the ones you’ve trained your eyes to ignore. Those with moving or changing text are best because they challenge your reading comprehension speed.
Learning French is hard work, but it should also be fun. It should be an activity you can enjoy not just when you’re feeling motivated and social, but also in passive, solitary moments.
So, stay in bed with your laptop. Curl up on the couch with your tablet. Relax on the patio with your smartphone. You can afford it, because—regardless of what it may look like—today you’re getting stuff done.
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.